EB5 or E2: Which Investor Visa to Choose?
The United States is a huge country that is in want of qualified employees and financially successful investors. To attract these groups of people, the country has launched various visa programs, such as the E-2 and EB-5 visa programs. The fact that even Trump's ban on immigration in 2020 has not affected them proves their importance to the American economy. The path to the US for investors is clear.
To obtain an EB-5 investor visa, you are required to make a minimum investment of 800,000 US dollars (15 March 2022 it was increased from $500,000) in the economy of the United States. The investor's spouse and their children under 21 are allowed to immigrate through the same visa program and are also entitled to numerous benefits, including application for a Green Card, access to the American education system, pension scheme, and others.
Almost 10,000 visas are issued annually. However, only 4,191 petitions were approved in 2019. The reason is the long processing time of petitions. Chinese 'investors' petitions, for instance take an extremely long time to be processed. An EB-5 visa is issued for every family member, not only for the investor. According to the statistics, the number of visas per one investment varies depending on an 'applicant's country of origin. For instance, for an investor from China, it is 2.88 visas for one investment, while the ratio for Vietnamese applicants amounts to 4.07 visas.
Unlike EB-5 visa, E2 is a nonimmigrant visa. The United States has signed agreements with more than 80 countries whose citizens can invest in American businesses and get permission to enter the United States and stay in the country on a temporary basis. Thus, an E-2 visa is only available for applicants and their close relatives from a limited number of countries. However, some professionals who 'don't have investor status can also apply for E2 if they meet certain requirements.
The Differences Between EB-5 and E-2 Visa
To get a better idea which investor visa is right for you, 'let's consider the following differences:
There is a limit of 10,000 visas per year for EB5 investor visas, 7.1% of which can be issued to applicants from one country. Investors from India, Vietnam, and China have been affected by these limits more significantly than investors from less populated countries such as Norway, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
So, while the number of EB-5 visas is limited, there are no quotas for issuing E-2 visas.
An applicant for EB5 can come from any country of the world. However, processing applications from some countries, for example, Vietnam, India, or China, takes more time because of the number of petitions from these countries. Investors born in these countries have no simple way to escape the long waiting periods, as nationality is determined by the country of birth. Even if an applicant is a citizen of another country now, the USCIS 'won't be able to speed up the application process, as the applicant will be assigned to their country of their origin.
Only a citizen whose country has signed the TFN agreement with the United States can file a petition for an E2 visa. In other words, the investor needs to be a passport holder of a TFN country. However, this country 'doesn't have to be their country of birth.
Another benefit of an E-2 visa is that you 'don't have to wait long after receiving your second citizenship. A holder of a new passport of a state that has signed the TFN agreements can immediately apply for a nonimmigrant E-2 visa. When choosing a state that has signed the treaty with the United States, it is common to go for Grenada. Grenada is famous for its attractive taxation scheme and simple rules for a passport application.
Both visa programs require significant investments, the amounts of which were adjusted in November 2019, June 2021 and March 2022. Currently, the minimum investments for EB5 amount to 1,050,000 US dollars. Meanwhile, there is an exemption to the rule if you invest in a targeted employment area (TEA). In that case, the minimum amount is 800,000 dollars (15 March 2022 it was increased from $500,000). TEA investments are considered investments into rural area projects and areas with a high unemployment rate. Besides, if you invest under the EB5 program, your investments will be frozen for the period that your visa petition is processing.
When compared to a more expensive EB-5 visa program, an E-2 visa seems more attractive in terms of finances. The funds invested in a project on the US territory have to be "substantial", although the specific amount has not been legally stipulated. An investment starting from 100,000 dollars is often considered to be sufficient. However, it should be noted that there are no limitations regarding a business’s location and its affiliations with other business projects.
The difference in the waiting period for the visas under discussion is significant. Waiting for an EB5 takes from 2 to 14 years, while waiting for the approval of your E2 petition takes only 15 days to several months. The waiting period for the EB5 is due to the long-delayed visa processing for applicants from the country with the biggest number of petitions -- China.
If you find that EB5 is not an acceptable program for you because of the extremely long processing time, an E-2 visa is a better option. It 'doesn't take the State Department more than two weeks to make a decision regarding your petition. As our company experience shows, it might actually take our clients more time to complete the paperwork than the Immigration Office to approve them.
Business and Freedom to Act
EB5 'doesn't require working directly in the invested business. For example, one of the E2 requirements states that the investor has to work in the business they are investing in. This requirement results in the fact that entrepreneurs have to work for a particular company permanently. Meanwhile, there are no other limitations as to whether you are starting up your own company or investing in an operating business. The main requirement is that you "control the business and develop it".
Both of the visa programs allow your children to move to the US with you. They are eligible to file for a visa under your petition until they are 21 years old. The major disadvantage of the EB-5 is the long waiting period. While waiting for the visa approval, your children can come out of age and lose the opportunity to take advantage of the education and other benefits available to minors in the US. For applicants from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other countries of the former Soviet Union the waiting period 'doesn't exceed 2.5 years. With that in mind, E2 visa is still a smart option for those planning to move to the US with children.
US Permanent Residence
The EB5 immigration visa program allows you to receive a Green Card and thus permanent residence. Also, you can apply for US citizenship five years after receiving the visa. Meanwhile, the E2 'doesn't provide the opportunity to receive a permanent residence or US citizenship. However, you can extend it a number of times unless you qualify for USCIS requirements. Also, you are able to change your immigration status and receive a Green card while staying in the United States. You need either to invest the amount required for an EB5 visa into your project or a targeted employment area, find a sponsor employer or family member who will become your sponsor, or set up a company outside the United States and return as an employee who has been relocated to another workplace within your enterprise.
As an EB5 visa holder, you have permanent residence in the United States and can travel without any restrictions. However, as a Green Card owner, you 'can't stay outside the US for more than 6 months. Otherwise, you run the risk of having problems with the Immigration Office
There are more travel restrictions under E-2 visa program, but the details depend on what kind of agreement your country has with the United States. The rules are quite strict: one entry per two years without leaving the country. In some cases, you can receive a travel permission for multiple entries and exits from the United States over 5 years.
Why You Need to Contact ACS Law Offices
The right choice of a visa program at the early stage of the immigration process is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make on your way to the American Dream. At ACS Law Offices, our experienced attorneys will advise you on the most efficient visa program for your situation, as well as assist you in developing a personalized action plan. If you choose our company, you will receive consultations and support at all stages of the visa application process from our investment immigration lawyers experienced in all intricacies of the US immigration legislation.