L1 Visa vs. E2 Visa: How to Figure Out Which Visa is Right for You
People are often unsure on whether to apply for an L1 visa or an E2 visa. Both of these visa options can be wonderful options for investors, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. So, in this article, we are going to give you some helpful questions to ask yourself in order to help you decide which option is right for you.
We are Ashoori Law, led by Michael Ashoori, a U.S. immigration lawyer based in Los Angeles, California. At our law firm we work with clients from all over the world, and we regularly post articles and videos to make sure that you are up to date with immigration news and tips. If, after reading this article, you have more questions, then we invite you to contact us at Ashoori Law. Feel free to call or text us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may request a free consultation by clicking this link.
The Basics of the E2 and L1 Visa
The E2 visa is an investor visa. The way it works is that through the E2 visa, someone can invest in a U.S. business by either starting a business from scratch or purchase an existing business. Based on making that substantial investment, the person can apply for an E2 visa to be able to live in the United States and direct and develop their business, as long as the business satisfies the E2 visa requirements.
The L1 visa is also known as the intracompany transferee visa. The way the L1 visa works is it allows a non-U.S. company (a company outside of the United States) to transfer a certain employee to work for a related U.S. company. In other words, there must be a company outside of the United States, and there must be a company inside of the United States. The two companies must have some type of qualifying relationship (such as parent/subsidiary, branch office, or affiliates). Through the L1 visa, an employee – an executive, a manager, or specialized knowledge worker – can be petitioned by the U.S. company to transfer from the foreign company to the U.S. company.
Now, with that intro, let's get into the questions that will help you decide between these two visa options.
Question One: What’s My Country of Citizenship?
To start, you need to know your country of citizenship to see if you qualify for an E2 visa. The E2 visa is not available to citizens of every single country. The way the E2 visa works is that it is based on a treaty with the U.S. In order for you to qualify or be eligible to apply for an E2 visa, you must be a citizen of a country that has an E2 treaty with the United States. Many countries do have an E2 treaty with the United States such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Jordan, Canada, Mexico, and the list goes on. But, there are also a number of large countries that do not have any treaty with the United States, such as India and China.
Thus, the very first question that you want to ask yourself is: What's my country of citizenship, and does my country of citizenship have a treaty with the United States? Note, if your country of citizenship does not have a treaty with the U.S., all hope is not lost. There are ways for you to potentially obtain the citizenship of a country that does have a treaty with the United States, such as Grenada. There are a number of people from China and India who obtain citizenship from Grenada and then apply for the E2 visa.
Question Two: Is There a Non-U.S. Company That Satisfies the L1 Visa Requirements?
The L1 visa has some very specific requirements. For one, there must be a foreign company that will transfer a qualifying employee to a related U.S. company. If there is no foreign company, then an L1 visa is not the right option for you. In addition, if you are considering an L1 visa, then you have to have worked for the non-U.S. company for one year, full-time, within the last three years before the L1 petition is filed. Your role in the company is also important with regard to the L1 visa. Specifically, you must have worked as either a manager, an executive, or a specialized knowledge worker.
Another important point to keep in mind is that for the L1 visa to be a viable option, the non-U.S. company must be a decently sized company. If the company in question is a company consisting of one person and has low revenue, then the L1 visa will likely not be a viable option. USCIS wants to make sure that the non-U.S. company will continue to operate even when the L1 visa beneficiary comes to the United States. If the non-U.S. company is too small, USCIS may likely have concerns that the non-U.S. company will wind down operations once the L1 visa beneficiary comes to the U.S.
In sum, to be eligible for the L1 visa, (i) there must be a foreign company; (ii) you must have worked with the foreign company for one year, in a full-time continuous employment capacity, within the last three years; and (iii) the foreign company cannot be too small. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all of the L1 visa requirements.
Another point to mention here is that the non-U.S. company has to have some sort of a qualifying relationship with the U.S. company. Some examples of qualifying relationships are: 1) parent/subsidiary; 2) branch office; 3) affiliates. In short, there must be some sort of qualifying relationship between the two companies for the L1 visa to be a potentially viable option.
Question Three: Am I Planning on Investing Money into the U.S. Business? How Much?
As we discussed, the E2 visa is very much based on making an investment in a U.S. business, and the investment must be considered substantial. Now the E2 visa regulations do not necessarily specify what dollar amount is considered “substantial.” So, technically there is no minimum investment amount. Yet, in practice, we typically recommend that somebody should aim to invest at least $100,000 in their business or more. While investments of less than $100,000 can qualify, investing at least $100,000 or more, gives you a better chance that your investment will be considered substantial.
How does this apply to your calculation about whether you want to pursue an L1 visa or an E2 visa? If you are not planning on investing a substantial amount of money into the U.S. business, then you should know that the E2 visa is probably not the best option for you.
Question Four: What Are My Long-Term Goals in the U.S.?
If your goal is to become a lawful permanent resident (i.e., to eventually get your green card), then you need to understand that both the L1 visa in the E2 visa are nonimmigrant visas. That means that both of them do not directly lead to a green card. That said, both visas can allow you to eventually transition and convert from that visa category to a green card.
There are routes for people who are on an L1 visa or an E2 visa to eventually pursue a green card. For L1 visa holders, one common route is through a visa called the EB1C visa. One reason for this is because the L1 visa requirements are similar to the EB1C visa requirements.
For the E2 visa, one of the common routes to a green card is through the EB-5 visa. EB-5 is an immigrant investor visa category that allows somebody to invest in a U.S. business, create jobs for U.S. workers, and on the basis of that investment and that job creation they could potentially qualify for their green card through the EB-5 classification. One of the reasons why this is a popular option among E2 investors is that if an investor decides to pursue an EB-5 visa, the amount of the investment that they've already invested into their business could potentially qualify towards their EB-5 investment if certain requirements are met.
You now have four questions that you can ask yourself that will help you better understand whether the E2 visa or the L1 visa is right for you. My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States. If you have any questions, feel free to call, text, or send a WhatsApp to +1-818-741-1117 or you may request a free consultation by clicking this link.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.