US E-2 Visa holders lives could change with new bill

Florida congressman, David Jolly, has announced that he will be filing a bill that would allow those on E-2 Treaty Investor non-immigrant visas to gain lawful permanent residence after ten years. Speaking to an audience at a crowded Italian restaurant on 66th Street Park in Pinellas Park, he said: "Every day the immigration reform debate hits the headlines, but only focuses on those here in the US illegally, what about those who are legally obliged to be here?"

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

Jolly's bill relates to non-immigrants who are working in the US and hold an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. The E-2 Visa requires recipients to invest in the US economy, usually by starting a business and hiring people. However, recipients are required to reapply for an E-2 Visa in some cases every two years, often returning home to apply for a new visa. It appears, unfortunately, that this bill if passed will not help if you wish to remain permanently after being on an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa. Currently to gain permanent residence based on investment you need to invest from half a million to one million US dollars and employ at least ten people. Business people on E-2 visas typically run small businesses and are unlikely to have that sort of money to invest.

Jollys E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Bill

Jolly's bill would make it easier for E-2 Visa holders to obtain immigrant status once they had been in the US, legally, for 10 years. It would also permit their children, who under current legislation face may face difficulty in remaining in the US when they turn 21 (unless they obtain a work related E-2 visa or student visa or some other type of visa), to be covered by their parents' visas until the age of 26.

Addressing the audience at Da Sesto Italiano Ristorante e Vino, most of who came to the US on an E-2 Visa, Jolly said: "While we address reform for illegals too, and I believe we do, we can't possibly begin to reform the immigration system that involves only those who are here without documentation without recognizing that our legal immigration system has failed, and has failed each and every one of you."

The bill would actually assist people like Da Sesto's owner, Sesto Ramadori, who is originally from the region of Marche, Italy. He came to the US 18 years ago, arriving from Canada where he holds citizenship status. He describes how he recently went through the E-2 application process again in the summer of 2014.

He said: "We went through all the paperwork and filed an application. It's not just the matter of an extension. You literally have to do all the paperwork to show that your business is viable and that you're employing people... It's a lot of money; it's a lot of uncertainty."

Costly immigration process

Andy Strickland, a St. Petersburg immigration lawyer and Mr Ramadori's attorney said: "The process is costly; you're looking at $4,000 to $5,000. Plus, if they decide to go abroad for their visa instead of extending their status here with the US Citizen and Immigration Services, if they don't do that, then they have to go abroad and get a visa, they have expenses with that as well."

Strickland says Jolly's bill is viable: "Why chase people away who came here the right way, who are doing things the right way, who are creating jobs for U.S. citizens? I think we should reward people who are doing things the right way and give them an opportunity to keep doing things the right way."

Opposition to immigration bill

Jolly stated that there will be opposition to his bill because of the anti-immigration sentiments of some people. He also says that the bill is so common-sense that it should pass easily.

He said: "I think people in Congress will recognize the importance of addressing legal immigration at the same time we're having a national debate about illegal immigration. It's only fair that we do so and it's right that we do so."

Jolly says he expects a tougher challenge at procedural level, passing a small piece of legislation to reform part of the American immigration policy, given that the focus has been on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). However, adding the bill as part of a larger CIR proposal is something that he is willing to consider.

Jolly said: "Whenever you have comprehensive immigration reform, it is hard to pass small provisions. This one, I hope, is a very simple one that we could move outside of the comprehensive immigration reform. Let's recognize the contribution of legal immigrants now, but it may be that this gets wrapped into comprehensive immigration reform, and I'm okay with that. We're prepared to have that conversation."

Sanwar Ali, Editor of workpermit.com News had the following comments to make:

"Mr Jolly may be being overly optimistic. It has proved to be extremely difficult to pass immigration reform legislation through Congress."

workpermit.com E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Services:

If you wish to set up a business in the US and are a national of a Country under the E-1 Treaty Trader or E-2 Treaty investor schemes we can help with registration as an E-1 or E-2 Treaty Business. We can also help with L-1A and L-1B intra-company transfer visas to transfer staff to the US and help with other types of visas. Call the London office on 0344 991 9222 for further details.