USCIS Issued over 40,000 E-2 Visas in FY2015-- but how does that stack up with the benefits of EB-5?


The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs' 2015 Nonimmigrant Visa Report shows that for FY 2015, over 40,000 E-2 Treaty Investor visas were issued to foreigners. This figure represents four times the annual quota of 10,000 available EB-5 Immigrant Investor visas. However, before making a final decision on which immigration route prospective investors might take, it's important for the prospective immigrant to carefully consider and analyze both options before making a final decision.

May 26, 2016

The E-2 visa route provides many appealing options that are not necessarily available for EB-5 investments. The most obvious one is the lack of an annual visa quota. Aside from this, the E-2 visa has no minimum investment amount, and a significantly quicker processing time than EB-5. These few reasons show why the E-2 visa has remained popular for immigrants since the mid-1990s.

However, there are a variety of unpredictable factors that can significantly affect an E-2 holder's status in the U.S. First, the investment could contain a higher level of risk than an EB-5 investment, as many EB-5 investments have multiple levels of due diligence. To qualify for an E-2 visa, the investor must prove that his/her investment meets the requirements of a “substantial investment,” where it is proven that the investment will provide the applicant's company with the impetus it needs to operate. While this amount can be less than the minimum $500,000 investment required for an EB-5 investment, it may carry greater risk. While EB-5 investors eventually receive a green card that is no longer subject to the success of the investment, the E-2 investor’s business must be successful in perpetuity to maintain legal status in the US. Additionally, the E-2 visa may require the investor to be active in various roles in his business for the enterprise to succeed.

The EB-5 visa provides reliable solutions to many of the concerns of E-2 investors. Although the EB-5 minimum investment is currently $500,000, the money is intended to be returned with interest in some number of years. An EB-5 investor’s funds are typically a small portion of a project’s total capital stack, which might include investment from other EB-5 investors, banks, private equity, and other investment and debt channels. EB-5 investors who use Regional Centers are usually participating in an institutional business or development, and are not responsible for the success of the invested business. Experienced consultants, such as EB-5 Worldwide, tend to negotiate strong, collateralized investment positions for their EB-5 clients.

While the E-2 visa has been around and used much longer than the EB-5 program, EB-5 can provide significant long-term advantages over the Treaty Trader program. EB-5 only requires a one-time application, and permanent residency status does not need to be renewed like the E-2 visa. This allows the immigrant to avoid large amounts of application and legal fees. Furthermore, a green card acquired through the EB-5 program not only grants the applicant permanent residency in the U.S., but also allows the applicant's spouse and any unmarried children under 21 to achieve permanent residency as well. On the other hand, the E-2 visa only allows the applicant’s spouse a work visa (which must be renewed every 2 years), and does not allow children to work. Finally, only citizens from select countries that have established treaties with the United States can apply for an E-2 visa, whereas EB-5 is open to citizens of all countries around the world.