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EB-5 vs E-2 Part 2: Which Offers More Business, Work, and Travel Flexibility?


When speaking to your clients about investor options in the United States, you undoubtedly give an overview of the EB-5. This is certainly the more “famous” of the two visas, and most potential investors know about its options. The E2 visa, however, is another option for those wishing to run businesses in the United States. This second article in the EB-5 vs E-2 series (you can find the first article here), dives into the entrepreneurship aspect of the two visas. Which one meets more of your clients’ business flexibility – and, by extension, travel flexibility – goals?  

How soon can you start immigrating and working/doing business?

EB-5: 2-14 years from today

E2: 3-5 months from today 

If your client is in a hurry to get to the US to start working in his/her own business, the E2 visa is the better bet. Depending on the country of origin, the EB-5 can take anywhere from 2-14 years to process. This is because this visa is limited to just seven hundred per country of origin per year

By contrast, the E2 visa is not limited in terms of annual application numbers and, consequently, the only wait-period that applies to this visa is the time it takes for the authorities to process the application. As soon as the client sends in the E2 visa application, it will take somewhere between 3 and 12 weeks to get an interview appointment date. 

Read also: In Last Decade, E2 Brought 5 Times More People to the US Than EB-5 – and Likely More Money Too

Usually, the client will be either approved or denied at the interview. If approved, the client will wait for the physical visa for about one week, upon which he/she can move to the United States and start work immediately. 

How often and how much can you travel outside the US?

EB-5: Open, as long as the visa holder is in the US at least six months a year

E2: Varies from no international travel to unlimited travel 

For clients who may own businesses around the world and need travel flexibility, the EB-5 could be the better option (depending on where the client is from). Once the client has an approved green card, he/she will be able to travel freely in and out of the United States, as long as he/she is in the country at least six months per year. 

Read also: 57,000+ Chinese Spent More Than US$44 Billion on Golden Visas in Last Decade

With permanent residency, it’s important that the permanent resident is actually a permanent resident.  Travel outside of the US for more than six months of a year is not recommended and could result in a court date to remove the green card if doubt exists as to whether that the person actually lives in the US. 

For clients with passports from Grenada, Turkey, Canada, Australia, the UK, and many other countries, the E2 visa is completely flexible. This means that the E2 visa holder can travel outside the US as much as he/she wishes in a year. But please keep in mind that the person with the E2 visa is supposed to be “directing and developing” a business in the US, so traveling outside the country for more than six months out of the year may not be advisable.

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For E2 visa holders from Jordan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and a slew of other countries, however, international travel is highly restricted. In some instances, the person will never be able to travel internationally without re-applying for the E2 visa at the US consulate/embassy in his/her home country.  

This can be incredibly difficult for those entrepreneurs who wish to continue owning and being involved in a foreign business. It’s best to check the visa reciprocity page to get information on the E2 visa travel flexibility offered based on the client’s citizenship.  

Hundreds of firms can assist with applications to both E-2 and EB5. To see which ones, visit the Residence and Citizenship by Investment Company Directory.

To what degree can you take up employment in something other than your principal business?

EB-5: Flexible for regional centers or after conditions met 

E2: Limited to the entity for which visa holder was approved 

Since the EB-5 offers permanent residency status, the EB-5 visa holder has a great deal of flexibility when it comes to living and working in the United States. 

In fact, permanent residency is a very uninhibited and flexible way to live. Few restrictions apply to green card holders, particularly when it comes to working. No one needs to sponsor a current green card holder, and the green card holder doesn’t need any special education and/or job title in order to work. Please note: There may be some restrictions on work before the applicant has met the conditions of the EB-5.  

Visit the EB-5 and E-2 Program Pages to see recent articles, statistics, official links, and more.

Like the EB-5 visa, the E2 is based on investment into a business. Unlike the EB-5, though, since the E2 visa does not grant permanent residency, it will always be tied to the business in which the client invested.

This means that the E2 visa investor will only be able to work in the business for which he/she applied and gained approval. No other work is authorized. 

Of course, through strategic consultation with an E2 visa attorney, opportunities exist to create a business structure that may allow for the adding of other companies to the initial investment entity. This, however, is an intricate process that should not be embarked upon without prior consultation with an E2 visa attorney. 

That said, the spouse of the E2 visa investor is eligible for a generic work permit and, once approved for this work permit through USCIS, will be able to work anywhere.  

Image via: Julie Hillman Design

Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.

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