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Florida Legislator Proposes Changes to E-2 Visa Program

USA_visa_issued_by_Shenyang_(2012)A U.S. Representative from Florida has introduced a bill recently that would alter the standards for qualification for E-2 visas and make it easier for foreign nationals who are business owners in the U.S. to stay in the U.S. permanently. The bill, if successful, would permit foreign nationals residing in the U.S. on E-2 visas to become eligible for permanent residency status after 10 years, Law360.com reported.

Currently, the E-2 treaty investors visa is a temporary work visa that allows non-citizens to enter the country legally by virtue of their having made an investment in an American business. To qualify, you must be a citizen of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S. and place a “substantial amount of capital” into a business here.

Also under the current law, foreign nationals in this country under an E-2 visa cannot become permanent residents because the law considers them non-immigrants. David Jolly, whose district includes most of Pinellas County, put forward a bill that would change that. Jolly’s bill, H.R. 1834, would allow these foreign investors to achieve permanent resident status if they’ve resided here under an E-2 visa legally and continuously for 10 years and if the American businesses in which they’ve invested have created at least two full-time jobs.

E-2 visa holders’ businesses are comparatively small in relation to EB-5 investors. EB-5 investors must invest at least $500,000 to $1 million, and their businesses must employ at least 10 people.

Jolly’s bill would also make other changes to the E-2 program that would benefit the children of these visa holders. Currently, children of E-2 visa holders can only stay here until age 21. The bill’s language would raise that age to 26 and would allow those children to pursue work in this country once they turn 18.

The bill would restrict the number of E-2 visa holders who could achieve permanent resident status, imposing a cap of 10,000 people per year. Jolly issued a statement in support of the bill, explaining that the people “who enter our country legally on a nonimmigrant E-2 visa … [bring] with them the entrepreneurial spirit to start businesses and fully integrate into our communities. Without an opportunity for permanent residency, these visa holders cannot take the next step in carrying out the American dream.”

Bills like Jolly’s proposal have failed in the past. Adam Putnam, who, like Jolly, is a Republican congressman from the Tampa Bay area, launched a bill that was somewhat similar to the current proposal, except that it allowed permanent residency after five years (instead of 10). Putnam’s bill never made it out of committee.

Many options exist for foreign nationals seeking to obtain legal residency status in the United States, especially if you have money to invest in a U.S. business. For knowledgeable advice and determined advocacy regarding your immigration issues, reach out to the Florida immigration attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon. Our experienced, hardworking attorneys can help you as you pursue your American dream.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

SEC, Homeland Security Launch Probes in EB-5 Visa Application Practices, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, March 20, 2015

New Agency in Miami-Dade Using Lure of Immigration to Draw Investors to Area, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Jan. 8, 2015