How long does an E2 visa last?
An E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that will allow nationals of a treaty country to invest in and run a US-based business. Applying for an E2 visa, also known as a treaty investor visa, can be a long and complex process, requiring detailed documentation in support. It also requires significant upfront investment in a new or existing US enterprise.
Importantly, it is only a temporary visa – the E2 visa holder must renew their visa before it expires.
In this guide, we look at the validity period of the E2 visa, and the timings involved to extend your visa and retain lawful status.
How long does an E2 visa last?
One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to E2 visas is “How long does an E2 visa last?”. However, to be able to answer this, it is important to explain the difference between the E2 visa ‘validity period’ and the E2 visa ‘period of stay’.
The validity period is the timeframe over which an E2 visa is issued for, providing an expiration date, up until which point you will be permitted to enter the United States. In contrast, the period of stay refers to the length of your stay, regardless of your E2 visa validity period. The period of stay will be assigned upon your arrival in the US where, if determined admissible by a US Customs and Border Patrol Officer, you will be granted an automatic 2-year period of admission. Equally, if you are returning to the United States after spending time overseas, provided you are seeking to be readmitted within the period of validity of your E2 visa, you will be granted an automatic 2-year period of readmission.
The length of the validity of your E2 visa depends on your nationality, and can range from as little as 3 months to as much as 5 years. This is also known as the ‘reciprocity period’, where the validity period of the E2 visa is established by the treaty between the country of which you are a national and the United States. You can check the E2 visa terms for your country by checking the US visa reciprocity link on the US Department of State website. For instance, for Egypt, the E2 visa will usually be issued for a maximum of 3 months, on a single-entry basis, whereas nationals of the UK and Italy, among others, may benefit from an E2 visa validity period of up to 5 years, on a multiple-entry basis.
For those with a 3-month single-entry E2 visa, this does not mean that they can only stay in the States for 3 months, as there would be little point in applying in the first place. It simply means that they must enter the US within 3 months of getting their visa, at which stage they will be granted a 2-year period of admission. For those with a 5-year multiple-entry visa, they can seek to enter the States at any time within that 5-year period. They can also leave and re-enter during that time, on each occasion being granted 2-year E2 status.
How often can you use an E2 visa to enter the US?
Even with a 5-year multiple-entry E2 visa, this does not mean that the E2 visa-holder can stay in the States for 5 years straight. However, with a multiple-entry visa of any length, the E2 visa-holder will be able to leave and re-enter the US any number of times before it expires. This means that, before the 2 years comes to an end, the E2 visa-holder can either leave the US and then re-enter or make an in-country application to extend their stay.
The following scenarios will help to illustrate how this works in practice:
You are a citizen of Egypt and have been granted a 3-month single-entry E2 visa, expiring on 30 November 2022. In answer to the question “How long does an E2 visa last?” within this context, you will be allowed to enter the US up until 30 November 2022, and you will be permitted to stay continuously in the country for the following 2 years.
You are a UK citizen and your multiple-entry E2 visa has a duration of 5 years, with an expiration date of 30 November 2027. In answer to the question “How long does an E2 visa last?” within this context, you will be allowed to enter the US up until 30 November 2027, and you will be permitted to stay for 2 years from the date of entry. You will also be allowed to leave the US and re-enter any number of times prior to 30 November 2027, where you will re-admitted for 2 years on each occasion.
When should you make an application to extend an E2 visa?
The point at which you will need to make an application to extend your E2 visa will depend on your nationality and the reciprocity agreement that your country has with the US.
For those who have been issued with a visa valid for 5 years, in order to renew the period of stay for another 2 years you will simply be required to exit the US and to seek re-entry. You should check the stamp on your passport, or the date on your I-94 card (Arrival-Departure Record), to determine the date on which your E2 status is due to expire.
If you still have time left on your visa, the best way to get an additional 2-year stay is usually to leave the country and return, with no need for a new application. You also do not have to go back to your home country, but can travel to somewhere closer, such as Canada or even The Bahamas. However, it is advisable to stay wherever you go for at least a week.
For those who have been issued with a single-entry visa, or have a visa with a short or pending expiration date, you will need to submit a fresh application to renew your E2 visa shortly prior to its expiry. If you do not want to leave the States, it is recommended that you apply at least 45 days before your authorised stay expires. If you remain in the US longer than authorised, you may be deported and you may also be barred from returning.
You can apply to extend your stay if your E2 visa status remains valid, you have not committed any offences that make you ineligible for a US visa, you have not violated any conditions of your admission and your passport will be valid for the duration of your stay. You will also need to meet the ongoing eligibility requirements for E2 classification.
