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Little-known Visa Program Lets Immigrants Start Businesses in the U.S. but Doesn’t Grant Citizenship

passport-315266_640A little-known visa program allows immigrants in the U.S. to open and invest in businesses, pay taxes, send children to public school, and hire American workers. The visa, however, does not allow foreign nationals to become citizens in the country.

The Nonimmigrant Investor Visa

The E-2 visa – also called the nonimmigrant investor visa – allows foreign nationals to invest in businesses and firms in the U.S., including small shops, restaurants, boutiques, and multi-national corporations.

According to federal government data, the number of E-2 visas issued by the State Department increased by 46% from 28,000 to 41,000 in the last five years. In the past two decades, the number has more than doubled, despite slightly dipping after the Great Recession and September 11.

Efforts to Amend the Nonimmigrant Investor Visa Program

At present, the E-2 visa program does not provide a path to residency. Business owners and investors who earn enough money can become permanent residents through the EB-5 investor visa. The EB-5 requires applicants to invest in a rural area or areas with high unemployment, as well as pay $1 million. Children of E-2 visa holders also do have a path to residency using the visa. One option they can take is get a student visa and go to college, and then find an employer willing to sponsor them after graduating.

Some E-2 owners have families in the country and have U.S. citizen children. Once the children reach 21-years-old, they try to petition for citizenship for their parents, but the process can take over two decades.

This past year, the state and federal lawmakers tried to amend the nonimmigrant investor visa program, but just like other immigration policies, the proposed changes failed to gain traction.

Representative David Jolly proposed in a bill that the E-2 visa holders should be allowed to become permanent U.S. residents after staying in the country after a full decade. The bill was introduced in April and was referred to the subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security in May. The bill hasn’t gone anywhere, however, and would have to be reintroduced in the following congressional session.

Chad Mayes, Assemblyman of the State of California, also introduced legislation that provides the E-2 visa holders’ children access to in-state tuition to public universities and community colleges. The children will lose in-state tuition benefits when they reach 21-years-old.

In a written statement, Mayes said, “Students who entered California legally, many of whom know no other home, deserve an equal opportunity to obtain a college education to achieve their dreams. They should qualify for and be allowed to pay in-state tuition to give them that chance.”

If you want to learn more about the benefits and rules of the E-2 visa program, schedule a consultation with Lyttle Law Firm today! You can contact us at (512) 215-5225, or visit our Austin and San Marcos offices.