The E-2 Investor visa provides opportunities for foreign nationals to put on their entrepreneurial hat and start a business, invest in that business and get a visa to run their new business in the U.S. For those reasons, I call this visa the “Entrepreneurial visa.” Still, it is technically called the “Treaty Investor visa” because it requires an investment, and it requires that a treaty exists between the person’s country of nationality and the U.S. be in place.
For those who missed the memo, the U.S.’s open-door policy, regardless of nationality, disappeared a long time ago. Individuals from certain countries possess more options to move to the U.S. This includes Canadians and Mexicans under the TN visa, Australians under the E-3 visa, and most prominently, individuals with passports from approximately 80 countries that have signed a bilateral E-2 treaty with the U.S. This has created a Tale of Two Cities scenario, made up of “haves” and “have nots.” The most prominent “have not” club members are the BRIICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, and South Africa), and those countries make up approximately half of the world’s population.
The net effect of this bifurcation of potential E-2 visa applicants costs the U.S. billions of dollars of potential investment capital and the potential creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs. One island nation became aware of this and realized it could help build its own infrastructure and become a significantly richer nation by creating a springboard for individuals from the “have not” countries: Grenada. This tiny island nation signed an E-2 treaty with the U.S. in 1986, perhaps as a goodwill measure after the U.S.’s oft-criticized invasion in 1983. Because of its small size and population, the E-2 visa was hardly ever utilized by Grenadians.
In the past decade, the “have nots” from other countries found a way to access the E-2 visa based on a citizenship-through-investment program started by Grenada in August 2013. This program allows individuals from any other country to obtain a Grenadian passport through passive investment at a lower threshold than other countries like Portugal, the UK or the U.S., without requiring physical residence in the country. The word spread, and the “have nots” without available capital started applying for Grenadian citizenship and then, using their new passports, apply for E-2 visas. Grenada became the backdoor way into the U.S., and petitions started coming in, many from Indian nationals who wanted E-2 visas, which offer the advantage over other U.S. visas of being renewable without limits.
It is important to note that E-2 visas are extremely beneficial to the U.S. and generate hundreds of thousands of NEW jobs for American citizens. Somehow this reality was lost on the Biden administration, however, as it signed into law changes in the E-2 regulations, specifically targeting people whose E-2 qualifying citizenship was obtained through investment. In the end, this shortsighted policy will not only limit potential investment in the U.S. but will also hurt two other groups of people: Foreign nationals who invested legitimate amounts of money in becoming Grenadian citizens who are now unable to access the E-2 visa, despite holding the requisite citizenship, and lastly, the Grenadian government, which was generating revenue that assisted in building its infrastructure.
Because this law came into effect in conjunction with the granting of E-2 status for Portuguese nationals, and Portugal is a popular country for citizenship-through-investment, it will also have a chilling effect on E-2 visa applications coming from Portugal. There is no word on how this new law affects Grenadian citizens who have obtained the E-2 visa and are going for renewals in the future. Since the U.S. Embassy with jurisdiction over Grenadian E-2 visa applications has not been processing them for over a year, this means that all those who were in the queue or are now preparing petitions for submission will not qualify any more, unless they are actually residing in Grenada. Yet another door is being closed on the kinds of potential immigrants the U.S. needs.
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