E-2 Visa vs. EB-3 Visa - Similarities and Differences in these visa categories

Britt Vergnolle
July 20, 2021

Often, potential visa applicants debate whether they should do an E-2 visa or an EB-3 unskilled visa. While both visas are popular, there are some differences. An E-2 visa is a treaty investor visa (based on economic agreements with the United States and a list of countries found here). The E-2 is a non-immigrant visa that allows a foreign national to temporarily reside in America for a period of time if they are investing a substantial amount of capital in a business in the United States.

An E-2 visa requires a determination of whether : (1) individual/entity possess the nationality of the treaty country; (2) applicant has invested or is actively investing; (3) enterprise is a real and operating commercial enterprise; (4) investment is substantial; (5) investment is not marginal; (6) applicant will “develop and direct” the business; (7) applicant, if employee is an executive/supervisor or an essential employee and (8) the applicant intends to depart the U.S.

The period of stay for an E-2 visa is a maximum initial stay of two years for all qualified treaty investors and employees. However, requests for extension of stay or change of status may be granted in increments of up to two years. There is no limit to the number of extensions allowed.
Unlike the E2 visa, the EB3 is an immigrant visa that allows the applicant to become a legal permanent resident. Thus, you can stay without having to constantly renew. With each renewal comes questions about whether the business is successful or not and whether you really need to stay in the United States. Also, your dependents, in a non-immigrant visa, simply will not have as many rights as they would with an immigrant visa such as the EB-3 unskilled visa. Further, while the E-2 can require a substantial investment (in many cases a minimum of $100,000). EB3 unskilled is for job positions that can be undertaken with 0-2 years of training and are permanent in nature. Finally, because the E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, the visa holder is prohibited from having the intent to immigrate to the United States at the time the visa is issued. Thus, no matter how much you invest in a business in the United States or supervise or work within an E-2 company and establish ties to America, you have no avenue of actually remaining in the United States. With the EB-3 visa, you can.

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