While the E2 visa offers entrepreneurs and investors the opportunity to operate a business in the U.S., it is a non-immigrant visa with certain limitations. Obtaining a green card in order to enjoy the benefits of permanent residency in the United States is a cherished dream for many E2 visa holders.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of transitioning from an E2 visa to a green card. From understanding the fundamental differences between the two to delving into the various pathways available for conversion, we will provide you with essential insights and knowledge to help turn your dream of building a life in the U.S. into a reality.
What Is an E2 Visa, and How Is It Different from a Green Card?
An E-2 investor visa (E2 visa) is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to invest in and operate businesses in the United States. It is typically granted to individuals who come from countries with which the U.S. has a treaty of commerce and navigation.
E2 visa holders and their immediate family members can live and work in the U.S. as long as they maintain their investment and the business continues to operate.
In contrast, a green card (officially known as a U.S. Permanent Resident Card) provides indefinite permission for a foreign national to live and work in the U.S., offering a clear pathway to U.S. citizenship.
While the E2 visa is temporary and tied to a specific investment and business, a green card has few conditions and is not limited to any particular activity. Therefore, converting from an E2 visa to a green card represents a transition from temporary, non-immigrant status to permanent resident status in the United States.
5 Approaches to Transitioning From an E2 Visa to a Green Card
There is no single path from an E2 visa to a green card. By exploring these five common ways of gaining permanent residence while on an E2 visa, you can gain valuable insights into your transition options and make a more informed decision.
1. The EB-5 Visa Pathway
The EB-5 visa pathway is one avenue available for E2 visa holders seeking to transition to permanent residence. This immigrant investor program requires individuals to make a substantial capital investment in a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs for U.S. workers.
The minimum investment amount varies depending on the location of the investment, with lower thresholds for investments in targeted employment areas (TEAs). TEAs include rural locations and areas with high unemployment.
The USCIS lists the minimum investment thresholds as $800,000 in a TEA or $1.05 million in other locations. The visa holder must also create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years of their admission to the United States.
The EB-5 program provides a clear pathway to permanent residency for investors, their spouses, and their unmarried children under 21 years of age. Successful EB-5 applicants receive conditional green cards, which can be converted into unconditional green cards once they meet the job creation requirements.
2. Company Sponsorship for Green Card
Another viable option for E2 visa holders is to seek a green card through company sponsorship. If you work for a U.S. employer that is willing to sponsor your green card application, you may be eligible for an employment-based green card, such as the EB-2 or EB-3. The employer typically initiates the process by filing a labor certification application and an immigrant petition on your behalf.
Individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability may qualify for an EB-2, while the EB-3 category is for skilled workers, professionals, and some unskilled workers who meet labor requirements.
The process involves several steps, including labor certification, petition filing, and adjustment of status or consular processing. Successfully obtaining a green card through company sponsorship allows you to continue working for your employer while enjoying the benefits of permanent resident status.
3. EB-1A Visa: Exceptional Ability Route
The EB-1A visa, also known as the employment-based first preference visa, is a potential route for E2 visa holders with exceptional ability in their fields. This category is designed for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary expertise or attained recognition in fields such as the arts, science, education, business, or athletics.
To qualify for an EB-1A visa, applicants must provide extensive evidence of their exceptional ability, which may include awards, publications, significant contributions to their field, and recognition by experts or organizations.
The advantage of the EB-1A visa is that it doesn't require a specific job offer or labor certification, making it a more direct path to green card eligibility. Successful EB-1A applicants and their immediate family members can obtain green cards, allowing them to live and work permanently in the United States.
4. National Interest Waiver
The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is another option for E2 visa holders seeking a green card, particularly for those with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in fields that serve the national interests of the United States. The NIW allows individuals to bypass the labor certification process and directly apply for a green card in the EB-2 category.
To qualify for an NIW, applicants must demonstrate that their work or expertise benefits the United States significantly. This typically involves showing that their contributions are in areas such as healthcare, education, science, or technology and that their work serves U.S. interests. Successful NIW applicants can obtain a green card for themselves as well as for their immediate family members.
5. Green Card Through Marriage
One of the most common pathways to obtaining a green card is through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Marriage-based green cards are a relatively straightforward way to obtain lawful permanent residence.
