Navigating the world of US business and work visas can be challenging, with various options available depending on your situation. Two common visas for entrepreneurs, investors, and employees are the E2 visa and L1 visa. This article will compare these two US visa categories to help you understand their differences and determine which is most suitable for your needs.
Basic Requirements and Eligibility
The L1 visa is designed for intra-company transferees, allowing employees of multinational companies to work in the US temporarily. This can include smaller businesses as well. There are two subcategories of L1 visas:
- L1A Visa: For executives and managers
- L1B Visa: For employees with specialized knowledge
To qualify for an L1 visa, the employee, which may be the business owner as well, must have worked for the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the last three years. The US company must also be a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company.
The E2 visa is for treaty investors and their employees. To qualify, the foreign investor must:
- Be a national of a country that has a trade treaty with the US
- Invest a substantial amount of capital in a US business. Substantial is not clearly defined and in some cases may be tens of thousands of dollars.
- Seek to enter the US solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise
Employees of the treaty investor must hold the same nationality as the investor and be employed in an executive, supervisory, or specialized knowledge position.
While both L1 and E2 visas have overlapping eligibility criteria, there are key differences:
- Trade or Investment: E2 visas require the foreign business owner to show substantial investment in the US. This is not required for L1 visas.
- Treaty Countries: E2 visas are only available to nationals of countries that have a trade treaty with the US. L1 visas do not have this requirement.
L1 and E2 visas have different time limits for the maximum period of stay:
- L1A Visa: Maximum stay of 7 years (initial period of 1 or 3 years, with 2-year extensions)
- L1B Visa: Maximum stay of 5 years (initial period of 1 or 3 years, with 2-year extensions)
- E2 Visa: Initial stay of up to 5 years, with unlimited extensions
E2 visa holders can potentially continue to remain in the US indefinitely, as long as they maintain their E2 status.
Pathway to Permanent Resident Status (Green Card)
The L1A visa provides a relatively easy pathway to a green card through the EB-1C visa category for managers and executives. L1A holders can apply for an adjustment of status without worrying about preconceived intent issues.
The path to permanent resident status from an E2 visa is more challenging, as E2 visas are not “dual intent”. Applying for a green card soon after arriving in the US on an E2 visa may result in application denial due to preconceived immigrant intent. However, many E2 visa holders are able to obtain a “Green Card”.
Types of Applicants
Both E and L visas can be used by companies to expand their business in the US. However, there are differences in the types of companies that typically apply for each visa:
- E2 Visa: Often sought by small businesses seeking to send employees to the US to help grow their business. However, larger businesses may also apply under this category.
- L1 Visa: Usually only possible for companies that already employ some people outside the US.
The application processes for L1 and E2 visas differ in several ways:
- The sponsoring employer must submit an L1 petition to USCIS
- Once approved, the beneficiary can proceed to a US consulate to obtain their visa
- Only some very large employers with a blanket petition can make the whole application via the US Embassy or Consulate.
- E2 visa applicants can apply directly at a US consulate or port of entry without the need to submit a separate I-129 to USCIS
- Applications from within the US are also possible. However, may not be a good idea.
Other US Visa Options for Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Employees
In addition to L1 and E2 visas, there are several other US visa categories for business and work purposes:
- B1 Visa: Temporary visitor visa for business
- B2 Visa: Temporary visitor visa for tourism
- H1B Visa: Temporary work visa for specialty occupations
- E1 Visa: Treaty trader visa for nationals of countries with a trade treaty with the US
Tax Consequences of a Green Card
Obtaining a green card can have tax implications, as green card holders are considered US tax residents and must report their worldwide income to the IRS. It’s essential to understand these tax consequences before applying for permanent resident status.
L1 Visa: Best for Managers with Employees Outside the US
The L1 visa is most suitable for individuals with some employees outside the US. If you’re seeking a green card, applying as an L1A manager can be advantageous.
E2 Visa: Considerations for Children
If you hold an E2 visa, your children can stay in the US until they turn 21. After that, they must leave the US or obtain a different visa to remain in the country.
Workpermit.com can help with US employment-based visas
If you would like to apply for a US work visa – including L1 visas, E2 visas, O1 visas and H1B visas – Workpermit.com can help.
Workpermit.com is a specialist visa services firm with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Contact us for further details. You can also telephone 0344 991 9222.