Did EB-5's Suspension Spur Interest in the E-2 (Treaty Investor) Program?

By David North on June 14, 2022

There was a period of almost nine months (July 2021 to March 2022) when the main part of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program was suspended by Congress. Did another program, offering recurring nonimmigrant status for treaty investors with E-2 visas, attract more well-to-do aliens as a result?

The statistical tea leaves are mixed.

In July 2021, the first month of the suspension, the State Department (which runs the program with no help from other agencies) issued 3,104 E-2 visas; that number probably was not impacted by the suspension of the main part of EB-5 by Congress on June 30. In the following seven months, the number of world-wide visas in this category varied from 2,836 (August 2021) to 3,640 (January 2022), but in March of this year it moved up to 4,881.

There were 23 working days in March 2022, compared to 21 in July 2021, so that would account for only some 300 of the July/March difference of more than 1,800. Another factor is that Covid-19 limitations were less significant this March than last July.

So, at least for the moment, E-2 visas are increasing in volume. The nine-month total of 30,948 (see the table below) projects to well over 41,000 for the full year.

I worry about the E-2 program for four reasons:

  1. It offers aliens a way to buy their way into the country for much less than EB-5's current minimum of $800,000; there is no set minimum and I have seen figures as low as $80,000 for the minimum investment, though $100,000 or $150,000 are more commonly quoted;
  2. It has no numerical limits, while EB-5 has an annual ceiling of 10,000;
  3. It is run, totally, by the State Department, which lacks any U.S.-based field staff to oversee it; and
  4. It allows the admission of the investor, his or her spouse, and children under 21. The children age-out of legal status at that age and that creates the usual pressure to grant them (all reasonably privileged people — someone in the family is an investor, after all) green card status.

The saving grace of the program is that the treaties that create it are mostly with relatively high-income nations, those that cause minimal migration. By far the largest user of these visas is Japan, with South Korea, Canada, and Germany following in the nine months studied. In recent years, few nations have been added to the E-2 list; New Zealand, another high-income country, was the last newcomer. There is also a somewhat similar, but much smaller nonimmigrant program for Treaty Traders, those with E-1 visas.

A month-by-month tally of E-2 visas issued, for the major nations using them, follows.

E-2 (Treaty Investor) Visas Issued, July 2021 to March 2022

  Canada Germany Great Britain Japan Mexico S. Korea All Others Totals
July 201 180 23 1,409 282 163 756 3,014
August 215 197 80 1,222 307 145 670 2,836
September 273 527 111 984 290 306 649 3,140
October 288 292 103 1,008 224 290 1,041 3,246
November 293 233 143 1,136 132 390 876 3,203
December 244 233 220 1,263 116 393 1,164 3,633
January 423 246 345 985 101 248 1,292 3,640
February 234 147 309 1,168 117 265 1,115 3,355
March 308 353 424 1,621 95 290 1,790 4,881
Totals 2,479 2,408 1,758 10,796 1,664 2,490 9,353 30,948

Source: “Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuances”, U.S. Department of State.

For an earlier and more detailed examination of the E-2 program see here.

The author is grateful to CIS intern Adam Morys for his research assistance.