Importantly, if the treaty between your country and the United States establishes a 5-year E2 visa validity period, you may not always be granted the full 5 years. This will be at the discretion of the consular officer. For example, on the US Embassy website for the United Kingdom, applicants are advised that the first E2 visa will usually be issued for just 3 years. This is because most of the businesses for which E2 visas are granted are relatively small and potentially volatile. However, on renewal, the applicant should then be granted the maximum 5-year validity period, having proven the success of the business. In contrast, in the case of UK investors investing in large companies with a high turnover, and employing multiple US citizens, the first visa may be issued for the maximum period of 5 years.
Appying to extend an E2 visa
To apply to extend your E2 visa from within the US, you will need to file Form I-129, (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and submit a request using Form I-539 (Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status). You can also apply for an E2 visa extension from outside the US by filing an online application using Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application). In either case, you will be required to submit a detailed cover letter setting out how you meet the ongoing eligibility requirements for E2 classification, together with other documentation in support.
For a first-time application, there are various criteria that must be met, including investing a substantial amount of capital in a US enterprise. When you apply for an E2 visa renewal, the focus will shift away from any initial financial investment and move more towards the performance of the business. This is because the treaty investor business is likely to have been operational for at least 2 years. As such, you must be able to show that the business is active and for-profit, and that the profit of the business is more the marginal based on its actual performance rather than relying on any future projections. A marginal enterprise is one that does not have the capacity, either present or future, to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for you or your family.
By providing evidence of both revenue and job creation in support of your application, this will provide the best possible chance of being granted an extension of stay. However, your chances of a successful extension will be even greater if you can also show that you have invested or are about to invest additional capital, together with an updated business plan to show that this investment will be used productively in the treaty investor business.
Is an E2 visa a path to US permanent residence?
An E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa and, as such, is only temporary in nature. Equally, you cannot be in the US with E2 nonimmigrant status while simultaneously seeking lawful permanent resident status, where one of the requirements that must be met is an intention to depart the US when your E2 status comes to an end.
Unlike dual-intent visas that allow you to work while applying for settlement by way of a ‘green card’, the E2 visa does not create a path to permanent residence. Even though the E2 visa can be extended an unlimited number of times, allowing an E2 treaty investor, or the employee of an treaty investor, to live and work in the US indefinitely, if you are looking to settle permanently in the States, you will need to consider the available alternative options.
What are the available alternative options to an E2 visa?
An E2 visa does not provide a route to permanent residency. Its validity is also tied to the success of the treaty investor business. This means that even though an E2 nonimmigrant visa is generally easier to get than an immigrant visa, or a green card, it is not always the best option for prospective entrepreneurs who want to live in the US long-term. This is because the E2 visa-holder must usually return to their native country if their business fails, or if they decide to retire or sell up, or are otherwise no longer eligible for E2 status.
By seeking expert advice from an immigration specialist at the earliest possible opportunity, you can explore all available options and make the right decision for you. For example, you may be interested in the highly sought-after EB5 visa, allowing overseas investors to obtain US permanent residency. However, this will require a much higher minimum investment, of at least $800,000 in a new or existing US enterprise, together with the ability to create or preserve ten permanent full-time jobs for qualified US workers. Alternatively, you may instead qualify for the EB1 visa. This is a long-term visa for a small percentage of individuals with extraordinary ability or achievements in their specialised field.
Much will depend on your individual circumstances, what you are looking to achieve in the short and long-term, and whether you meet the requirements for different classifications.
NNU Immigration’s US immigration attorneys provide specialist guidance on all aspects of the E-2 visa for entrepreneurs, business owners and their families, as well as E-2 employees. For expert advice, contact us.
E2 visa FAQs
How long is E2 visa valid for?
An E2 visa can be valid for anything from 3 months to 5 years, depending on your treaty country, although you will still only be allowed to stay in the States for a period of 2 years at a time.
How long can you stay in US with E-2 visa?
An E-2 visa will initially last for 2 years. However, if the treaty investor business is a success, and provided you continue to run that business, you can apply to renew your E-2 visa on an unlimited basis.
Can E2 visa lead to Green Card?
An E2 visa does not provide a path to settlement in the United States, although it can be renewed an unlimited number of times, provided your treaty investor business remains active and you continue to meet the other eligibility requirements.
Can you live in the US with an E2 visa?
The E2 visa will allow you to live and work in the United States, although you must be working for the treaty investor business which formed the basis of your application.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.