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How to Switch From an E-2 Visa to a Green Card

Posted on July 25, 2022
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By Heather Beliles, M. Ed.

Though an E-2 visa is not a guaranteed way to get legal permanent residency in the United States, there certainly are quite a few paths to take in order to exchange an E-2 visa for a green card.

In this post, we will cover how you can switch from an E-2 visa to a green card.

Ordinarily, applicants have six primary options, which include either an employer or family-based sponsorship, an EB-1 or EB-5 visa, through a National interest waiver, or through a marriage-based sponsorship.

E-2 Visas

The second-preference employment-based visa, more commonly referred to as an E-2 visa, allows investors and entrepreneurs to legally work and live in the United States. This is of course among many other benefits. Unfortunately this common visa category leaves such individuals with an impending expiration date, and what’s more, no guarantee whatsoever for lawful permanent residency. This means if he or she desires a green card, the E-2 visa holder is required to apply – and get approved – for an immigrant status in the U.S. 

When children are involved, there could be an additional detriment. When they turn 21 years of age they will lose their status of being the visa holder’s dependent, and hence will be left with only two lawful options. They themselves must either 1. Depart the United States, or 2. Apply for, and receive a U.S. visa, if they wish to stay. 

Dual Intent E-2 Visa

The E-2 visa is also known as one with a dual intent on the part of the beneficiary. Visa holders must have the intention to depart from the United States by the time their visa expires, but also have the intention to permanently stay until then. 

Intent to Depart Requirement

Though such a requirement may seem to leave little to no option for obtaining a green card, E-2 individuals are certainly eligible to do so. When filing for an adjustment of status – switching from E-2 to a green card – the visa holder can still intend to depart the U.S. when his or her employment-based status ends.

Six Pathways to Switch From an E-2 Visa to Green Card

1. Employer Sponsorship

Opportunities arise where an employer is willing to hire and sponsor a foreign-national’s visa. Though it can take several years to get a green card this way, the foreign national will nevertheless have lawful authorization to live and work in the United States through the duration of the green card application process. Furthermore, individuals with degrees and/or professional qualifications are encouraged to consider switching to an H1-B while his or her permanent residency petition is being processed.

Applicants must keep in mind their employer must go through the labor certification process known as Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) before hiring a foreigner for the role. Meaning the employer must first give U.S. citizens a chance at the job opportunity.

2. Family-Based Sponsorship

Individuals with a family member who is older than 21, and is a citizen of the United States, have the ability to sponsor their petition for permanent residency. If the U.S. citizen is the applicant’s sibling, for instance, the process could be as long as twelve years, but if he or she is the son or daughter, the process could be as short as 12 months.

Likewise, if the applicant’s spouse is sponsored through a U.S.-based company, he or she could sponsor the applicant’s green card. Which typically has a wait time of between just less than two years, and up to around three years.

3. Extraordinary Ability (EB-1 Visa)

Naturally, E-2 visa holders have the option to switch to a first-preference employment-based visa (EB-1). The individual must be able to demonstrate how he or she has extraordinary ability in their field. Such fields are generally comprised of athletics, sciences, the arts, education and/or business. Such applicants will find the EB-1 visa is an excellent pathway to obtaining a green card.

4. National Interest Waiver (NIW)

E-2 visa holders who hold advanced degrees or who are highly skilled in their occupation can apply for an NIW. National Interest Waivers are sought by individuals whose work is of national interest to the United States, and their employment is a benefit to the country.

Fortunately, E-2 NIW individuals do not need the sponsorship of an employer. As such, there is no requirement for the company to go through the PERM process, which has an added benefit of saving time. The waiver in this category means the requirements for employer sponsorship, and labor certification, are petitioned to be waived by the applicant.

5. Marriage-Based Green Card

If an E-2 visa holder marries a U.S. citizen, or a legal permanent resident of the United States, the U.S. spouse can legally sponsor the foreigner’s green card application. This type of union must be a legitimate one, and the USCIS will require extensive proof it is bona fide.

6. EB-5 Visa

Another option is an immigrant visa for investors (an EB-5 visa). This is a pathway to receiving a green card for the investor as well as their spouses and/or children. Children are permitted to reside legally in the United States for the duration of the EB-5 visa on the conditions they are younger than 21 and are not married.

When the Instructions for Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status (Form I-829) application is submitted, the wait time for a green card is usually around six months. In addition to this, the common wait time for petition approval is within 60 days of the filing date.

Applying for a Green Card

As previously stated, an E-2 visa is a non-immigrant status. In order to gain permanent residency in the United States, the visa holder (or their sponsor) should either file an adjustment of status with the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) while inside the country, or apply at a U.S. consulate from abroad. 

It is important to note, employment-based visa holders are generally only able to apply for U.S. permanent residency from abroad. Provided the petitioner wishes to retain certain E-2 visa rights they currently have. If he or she finds it is more beneficial to forgo such rights by applying for a green card from within the United States, they can most certainly do so. When filing an adjustment of status, the petitioner must jointly file the Request for Waiver of Certain Rights, Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities (Form I-508).

If approved, doing so will switch the status of the visa holder from being an employment-based visa holder to a permanent United States resident.

As with other visa applications, green card applicants must file the corresponding documents and supporting evidence, attend a biometrics appointment, and interview with an immigration officer.

Conclusion About How to Switch From an E-2 Visa to Green Card

The second-preference employment-based (E-2) visa is temporary, and is a non-immigrant visa category. Unfortunately an E-2 visa does not guarantee the applicant permanent residency in the United States. Among other reasons, this is why such visa holders consider switching from non-immigrant to immigrant status in order to obtain a green card.

There are six primary approaches to switching from an E-2 visa to a green card:

  1. Employer sponsorship
  2. Family-based sponsorship
  3. Extraordinary ability (EB-1 Visa)
  4. National Interest Waiver (NIW)
  5. Marriage-based green card
  6. EB-5 visa

Though each pathway contains its own advantages and disadvantages, this list illustrates just how many opportunities there are for employment-based visa holders to seek permanent residence in the United States.

To reiterate, E-2 visa holders must apply for and receive immigrant status in the United States to get a green card. The two separate options for how to go from having an E-2 visa to a green card are as follows:

  1. Apply for an immigrant visa at a United States Consulate from outside of the U.S.
  2. Apply for an adjustment of status to an immigrant status, from inside the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Switch From an E-2 Visa to Green Card

I have an E-2 visa and I want to apply for a green card. How do I choose the proper pathway?

While it may be tempting to choose the quickest, or seemingly easiest route, applicants should determine which path to permanent residence he or she should take based on his or her eligibility category.

Is it hard to get a green card?

The green card approval process can be long, sometimes up to 12 years. Even extremely well-qualified applicants are met with lengthy wait times. This is why it is crucial each step is properly executed by the applicant and/or their sponsor. If the applicant remains in lawful status, has chosen the best pathway, meets the requirements, has submitted complete and accurate documents, and has provided enough supporting evidence for his or her claim, they should be able to switch their visa for a green card.

What are the main ways to get a green card?

Through sponsorship by a family member (spouse or child), an employer, and or as an asylee or refugee. 

I have an E-2 visa, but want to be a permanent resident in the United States. Do I have to work with an immigration attorney to do this?

While there is no law that states an immigrant applicant must work with a lawyer, it is strongly suggested. Working with an experienced immigration attorney may greatly increase the chance of obtaining a green card.

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