I recently had a chat with an E2 Visa holder who’s a true-blue entrepreneur, living the American Dream! He’s running a flourishing business, creating job opportunities for American workers, and boosting the economy.
But here’s the catch – despite his significant contributions to the country, his current path won’t lead him straight to a green card. Yes, you heard it right – getting a green card isn’t always a cakewalk, and E2 Visa holders face their fair share of hurdles.
But don’t lose heart just yet! In this post, we’ll explore some viable paths from E2 visa to green card status. And while it’s no easy feat, with some strategic planning and sound guidance, it’s entirely possible to make the switch.
So, if you’re an entrepreneur with your eyes set on a green card, keep reading!
The E2 Visa Requirements
To qualify, for the E2 visa, you have to be a national of a country that has a treaty of commerce and friendship with the United States. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, you can make an “at risk” investment into a commercial enterprise in the States to snag that coveted E2 visa.
But don’t get too excited just yet – your investment needs to create jobs and be big enough to ensure your business’s success, or it won’t qualify. While there’s no hard and fast minimum amount, investments of $100,000 or more tend to be the sweet spot.
Your investment will not qualify unless it is large enough to ensure the successful operation of the business. Although there is no minimum monetary requirement, investments of $100,000 or more tend to fare the best.
Want to dive deeper into the E2 visa requirements? We’ve got you covered – check out this post for more information.
The Limitations of the E2 Visa
The E2 Visa is pretty amazing for the right person. It’s a golden ticket that lets foreign entrepreneurs come to the States, build businesses, and create jobs – all while adding to our diverse and thriving entrepreneurial scene. But like most things, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
One of the big drawbacks is that you must keep renewing your visa. Plus, there’s no direct path to a green card, and your foreign-born kiddos can’t stay in the US once they hit 21. If you’re an E2 visa holder and feeling stuck by these limitations, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Plenty of folks are looking for a way out.
So, what are your options? We’ve got six possibilities that might just do the trick. Check them out and see which one works best for you!
Paths from E2 Visa to Green Card Status
#1 Invest More and Qualify for an Eb5 Green Card
Both the Eb5 and the E2 allows foreign nationals to come to the US to run a business. However, the E2 visa does not result in a green card while an Eb5 does. Also, in contrast to the E2 visa investment, in order to qualify for Eb5, you must invest a specific amount.
Minimum Investment for Eb5
The amount that you will be required to invest depends on where your business is based. For most locations, a whopping $1,800,000 investment is required. Ouch. However, If your business is in an area with high unemployment, you might be able to get away with a $900,000 investment.
In addition the minimum investment requirement, the Eb5 also has a job creation requirement. You must create ten full-time positions if you want a permanent green card. And trust us, it’s not always easy – many businesses can’t support that many full-time jobs, and even if they can, the added overhead can seriously eat into profits.
#2 Invest in a Regional Center Eb5 Project
If you want to make a passive investment in order to obtain a green card, then it is worth exploring the option of investing in a regional center Eb5 project. To invest in a regional center, you must qualify as an accredited investor. If you can meet that requirement and prove that your investment was derived from lawful sources, then you will qualify for an Eb5 Green Card if the investment creates ten full time jobs. One of the main advantages of the regional center option is that indirect jobs are counted in the job tally making the Eb5 green card easier to obtain.
#3 Apply for a National Interest Waiver(NIW) Green Card
After you launch a US business, you control it’s trajectory. You can keep your business small and employ a few people. Or, you can aggressively scale.
The decision is yours.
However, it is important to understand that innovation and ambitious growth can forge a path to a green card. The larger your business grows, the greater the economic impact. And, a high degree of innovation translates to industry influence.
After establishing a track record, you will be in a better position to argue that your important work is in the national interest of the US.
To learn more about the national interest waiver requirements, check out this guide.
#4 Find an Employer Sponsor
Oftentimes, super talented E2 investor-entrepreneurs and their equally talented spouses have skills that are rare in the job market. If you or your spouse have some seriously in-demand job skills, you might be able to find an employer who’s willing to file an employment-based green card application for you.
To make that happen, your future employer will typically go through the PERM process. It’s short for “Program Electronic Review Management,” and it’s a tedious process designed to ensure that there are no US workers who meet the minimum qualifications for the job.
Unfortunately, the PERM process can be costly and time-consuming, which often makes employers balk at the idea of sponsoring a visa.
#5 Family Member Sponsorship
There are a number of people who can sponsor foreign national family members for a green card. Unfortunately, many family based immigration categories are subject to a long wait before a green card can be issued. However, if you have a US citizen spouse or child who is over the age of 21, you might qualify as an immediate family member. And here’s the good news: immediate family members aren’t subject to the same preference system that can hold up other types of family-based green cards for years.
Translation: if you have a US citizen immediate family member who is willing to sponsor you, you could be in for a relatively smooth and speedy path to a US green card.
#6 Establish a Business Abroad
One fairly complex path to a green card exists for people who leave the United States and their E2 enterprise to establish a new company abroad. If you are interested in this route, you could establish the company, then allow someone else to run it while you work in the business as a high level manager or executive. After working in the business for one year in a qualifying management or executive role, you could transfer to the US to manage a new office on an L1a Visa. If you work as a manager in the US on the L1a Visa, the company could attempt to sponsor you for a green card in the Eb1C green card category.
Additional Considerations for the Green Card Process
There are a few things that are important to mention about going from E2 to Green Card status. One thing to keep in mind is that there are oftentimes tax implications for those who obtain a green card. Once you obtain a green card, the US government will tax you on worldwide income. This is oftentimes a justification for remaining in E2 status. Make sure to talk to a tax professional to fully explore this issue.
Another thing to keep in mind is that once you obtain a green card, your green card status will be in jeopardy of you travel outside of the US for an extended period of time without first obtaining a travel document. This may not work well for nomadic entrepreneurs.
Conclusion—E2 Visa to Green Card Status
In conclusion, while the E2 visa is a great way for foreign entrepreneurs to start a business in the US, there are limitations that can hinder one’s long-term goals to live permanently in the US. However, there are viable paths that lead from the E2 visa to green card status. These paths include investing more and qualifying for an Eb5 green card, investing in a regional center Eb5 project, applying for a National Interest Waiver (NIW) green card, finding an employer sponsor or having a qualifying family member sponsor you. While these paths may require strategic planning and sound guidance, they offer hope for those who want to stay in the US and permanently pursue the American Dream.
P.S. If you want to learn about how E2 Employees can transition to green card status please click HERE.
Ben Frear, Esq.
Immigration Lawyer for Entrepreneurs