The process involves the U.S. citizen or green card holder sponsoring their spouse by filing a petition on their behalf. Once the petition is approved, the foreign spouse can apply for an adjustment of status to obtain a green card. This route is particularly appealing for E2 visa holders who have close family ties to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, as it provides a clear path to long-term residency and potential citizenship.
How Long Does It Typically Take to Convert from an E2 Visa to a Green Card?
The process of converting from an E2 visa to a green card that grants lawful permanent residency can vary depending on the chosen pathway. Here's a concise overview of the typical processing times for each route:
- EB-5 Visa Pathway: This pathway, which involves a substantial investment in a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs for U.S. workers, typically takes 2 to 4 years or even longer. The timeline includes the process of making a substantial investment and demonstrating job creation to secure lawful permanent residence.
- Company Sponsorship: When an employer sponsors a foreign national for a green card, the processing time generally falls within the range of 1 to 3 years, depending on the specific employment category and visa availability. This route involves employer sponsorship and labor certification.
- EB-1A Visa (Exceptional Ability): The EB-1A visa, designed for individuals with extraordinary ability, often has a relatively shorter processing time of 1 to 2 years. This pathway does not require employer sponsorship but requires the applicant to demonstrate exceptional abilities in a particular field.
- National Interest Waiver: Obtaining a green card through a National Interest Waiver by demonstrating the foreign citizen's national importance takes 1 to 2 years. This route bypasses the labor certification process and emphasizes the foreign national's substantial merit and contributions.
- Green Card Through Marriage: Marrying a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident offers a relatively expedited route, with processing times ranging from 10 to 14 months. This process is based on the immediate family relationship and results in lawful permanent residency for the foreign national spouse.
Keep in mind that these processing times are approximate and can be subject to change due to various factors, including government processing efficiency and individual case specifics.
For information tailored to your situation, consult with an immigration attorney who can keep you informed about immigration services processing trends. Your lawyer will give you personalized advice on your transition from an E2 visa to permanent residence status.
Can My Family Members (Spouse and Children) Also Obtain Green Cards if I Convert My E2 Visa?
In most cases, your immediate family members, including your spouse and children, can also obtain green cards if you convert your E2 visa to a green card. Here's how it works:
If you, as the primary E2 visa holder, successfully transition to a green card, your spouse is usually eligible to apply for a green card as well. This process typically involves filing a family-based petition on the spouse's behalf. Once approved, your spouse can apply for an adjustment of status to become a permanent resident of the United States.
Your unmarried children under the age of 21 are also eligible for derivative green cards when you convert your E2 visa. Like your spouse, you will file a petition for your child. Once the petition is approved, your child can apply for adjustment of status, and upon approval, they will become permanent residents.
It's important to note that family-based green card applications require a separate petition for each family member, but the process is generally straightforward. However, family members must meet the eligibility criteria and pass medical and background checks.
One significant advantage of this family-based approach is that it allows your immediate family members to live and work in the United States without restrictions, just like you, as they will also become permanent residents. This provides stability and the opportunity for your spouse and children to build a life in the United States alongside you.
Do I Need an Immigration Attorney to Help with the Conversion Process?
While it's not mandatory to have an immigration attorney to help you convert from an E2 visa to a green card, seeking legal assistance can be a good idea. Immigration laws and procedures are complex, but an immigration lawyer knows the potential pitfalls and smoothest paths to legal permanent residency.
An attorney can provide knowledgeable guidance, help you choose the most suitable conversion pathway, prepare and submit necessary documents on time, and represent your interests throughout the process. Ultimately, having an attorney can increase your chances of a successful and smooth transition to green card status.
Unlock Your Path to Permanent Residency: Contact SimVisa Now
The journey from an E2 visa to a green card is more than just possible; you have multiple potential pathways to achieve your dream of permanent residency in the United States. Whether you apply for the EB-5 visa, company sponsorship, the EB-1A visa, a National Interest Waiver, or a green card through marriage, each route presents unique opportunities and requirements.
At SimVisa, our experienced immigration attorneys are here to guide you through this intricate process. We understand the importance of making informed decisions and taking the right steps toward securing your future in the United States. Contact us for personalized assistance tailored to your specific situation and start your journey today.