Despite some recent changes to the U.S. employment based immigration system, there have been some visa categories that the Administration has yet to address. One such category is the E visa. Although the United States has E-2 visa agreements with more than 70 countries, including Azerbaijan, Congo, Iran, Pakistan, and Suriname, we do not yet have one with Israel, which is puzzling considering our longstanding political and strategic alliances with Israel.
The E visa category includes Treaty Traders (E-1) and Treaty Investors (E-2) who come to the United States under a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation or a bilateral investment treaty between the United States and foreign nation of which the treaty trader or investor is a citizen or national. Since 1815, the U.S. has entered into these bilateral trade agreements allowing citizens from eighty nations to secure visas based on the establishment of businesses in the U.S. The E-1 visa allows a treaty national who has already established a thriving business in his or her home country, which engages in substantial trade with the U.S., to travel to the U.S. to further facilitate trade between the U.S. and their abroad business. The E-1 does not require the treaty national to make a substantial investment and long-term economic commitment to the United States, but to engage in trade. The E-2 visa, on the other hand, requires the treaty national to invest a substantial amount of his or her money into the U.S. to purchase an existing business or create a new business.
Both the E-1 and E-2 visas play essential roles in our economy because they foster substantial and reciprocal trade between the U.S. and another country or enable substantial investment into the U.S. economy by foreign nationals. More than 52,000 E visas were issued in 2016, enabling these investors and traders to serve as drivers of the economy and overall job growth. In spite of their success and ever-growing popularity, members of Congress as well as foreign governments are resistant to expanding the E-1 and E-2 visa categories to other countries. One such example of this is the long awaited E-2 visa for Israeli citizens.
While Israel and the United States have a bilateral treaty that allows Israeli citizens to enter the U.S. in E-1 Treaty Trader status since 1954, Israel still does not have a treaty authorizing E-2 Investor visas. In 2012, President Obama signed legislation to pass the E-2 Investor Visa for Israel but issues arose regarding reciprocity. For reciprocity to exist between Israel and the United States, Israel had to create its own parallel visa program so that U.S. citizens had equal access to invest in Israel. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State suggested that the E-2 program would be available for Israelis by October 2017. Yet, when it came time to implement the program, the U.S. was unsatisfied with Israel’s latest version of the B-5 visa program, which is the (E-1) treaty trader visa equivalent for U.S. citizens. The U.S. returned the regulations to the Knesset, legislative branch of the Israeli government, with comments to be considered before the bilateral agreement can be implemented. One likely reason why Israel has delayed implementing the B-5 is for fear that its wealthy citizens will abandon the country, investing funds and creating jobs in the U.S. to the detriment of Israel and her citizens. The facts, however, do not support this.
Between 2010 and 2015, Israel invested more than $150 billion into the U.S. According to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Israel is consistently among the top 20 suppliers of direct investments into the U.S. and has invested more than $25.1 billion in 2015 alone. Alongside the substantial monetary investments, the cultural exchange between the U.S. and Israel has led to the expansion of businesses in both countries. Critical components of leading American high-tech products are invented and designed in Israel, making these American companies competitive and more profitable globally. Cisco, Intel, Motorola, Applied Materials, and HP are just a few examples of U.S. companies who benefit from these strong ties between the U.S. and Israel. U.S. companies have established two-thirds of the more than 300 foreign-invested research and development centers in Israel while Israel represents the second-largest source of foreign listings on the NASDAQ – more than Indian, Japanese, and South Korean firms combined. In terms of job growth, the New England Israel Business Council shows that Israeli founded businesses have generated an estimated 9,000 jobs in Massachusetts alone, and indirectly supported an additional 18,000 jobs. These Israeli companies represent nearly 4% of the state’s entire GDP.
Even without the E-2, both Israel and the United States benefit from each other’s financial influences. One can only imagine the substantial benefits both countries would experience if a reciprocal bilateral investment treaty were formalized. E-2 visas represent a mechanism by which new companies are created in the U.S., and in order for those companies to function and prosper, there must be job creation for Americans. Even a small business such as an ice cream shop or fitness center, must prove it will create benefit to the local economy by creating jobs. Given that the spirit of these visas is to generate and increase economic prosperity between the two countries, and the end result of the visas being the generation of new jobs, the E treaties are extremely beneficial to both national and international markets. As the months continue, our hope is the Administration of both countries recognize the substantial benefits that bilateral investments offer and formalize such a treaty that enables U.S. and Israeli citizens to invest in each other’s countries.
Michael J. Wildes, is the Managing Partner of Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. Mr. Wildes is a former Federal Prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn (1989-1993). Mr. Wildes has testified on Capitol Hill in connection with anti-terrorism legislation. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and teaches Business Immigration Law. From 2004 through 2010, Mr. Wildes was also the Mayor of Englewood, New Jersey–where he resides. Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. has offices in New York, New Jersey and Florida and Los Angeles by appointment only. If you would like to contact Michael Wildes please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the firm’s website at www.wildeslaw.com