A Comprehensive Guide on How to Transition from E-2 Visa to Green Card (Permanent Residency)

Learn how to transition from an E-2 visa to Green Card or permanent residency with our comprehensive guide. Get insights on employment and investment-based options and find out what would be the best choice for you.

Can an E-2 visa lead to a green card?

Understanding The E-2 Visa

The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant foreign investor visa that enables the investor to place capital (in funds or assets) in the U.S. and build a profitable business from scratch, purchase an existing one, or buy a franchise. However, only investors from treaty countries are eligible to apply. Here is a list of such countries. It is important to note that the E-2 does not lead to permanent residency or a Green Card. However, the investor can stay in the U.S. indefinitely, along with their dependents, and apply for renewals as long as the business remains and is profitable.

Generally speaking, the E-2 visa does not have a specific investment requirement. Rather, the applicant must show that they have a substantial amount of capital in a business and that it carries a certain degree of risk. Normally, investments that start anywhere from $100,000 and up are considered a safe bet since the amount must be enough to ensure the successful operation of the business being established or acquired. For additional information on the E-2, the USCIS has published a comprehensive guide.

A green card with a visa issuance paper

What is the process for changing to a Green Card?

A permanent residency card with US flag

Converting From A Non-Immigrant To An Immigrant Visa

Unlike the E-2 visa, the Green Card (or permanent resident card), on the other hand, grants an individual an official immigration status in the United States, which entitles one to certain rights and responsibilities and is required for naturalization as a U.S. citizen.

The process is as follows:

  1. The applicant must check for eligibility (through family, employment, as a special immigrant, refugee, or asylee status, as a human trafficking and crime victim, as a victim of abuse, through the registry, or other categories).

  2. If eligible, the applicant must file a Form I-485 (application to register permanent residence or adjust status) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including all supporting fees and documentation.

  3. USCIS will review the application and schedule an interview with the applicant.

  4. Once issued, the Green Card will be valid for ten years.

For many non-immigrant or E-2 visa holders now settled in the U.S. who are interested in a more-permanent status by applying for a Green Card, it is a challenge since the E-2 visa does not lead directly to U.S. permanent residence or the Green Card.

However, it is possible to adjust their status. If the E-2 visa holder is in the U.S., they can apply for an adjustment, converting their non-immigration status to an immigrant visa status. The process can be done entirely in the U.S. from start to finish as long as they qualify for the immigrant visa option they have chosen.

The process is simple:

  1. Select a qualified immigrant visa classification.

  2. Consult with a qualified immigrant consultant.

  3. Apply for a new immigrant visa.

  4. Attain the Green Card and permanent residence.

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Understanding Investment-Based Option

The EB-5 Visa

Like the E-2, the EB-5 visa is another investment-based option for applicants seeking more permanent status in the U.S.

The EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa for investors from any country (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21). If an individual holds an EB-5 visa, they are eligible to secure permanent residency in the U.S. provided that they first invest in a U.S. commercial enterprise for a minimum of $1,800,000 (plus the overhead processing cost and legal and filing fees) or a reduced minimum investment of $900,000 in a targeted employment area. 

The visa is valid for two years and is conditional‚ÄĒthe investor must create or preserve ten full-time jobs within two years after the visa is granted, after which the investor will file additional documentation showing that their investment is still maintained, including all requisites set by the USCIS.

The main benefit of moving from an E-2 to an EB-5 is that any additional capital put into the investor’s E-2 business can count toward their EB-5 minimum investment amount. Thus, to transition from E-2 to EB-5, the E-2 investor may need to raise their level of investment to meet the EB-5 funding requirements and prove that their investment will generate ten full-time jobs. Careful preparation with a detailed strategy to structure the E-2 business as needed and guided by a qualified EB-5 lawyer will make converting from E-2 to EB-5 a smooth transition.

