E1 Visa to Green Card
With a US Green Card, or ‘lawful permanent residence’, you are permitted to live in the US on a permanent and indefinite basis, without travel restrictions or limitaitons on permissible activities.
Whether you are considering your options to apply for the E-1 visa or if you are already in the US under the E-1 category and are considering if you can settle and perhaps retire in the US, it is important to understand that there is no direct path from E-1 visa to Green Card – irrespective of how long you have held E-1 status in the US.
To remain in the US after your E-1 status has expired or is no longer valid requires planning and professional advice to help ensure you understand your options to stay and that for any application you make, that you are meeting the strict eligibility and process requirements to avoid issues, delays or rejected applications.
The E-1 visa is a temporary visa, but it can offer long-term residence in the US since there are no limits on the number of times you can apply to extend your visa. However, to qualify for the E-1 extension, you must remain active in the E-1 business, engaged in the relevant trade activities and continue to meet the E-1 visa requirements.
If you cease activities with the E-1 company, for example if you plan to work for a different company or to retire, you will no longer be able to remain in the US under your current status. You will either have to leave the US or seek new, alternative lawful status, which could then lead to a US Green Card.
We look at some of the indirect paths to Green Card that E-1 visa holders may eligible for:
Family-based Green Card
The most obvious route is if you are married to a US citizen, you can apply for a Green Card by marriage. As the spouse of a US citizen, you will not automatically attain lawful permanent residence and must make an application for a Green Card on the basis of being an ‘immediate relative’.
Alternatively, another path to Green Card could be where you have an immediate family member who is able to sponsor you, ie they are an immediate family member, they are a US citizen and over the age of 21. This route can be a long process, depending on your relationship to the sponsor and your nationality. For example, applications sponsored by a sibling can take in the region of ten years, whereas a child sponsoring an application would typically take around a year. Similarly, applications from individuals of certain nationalities may face a longer wait for their application, such as Mexico, due to the high volume of applications eminating from their country.
If you do not have an immediate family member who can sponsor you, but you are married and your non-US spouse works in the US, you could consider whether your spouse is eligible for a Green Card by employment. If they can attain a Green Card through their job, you would then become eligible for a Green Card as their spouse.
Employment-based Green Card
A number of specific routes could become available relating to your employment in the US.
By being in the USA and working in the country you may find new opportunities open up to you. If you can find an employer willing to employ you and sponsor you, you may be able to apply for an employment-based Green Card. This can however take a number of years to complete.
The EB1-1 ‘extraordinary ability’ visa is another route that could secure you a Green Card. You will not need to be sponsored for this route. If you can show you are at the top of your sector or on your way to it and exceptional in your field you may qualify for this. You will need to show how your status has taken you to a level where you would be recognised for extraordinary ability. You can apply for the EB1-1 while already residing in the US on an E-1 visa.
The EB2 Green Card, on the other hand, is for ‘exceptional’ ability or Advanced Degree Permanent Residence (Second Preference) for those who are members of professions holding an advanced degree (or equivalent) or those who can otherwise prove ‘exceptional ability’ i.e. expertise that is significantly higher than the norm in their particular field of sciences or arts, medicine, business, or athletics.
Investment-based Green Card
If you have $500,000 or more to invest in a US business, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Green Card could be open to you.
If you do not yet have a US visa but do have the funds, it is likely to be advisable to apply for the EB-5 straight away, rather than through the E-1 or other visa first. If you are looking at US investment for US residency, take professional advice to ensure all appropriate routes have been considered for your specific circumstances.
If you enter the US on E-1 visa, you may in time become eligible under the E-B5 program if you can show growth of the company with the creation of at least ten new jobs and investment of at least one million dollars into the enterprise.
Do you have a question about the path from E-1 visa to Green Card? NNU can help!
While the E-1 visa does not offer a direct path to US permanent residence, for many E-1 visa holders, who perhaps have been accompanied by their spouse and children and who now consider the US as their home, there may be alternative routes to settle in the US.
As specialists in US immigration, NNU’s London-based attorneys can guide you through your options to remain in the US based on your circumstances and eligibility. Under current US immigration policy, petitions across all classifications are facing increasing scrutiny by adjudicators. Taking expert advice will help ensure you compile a robust application and avoid evidentiary or process issues which can result in a delayed or even refused application.
Contact us for guidance on your specific circumstances.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.