US E2 visa and E1 visa may end for Canadians if Trump abolishes North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Thousands of Canadian investors face being locked out of America should Trump terminate NAFTA. Since 2007, 20,406 Canadians have been granted E2 treaty visas allowing them to invest in the US, creating thousands of jobs for American workers in the process. However, if Trump abolishes NAFTA, it could spell the end of access to the E2 Treaty Investor visa and E1 Treaty Trader visa scheme for Canadian investors.  If this happens in many cases the only other visa left would be the L1 intra-company transfer visa.

Sanwar Ali workpermit.com comment:

We cannot predict the future. However, in practice I suspect that there will be too much opposition from both Republicans and Democrats to enable NAFTA to be abolished. The E2 visa scheme allows both investors and employees the ability to obtain US visas without worrying about quotas. The E2 visa can continue to be extended indefinitely as long as the business continues in the US. Indians and Chinese nationals cannot come under the scheme. Under the current Trump administration this is unlikely to change. They probably have to come under the L1 visa or H1B visa categories.

Despite urging foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the US at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, should Trump standby his threat to scrap NAFTA, and refuse to resurrect the former Canada-US bilateral agreement, Canada would have no trade agreement with the US and no access to E-2 visas.

E2 visas are only granted to citizens of countries that have a trade agreement with the US. Trump’s plans to terminate NAFTA come despite declaring America to be “open for business” during the gathering of world leaders in Davos. The US President said: “There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States.”

E2 Treaty Investor visa still available to other nations

While Canadian investors could find the E2 visa route blocked, the US would continue to offer the coveted visa to more than 80 other nations who have a trade agreement in place with America.

What the Canadian government finds bizarre is that, while Canadian investors could be denied access to E-2 visas, investors from Iran – with whom the US has a hostile relationship – will still have access to the visa. Canadian officials described the situation as ‘rather ludicrous.’

Amid NAFTA negotiations, the threat of Canadian investors losing access to the US E-2 visa has received little coverage. Canadian officials are said to be concerned about the future of its citizens hoping to invest in the US and said that the ‘loss of the Canadian E-2 visa program would result in needless damage to the US economy.’

Canadian investors create jobs

While anti-immigration groups accuse ‘all kinds of immigrants’ of stealing jobs from American workers, Canadian officials have backed its country’s investors investing in the US, stating that they ‘undoubtedly create jobs.’

Immigration lawyers in Toronto argue that ‘investors are indisputably job-makers, not job-takers. To get the E-2 visa, they need to demonstrate that their business can create a non-“marginal” benefit, which usually means showing they will hire Americans.’

Mexico may also be cut off from E2 visas

According to US government data, 20,406 Canadian investors and their families have been granted E-2 visas between 2007 and 2016, hitting a peak in 2016 when 3,004 were issued. Meanwhile, 21,603 US investor visas were issued to Mexicans during the same period.

With Mexico’s E-2 visa access dependent on NAFTA, Mexican investors also face being cut off from investment opportunities in the US.

According to Canadian immigration lawyers, ‘unlike other visas obtained by skilled professionals – including the much maligned H1B visa – President Trump has never criticized the E-2 investor visa.

David North, a researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which supports reduced US immigration, said: “You’re dealing with a highly non-controversial program as far as America is concerned. The use by Canadians isn’t much of a controversy — any controversy at all.”

Canada-US bilateral trade agreement could return

There’s a chance that President Trump could reinstate the Canada-US bilateral trade agreement, which was suspended following the introduction of NAFTA – a move that would preserve access to the E2 visa scheme for Canadian and Mexican investors.

However, Trump could just as easily scrap any trade deal with Canada altogether, in which case, investors would be swiftly forced out of the US. They would only be allowed to remain until their five-year E-2 visa expires or if Trump and Congress could agree a new law to protect them indefinitely.

Commentators say that scrapping NAFTA is far from guaranteed. According to several mainstream media outlets in the US, Trump’s NAFTA stance is softening.

Both E2 and E1 Treaty visa schemes dependent on NAFTA

There are rumours that the end of NAFTA could signal the end of access to the E1 visa for some Canadians and Mexicans involved in cross-border trade. The availability of the E-1 visa is subject to Canada and Mexico having a treaty agreement in place with the US.

According to official government data, since 2010, 3,304 Canadians and 8,971 Mexicans have been granted E1 visas. Meanwhile, a request for information submitted to Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, has seen no response to determine whether E-1 or E-2 visas have been discussed as part of NAFTA negotiations.

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