Israeli citizens wishing to invest significant funds or set up a business in the United States could finally be eligible to receive an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa on May 1, following the conclusion of negotiations between the countries.
The E-2 visa allows a national of a treaty country, currently over 80 states excluding Israel, to enter the US when investing a substantial amount of capital in a US-based business. The provisional May 1 launch date is likely to be approved by US authorities in the coming days.
While an E-2 visa can be issued for a maximum period of five years, qualified investors are allowed a maximum initial stay of two years. Extensions in increments of up to two years may then be granted an unlimited number of times. Employees and dependent family members may also be eligible for the same non-immigrant classification.
"The Americans approved the visa... during [former US] president [Barack] Obama's term, but for various reasons the final signature has been delayed until now," said Oded Rose, CEO of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, which promoted the legislation together with the Interior Ministry.
"This is actually a new, special visa which has been added to the 1985 bilateral trade agreement between the countries. 40 countries now have a free trade agreement with the US, including such a visa. But it has been so far denied to Israeli citizens."
A necessary condition of enabling the E-2 visa for all treaty countries is reciprocity, with US citizens already able to obtain a B-5 Israel Investor Visa.
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a "substantial" investment is evaluated in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one; sufficient to ensure the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise; and of a magnitude to support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise.
Once in effect, individuals or companies seeking E-2 visas for their employees will need to apply at the US Branch Office in Tel Aviv.
The Branch Office already accepts E-2 visa applications for Israelis who hold dual citizenship with countries that maintain a treaty investor agreement with the United States.
"As someone who has followed for years the process of legislating for work visas in general and the E-2 visa in particular, there is no doubt that this is the right solution for the hi-tech sector and Israeli entrepreneurs," said Advocate Tsvi Kan-Tor, chair of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce's Visas Committee.
"This visa has a variety of benefits that do not exist in other temporary work visas, including no requirement for an academic degree or experience, minimum wage or business seniority. In addition, the visa grants a work permit in the US to partners and allows residence outside the US."