What are the options to apply for a Green Card with an E-2 visa?
For many E2 visa holders who are now settled in the US, it may seem a logical step to secure a more permenant status in the US by applying for a Green Card. The challenge is that the E2 visa is not a direct route to a Green Card. E2 visas wanting to remain in the US with lawful permanent status will need to consider alternative paths to take them to the Green Card.
Impact of E2 visa dual intent status
Importantly, the E2 visa is known as a dual intent visa. This means visa holders can apply for and remain in the US on the basis of concurrently intending to leave the US on visa expiry and to remain in the US on a permanent basis. This is a complex legal position, which becomes apparent in the process E2 visa holders have to follow to apply for a Green Card.
Green Card application process
The path from E2 visa to Green Card will require the visa holder to apply to a different immigration route, known as an ‘immigrant’ visa, either by making an application from outside the US or by applying to adjust your status from within the US.
To apply for a US Green Card, ordinarily qualifying applicants (or their sponsors, as appropriate under the relevant route) are to file their immigrant petition with USCIS. Once approved and the priority date is live, the individual may then apply for US permanent residence from within the US as a change of status application, or from overseas at a US embassy or consulate.
E-2 visa holders however can only apply for a US Green Card from overseas unless they are willing to waive certain rights granted to them under the relevant E2 treaty. Visa holders are advised to take professional guidance on the implications which affect areas such as tax.
If you are willing to proceed with a change of status application, you will need to file form I 508 to accompany your change of status application.
Which Green Card?
The EB-5 is an immigrant visa for investors. If you hold an EB-5 visa, you will be eligible to secure a green card for yourself, spouse and children under 21 years old as long as they are unmarried.
To gain this visa you are required to invest at least $1 million in a US business and must create a minimum of 10 full time US jobs in the business. This investment may be reduced to $500,000 if it is in an area that the US government classifies as a ‘target employment area’.
As the EB-5 visa is a similar investment-based visa to the E2, many see this as one of the most straightforward options for making the move from an E2 visa into a green card.
As an E2 visa holder, there are a few ways you can set-up your EB-5 investment:
- Invest additional capital in your E2 company
- Invest funds in a new business
- Invest in another existing business
- Invest in a Regional Center authorized by the USCIS
Working in the US economy is likely to open up opportunities for you and your family. You may find an employer who is willing to sponsor you for a green card and while it may take a number of years to gain a green card through employer sponsorship you may be able to continue working in your business until the process concludes.
If you have a degree or a professional qualification you could also consider changing your e2 visa to a H1-B graduate visa while your petition for a green card is processed.
Family sponsorship is another route to a green card you can consider. If you have a family member who is already a US citizen and over the age of 21, they can sponsor your green card application. The immediacy of your relationship with them dictates how long this process will take. If you have a child who is a US citizen it could be as little as 12 months but if it is a sibling the application process could take up to 10 years.
Other factors such as your nationality can impact on the time it takes to process your application. Citizens from countries such as Mexico or the Philippines for example, where applications for US cards are high, will encounter long waiting times.
Regardless of the nature of your relationship with a sponsor, moving to the US on an e2 visa initially could be a good option while you wait for your green card to be processed.
Another route through family sponsorship is through spousal sponsorship. If you are married your spouse could consider getting their green card sponsored through an employer and then sponsoring your application in turn. Alternatively if you meet and marry a US citizen while in the country on an E2 visa they can then entitle you to a green card.
Extraordinary ability sponsorship
If you can show you are at the top of your field and have extraordinary ability in either business, the arts, sciences or education you may qualify for the EB1-1 visa which is a route to a green card. Even if you do not currently hold a standing that would qualify you for this level, entering the US on an e2 visa may give you new opportunities and the kickstart to your career that will help your progress and qualify for this extraordinary ability sponsorship.
Applying to extend your E2 status
As an alternative to permanent residence, E-2 visa holders may opt to extend their E-2 status for successive periods of leave. Doing so means the visa holder must show they continue to meet the visa requirements. You cannot remain in the US with E2 status if you no longer meet these criteria, eg you have retired from the E2 business:
- You must be a citizen of an eligible treaty country – a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US.
- You must be investing substantial funds and it must be an investment into a legitimate business in the US.
- You must be in control of or own a minimum of 50% of the business.
Do you have a question about Green Card eligibility? NNU can help!
If you are looking to make your status in the US more secure and permanent, there will be a number of factors to consider when deciding how to proceed with securing US permanent residence, such as the timing of your applications, renewals and your travel in and out the country should be carefully considered if you are hoping to apply for a green card while holding E2 status.
The route to a Green Card from an E2 visa is rarely straightforward, requiring the right support and preparation to navigate the US immigration rules. For advice on your Green Card eligibility, contact us.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.
Last updated: 10 February 2020