Introduction: The E-2 Visa in 2022
Today I will share some observations and predictions for the E-2 visa in 2022.
The first half of 2022 has been weird because we are coming out of the COVID pandemic. And that is having a major impact on E-2 visa demand and E-2 visa processing.
Here are a few observations—about the E-2 visa during the first half of 2022.
Observations about the E-2 Visa in 2022
Observation #1: Consular Operations Vary Wildly
US consular posts are working through the massive backlog of E-2 visa applications that have been piling up since COVID hit. But there are major differences in how the posts are effectively managing the backlog. Some posts are doing a great job while others are struggling. This could be due to staffing shortages or other issues affecting their ability to process E-2 visa applications.
For example, some posts, such as London, are moving super fast. They are doing an amazing job of working through the backlog of E-2 visa applications—and they appear to be back to business as usual.
In May of 2022, the statistics released by the state department indicate that the US Embassy in London issued 264 E-2 visas which is impressive considering that not long ago, they were only processing emergency cases.
Other posts, such as Tokyo and Seoul appear to have been rolling throughout the pandemic. In April 2020, while many consular posts were shuttered, Tokyo did not stop processing E-2 visa applications. They issued 28 visas that month. In May 2022, they issued 510.
And then you have other posts that are getting better, but still dealing with fairly long wait times. Toronto fits into this category. They are processing applications and scheduling interviews—which is great given the demand for E-2 visas amongst Canadian citizens—but they are still pretty backed up. Based on my recent experience, interview wait time for Canadians seeking E-2 visas is currently about 5-6 months. All things considered this is not terrible. And I anticipate that E-2 visa processing times will continue to improve.
Unfortunately, we also have a handful of posts that are stuck. They are barely scheduling E-2 visa interviews. And many investors who have already infused cash into the US economy are eagerly waiting for these posts to resume visa operations. The most stark example of this can be seen when you examine the E-2 visa issuance numbers in Bogota. Pre-pandemic in December 2019 they issued 39 E-2 visas. Last month, in May 2022, they issued two(2).
Is Third Country Processing an Option in 2022?
A lot of people ask, well can’t I just apply elsewhere as a third country national. this was an option pre-pandemic but nowadays with all of the posts struggling to deal with their workload, I do not know of any posts that are willing to process e-2 applications for third country nationals.
Observation #2: High demand for the E-2 visa in 2022
Since I typically help entrepreneurs, I tend to talk about the E-2 visa from the investor’s perspective. In 2022 I have talked to many new entrepreneurs who have re-evaluated their professional lives and decided that now is the time to pursue their dreams of starting a US business.
Additionally, I am guessing that the fact that some countries have instituted overly strict COVID policies has resulted in an increased demand since these people are looking for more freedom.
While the E-2 visa is in high demand for entrepreneurs, I am also seeing increased demand amongst US based businesses that are owned by individuals from an E-2 treaty country.
If a company has E-2 treaty nationality(meaning they are owned by people with the required nationality) they can send some executives, managers and essential workers to the US to work. This is a good option for many companies that are struggling to find qualified workers during our current labor shortage.
So, those are my observations during the first half of 2022 , but I also have a few predictions regarding E-2 visas in the second half of 2022…
Predictions for the E-2 Visa in 2022
Prediction #1: As consular operations resume, we will see a decrease in the number of change of status applications filed with USCIS
This is a good thing. USCIS needs to use their resources on other applications. And quite frankly, I typically try to discourage people from filing a change of status(unless there are compelling reasons to do so) because having status is not as advantageous as having a visa. While the E-2 visa gives you a two year period of stay each time you enter the US, E-2 status is essentially worthless as soon as you leave the US.
Prediction #2: More E-2 visa applications for businesses that don’t require offices
COVID has permanently changed the way that we do business. Video conferences are the norm and many entrepreneurs are realizing that they do not need office space to run a successful company. As a result, we will continue to see more clients who will refuse to rent an office.
In the past, my E-2 visa clients have tended to overspend on office space because it will count towards the investment. But as remote work becomes the norm, I predict that more clients will opt out and try to obtain the E-2 visa without signing a lease.
This is fine, but investors will have to be thoughtful about how they will convince the US government that their business is real and operating despite the fact that they have not invested in an office.
So there you have it. Those are two predictions and two observations about the E-2 visa in 2022.
If you are interested in the E-2 visa, I encourage you to reach out to one of the many amazing US immigration lawyers that you can find across the globe.
Thanks for your time!
Benjamin Frear, Esq.
Immigration Lawyer For Entrepreneurs and High Growth Companies