What Israeli Entrepreneurs Need to Know about the new E-2 Visa

E-2 Treaty Investor Visas Available to Israeli Nationals as of May 1, 2019

The U.S. Embassy in Israel has recently made the long-awaited announcement that the required treaty agreement has been signed in which Israeli nationals will be able to apply for an E-2 visa beginning May 1, 2019. This is great news for Israeli entrepreneurs, especially in light of the current stringent U.S. immigration environment. There are no numerical limits on the number of E-2 visas issued each fiscal year.

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The E-2 visa will pave the way for business opportunities to Israeli-owned newly established companies in the U.S., as well as companies that are already operating and expanding in the U.S.  In essence, the E-2 visa is designed for Israeli entrepreneurs who invest in the U.S. in order to establish a business or purchase an existing business that will generate jobs in the U.S.

An E-2 visa, also referred to as the “Investor Visa”, is a nonimmigrant work visa which permits a national of a qualifying country, such as Israel, to come to the U.S. temporarily, initially for up to 5-years period – if certain conditions are met.

It is important to consult with a U.S. immigration attorney and thoroughly evaluate whether this is the right immigration visa for each applicant to pursue and whether the required prerequisites terms can be properly satisfied.

  1. Here are some of the key conditions:
  • The U.S. company must ultimately be majority owned by an Israeli entity or a company.
  • All applicants for E-2 visa must hold Israeli citizenship.
  • The investment in the U.S. company must be substantial and subject to the discretion of the Consular Officer.
  • The investment must be a real investment in an operating enterprise – speculative or idle investment and uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security do not qualify.
  • The investment may not be marginal – the funds invested must have the capacity to generate significantly more income than just to provide a living to applicant or it must have a significant economic impact in the U.S.
  • The investor must have control of the funds and the investment must be at risk in the commercial sense.
  • The applicant must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise (i.e., if the applicant is the principal investor) or he or she must be an executive or a manager or have specialized knowledge that is proprietary to the company.
  1. Where to apply and how long might the process take?

Unlike most other U.S. nonimmigrant work visas, the E-2 visa is adjudicated at the U.S. Embassy in Israel by the Consular Officer.  As such, the E-2 visa application materials must be prepared, arranged and submitted directly to the U.S. Embassy, which will review the application and advise when an interview appointment can be scheduled.  The U.S. Embassy is currently advising that it expects the initial review to take 2 to 3 weeks, but in most countries, this process usually takes between 4 and 6 weeks.

  1. Can family members join the applicant?

Spouses of the principal applicant and unmarried children under the age of 21 who wish to join the principal applicant can apply for E derivative visas at the same time as the principal applicant or at a later date by preparing and filing the materials required by the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

A key advantage is that the spouse of a principal E-2 visa holder can work in the U.S. However, only after entering the U.S. using the E-2 derivative spouse visa and then filing an application with USCIS for work authorization and obtaining an Employment Authorization Card, which will permit the spouse to work for any employer in the U.S.

  1. Reciprocal Pathway

E-2 visa is not only beneficial for Israeli citizens. The State of Israel previously approved a reciprocal regulatory pathway, a B-5 Israeli investors visa, for U.S. citizens as well.  Both in Israel and the U.S. the investor visa is expected to contribute to the creation of jobs and strengthen the commercial and economic ties between the two countries.

About the Author
Meital Stavinsky is a Miami and Washington D.C. attorney, member of Holland & Knight's Public Policy & Regulation Group and Co-Chair of the firm's Israel Practice. Meital focuses her practice on business, public policy and regulation, with a particular emphasis on Israeli emerging and advanced technologies companies in the areas of AgriTech, FoodTech, CleanTech and Advanced Transpiration Technologies. Meital assists Israeli companies seeking to enter the U.S. market and expand their operations in the U.S. She has successfully advocated on behalf of leading innovative Israeli AgriTech companies in raising their profile and advancing their goals before the U.S. Congress and key U.S. federal agencies, most recently in connection with the 2018 Farm Bill.
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