A green card holder holding a US passport in the airport

Understanding Employment-Based Option

A lady gets handed her passport and visa approved

The EB-1A, EB-1B, EB-1C, EB-2, EB-3 Visa

There are several employment-based options that E-2 visa holders can take to acquire permanent residency. If the applicant has a U.S. employer who will sponsor them for permanent residency, they may be eligible for an employment-based (EB) Green Card visa. However, it will require (unless waived) a job offer in the U.S. and may take several years to process. Here are some E-B options:

EB-1A Visa

The USCIS defines the¬†EB-1A visa¬†as a ‚Äúsmall percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor.‚ÄĚ Thus, to qualify, the individual must be a leader in at least one of the following: Arts, Athletics, Business, Education, and Sciences. Furthermore, they must intend to continue working in their chosen qualifying field and demonstrate that their expertise will be beneficial to the United States. Thus, the applicant must be able to give sufficient evidence of their extraordinary ability in their chosen, reputable and qualifying field.

No employment or labor certification offer is required, only evidence showing the individual’s desire to continue their work in their area of expertise. However, they must be able to demonstrate their exceptional abilities through national or international acclaim, like a one-time achievement (Pulitzer, Oscar, Olympic Medal, etc.), or meet three out of ten criteria:

  1. Evidence of receipt of nationally or internationally known prizes or awards for excellence

  2. Evidence of membership in associations that demand outstanding achievement

  3. Evidence of published material about the applicant in media or professional or major trade publications

  4. Evidence that the applicant has been asked to judge the work of others individually or on a panel

  5. Evidence of original, scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions to their field of expertise

  6. Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in media or professional or major trade publications

  7. Evidence that the applicant’s work has been displayed at artistic showcases

  8. Evidence of the applicant’s performance in a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations

  9. Evidence of command of a high salary or other significant earnings in relation to others in the same field

  10. Evidence of successes in performing arts

EB-1B Visa

The EB-1B, on the other hand, is for outstanding professors and researchers. They must demonstrate international recognition in a particular academic field, at least three years of experience in their area of expertise, and evidence that they are entering the U.S. to pursue a similar position at a university, higher education institution, or private employer. Additionally, they must meet at least two out of six criteria:

  1. Evidence of receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement

  2. Evidence of membership in associations in a field that demands the outstanding achievement

  3. Evidence of published material in professional publications written by others about their work in their field of expertise

  4. Evidence of participation as a judge of others’ work in the same or allied field of expertise

  5. Evidence of original, scholarly, or scientific research contributions in their field of expertise

  6. Evidence of authorship of scholarly books or articles in journals with international circulation

EB-1C Visa

The EB-1C is for multinational manager or executive applicants. They must be employed outside the U.S. for at least a year in the three years before the petition or most recent lawful non-immigration admission is already working for the U.S.-petitioning employer. The U.S. petitioner entity must already be in business for at least a year, have a qualifying relationship to the entity the applicant worked for outside the U.S., and intend to employ the applicant in a managerial or executive capacity. No labor certification is required.

For an E-2 holder wishing to transition to the EB-1A, EB-1B, or EB-1C categories, it is best to consult a U.S. immigration consultant to check if the applicant is qualified since EB-1 is not the easiest Green Card to acquire.

EB-2 Visa

Another option is through EB-2 advanced degree professional visa with National Interest Waiver (NIW). The NIW visa is an employment-based Green Card category that permits self-petitioning. It falls under the EB-2 Green Card category, requiring applicants to have an advanced degree or equivalent (i.e., a Baccalaureate or equivalent foreign degree and five years of post-baccalaureate or progressive work experience in the field) or be able to demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Approved EB-2 applicants may be joined by their spouse and unmarried children under 21 on E-21 and E-22, respectively.

To apply, the applicant must first pay for and file a Form I-140 (Immigration Petition for Alien Worker). The NIW allows the applicant to file this petition independently, even without a job offer or permanent labor (PERM) certification. If already living in the U.S., the applicant will pay for and file a Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status) and cover the medical exam and biometrics fee. If living abroad, the applicant will need to apply via consular processing.

To qualify for an EB-2 as an individual with an advanced degree, the applicant must apply for a job requiring an advanced degree and possess such a degree or its foreign equivalent (baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree plus five years of post-baccalaureate and progressive work experience), and meet any other requirements specified on the labor certificate as applicable as of the priority date. 

Documentation as proof includes official academic records and letters from current or former employers showing at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate work experience in their specialty. For doctorates, it must be a U.S. degree or a foreign equivalent.

