Are you a business owner looking to invest in the United States? If so, an E-1 or E-2 investor visa may be the perfect solution. However, when it comes to applying for the visa, you have a choice: apply for a change of status within the U.S. or apply for a visa abroad in your home country. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of each option, so you can make an informed decision and successfully apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa.
E-1 and E-2 Investor Visa Application Process: Change of Status vs. Visa Abroad: To apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa, you must first determine your eligibility based on the requirements set by the U.S. government. The eligibility criteria for these visas include being a national of a country with a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States and investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business, among others.
How to Apply for an E-1 or E-2 Investor Visa: Once you’ve determined your eligibility, you can start the application process by completing Form DS-160, which is available on the U.S. Department of State website at Nonimmigrant Visa – Instructions Page (state.gov). You’ll also need to pay the application fee and schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Please note that the E visa fee will vary depending on your country – please visit U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country (state.gov) to determine what specific E visa fee you will need to pay.
Determine Your Eligibility for an E-1 or E-2 Visa: During the interview, you’ll be asked questions about your business and your plans for the U.S. If your visa is approved, you’ll be able to enter the U.S. and begin working on your business.
Comparing Change of Status and Visa Abroad Options for E-1 and E-2 Visas: When applying for an E-1 or E-2 visa, you can either apply for a change of status from within the United States or apply for a visa abroad in your home country. There are some key differences between these two options.
Applying for a Change of Status within the U.S.: If you’re already in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, you can apply for a change of status to an E-1 or E-2 visa without leaving the country. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and downsides of applying for a change of status as opposed to a visa:
Pros of Applying for a Change of Status:
- Convenience: If you’re already in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, applying for a change of status can be a convenient option as you won’t have to leave the country.
- Cost Savings: Applying for a change of status can be less expensive than applying for a visa abroad since you won’t have to pay for travel expenses or visa application fees.
- Reduced Processing Time: Applying for a change of status can be quicker than applying for a visa abroad since you won’t have to wait for a visa appointment or visa processing time. The estimated change of status processing time can is listed by USCIS and publicly available at Processing Times (uscis.gov).
Cons of Applying for a Change of Status:
- Risk of Denial: If you apply for a change of status and it is denied, you may need to leave the country and apply for a visa abroad, which can be time-consuming and costly.
- Limited Timeframe: If your current visa is about to expire, you may not have enough time to complete the change of status application process before your visa expires.
- No Travel: While your change of status application is being processed, you won’t be able to travel outside of the U.S. Perhaps the biggest downside of applying for a change of status application is that even with your approval notice (e.g., I-797 Notice of Action), you will not be able to leave and reenter the United States on that same status application without obtaining a visa first.
Applying for an E-1 or E-2 Visa Abroad in Your Home Country: In my general opinion, most applicants would be best served by applying from the visa abroad.
- Cost-effectiveness: As a general rule, obtaining an E-1 or E-2 visa abroad is the most cost-effective option, particularly if you need to travel internationally on a regular basis.
- Longer Validity Period: Moreover, while the E-1/E-2 change of status can only be approved for a maximum of two years, most E-1/E-2 treaty countries will issue an E-1/E-2 visa for up to 60 months (five years).
- International Travel Flexibility: Unlike an I-797 Notice of Action (approved change of status), you will be able to travel to and from the United States on an E-1/E-2 visa – quite a nice perk for international business owners.
In short, if you’re a business owner who wants to invest in and operate a business in the United States, an E-1 or E-2 visa may be the right choice for you. To apply for these visas, you’ll need to determine your eligibility, complete the necessary forms, and schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. You’ll also need to decide whether to apply for a change of status or a visa abroad, taking into account the differences between these two options. By following the right steps and choosing the best option for your situation, you can successfully apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa and start your business in the U.S. market.