Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.
Given the hostile, anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration, the immigration news recently coming from the United States generally involves some additional restriction on immigration rights. As a result, it is noteworthy when the Trump administration takes action that can permit more foreigners to come to the United States. Such is the case with the April 11 announcement that Israeli nationals can now qualify for the United States E-2 visa.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel stated, “The U.S. Embassy in Israel is pleased to announce the implementation of the U.S. E-2 Investor Visa for Israeli nationals, beginning May 1. The E-2 visa is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa that can be used to develop, direct, or provide specialized skills to an enterprise in which the owner has invested a substantial amount of capital. With the implementation of this visa, Israeli investors now have the opportunity to invest in the U.S. economy and send qualified employees to the United States. Likewise, U.S. citizens will be eligible to apply for visas to invest in Israel.
To qualify for a Treaty Investor (E-2) visa:
- The investment must be substantial and sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise;
- The business must be a real operating enterprise;
- The investor must be traveling to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise;
- If the applicant is not the investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity”.
On April 22, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) further announced, “Certain Israeli nationals who are lawfully present in the United States will soon be able to request a change of status to the E-2 treaty investor classification. Beginning May 1, eligible Israeli nationals already in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to request a change of status to E-2 classification, or a qualifying employer can file the petition on their behalf. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of treaty investors and employees who are already in the United States may also seek to change status to E-2 classification as dependents by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status”.
The United States E-2 visa is only available to nationals of certain countries that have “a treaty of commerce and navigation” with the United States. President Barack Obama had signed legislation allowing Israeli nationals to qualify for E-2 visas once Israel had provided “similar status” (reciprocity) to U.S. nationals in Israel. Israel passed such legislation (creating “B-5” status for American investors) in March, 2014, and adopted related necessary regulations in June, 2018. Now that the U.S. Department of State formally has recognized that Israel has offered “similar status” rights, Israeli nationals can be eligible for E-2 visas.
The United States E-2 visa may be especially appealing to the Israeli high-tech sector because it presents possibilities for Israelis looking to create start-ups or open subsidiaries in the United States. Israel has been known as “Start-Up Nation”, having the largest per capita number of start-ups of any country. The area in Israel between Tel Aviv and Haifa, known as “Silicon Wadi”, is considered one of the world’s best start-up environments, second only to “Silicon Valley” in the United States. Besides high-tech startups, medical innovation, diamond dealers, and restaurant operations are other Israeli business areas that may be attractive for E-2 visas. It appears that an Israeli national will be able to be issued an E-2 visa and come to the United States for up to 5 years.
While offering a significant opportunity for Israeli nationals to come to the United States, E-2 visa law is complex. You need the services of an immigration lawyer with significant E-2 visa experience to have the best chance for your E-2 visa application to be approved. The Law Offices of Kameli and Associates has such experience, successfully obtaining E-2 visas for many foreigners over the years. If you are an Israeli national seeking an E-2 visa, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-233-1000, for representation.