To qualify as an individual with exceptional ability, the applicant must show exceptional ability in arts, business, or sciences and meet any other requirements specified on the labor certificate as applicable. Additionally, the applicant must meet three out of seven criteria:

  1. Official academic records relating to the area of expertise

  2. Letters from current or previous employers documenting at least ten years of full-time experience in the field of expertise

  3. A license or certification to practice the applicant’s profession

  4. Evidence of salary for services that demonstrate the exceptional ability

  5. Membership in a professional association(s)

  6. Recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry

  7. Other comparable evidence of eligibility

EB-2 petitions must be accompanied by a labor certification and the ability to pay. Thus, the applicant’s employer must demonstrate the ability to pay the offered wage via an annual report, a federal income tax return, or an audited financial statement. The applicant, however, may request to waive this requirement in the national interest, removing the job offer requirement (NIW) and allowing the applicant to self-petition. To qualify for NIW, the USCIS considers the following three factors:

  1. The proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance

  2. The applicant is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

  3. On balance, it would be to the benefit of the U.S. to waive the requirements of a job offer

So long as the E-2 holder can meet the requirements of the EB-2 with or without NIW, they may be eligible to transition or change their status following the guide of a qualified U.S. immigration consultant to ensure a smooth process.

EB-3 Visa

The EB-3 is split into three categories: skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers. The requirements are not rigid, but there are more eligible applicants than EB-1 and EB-2.

Skilled workers must have a minimum of 2 years of experience, education, or training that meets the specifications of the job requirements specified on the labor certification. Professionals need a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent, which must also be required for the occupation. No experience or training substitutions are allowed. Unskilled workers must be capable of performing unskilled labor (requiring less than 2 years of training or experience) that is not of a temporary or seasonal nature. 

All three categories require a lack of qualified U.S. workers to fill the position, labor certification, and a full-time permanent EB-3 job offer. Once approved, the EB-3 worker’s spouse and children under the age of 21 may apply for E34 (spouse of a skilled or professional worker) and EW4 (spouse of an unskilled worker), and E35 (child f a skilled or professional worker) and EW5 (child of an unskilled worker).

Why Consult an Immigration Consultant When Applying for a Green Card?

The Importance Of Hiring The Right Consultant

It is important to note that obtaining permanent residency in the U.S. can be complex and time-consuming (taking years). Moreover, each option has its requirements, risks, and benefits; thus, it is best to seek the help of a qualified immigration consultant for assistance. After all, it is more complex than merely filling out and mailing the appropriate forms and paying fees. Whether the applicant is seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily or live there permanently or change their immigration status, it requires a thorough evaluation to determine in the first place whether they are qualified for the status they are seeking.

Here are some benefits of consulting an immigration consultant:

  • Avoids mistakes ‚Äď there are lots of opportunities for mistakes that could sink the entire application permanently. An immigration consultant knows all the steps to apply for permits correctly, prepares and answers paperwork accurately, navigates individual complexities, rules, and regulations, and understands the applicant’s legal rights and responsibilities. Additionally, they will help the applicant prepare the necessary immigration paperwork and, in some cases, represent the applicant in court if necessary. Overall, it can save time and money by avoiding mistakes.

  • Can help find a path to permanent residency ‚Äď especially applicable to experienced immigration consultants; an expert immigration consultant has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of other immigrants complete their journey to becoming U.S. citizens. They have the necessary in-depth knowledge of the workarounds for U.S. citizenships and can impart that wisdom to their clients.

  • Presents options ‚Äď immigration consultants can lay out various options for their clients, explain the pros and cons of each path, and ensure their clients understand how their choices can impact them.

  • Helps with the appeal process ‚Äď not all applications succeed the first time. If the applicant feels the rejection is unfairly denied, they may have the right to appeal. An immigration consultant can help their clients understand the reason for the rejection and guide them through the appeal process, collecting enough substantial evidence to overturn the previous decision successfully.

Transitioning from an E-2 visa to a Green Card can be a complex and lengthy process, but it is well worth the effort for those who wish to make the United States their permanent home. It is important to start early, gather all necessary documentation, and work with an experienced immigration consultant to ensure the best chance of success. Consult today with our team for free to assess your eligibility and help you find the perfect pathway to achieve a Green Card.

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