The E2 Visa and the Visa Holder’s Family
The E2 treaty investment visa is given to the investor and business manager personally. If the E2 visa holder wishes to have his or her family with them, as is logical, then these family members need to apply for visas which will allow them to live in the US with the principal visa holder. The application process can be done at the same time as the application for the E2 (the principal) visa or directly afterwards.
The spouse and sons and daughters of an E2 visa holder are allowed to accompany the holder to the US if they apply for an E visa. The E visa is specifically designed to allow family members of E1 and E2 visa holders to accompany the visa holder. Sons and daughters need to be unmarried and less than 21 years of age to be able to qualify for an E visa.
Parents and spouses of children and other in-laws cannot apply for an E visa to accompany the principal visa holder.
What can the spouse legally do in the US?
A spouse of an E2 visa holder will hold an E visa which allows them to live in the US for as long as the E2 visa investment is valid. If for any reason, the main investor fails to maintain their business, or has to return to his or her own country because the business has failed, then all dependents on E visas must leave, too.
The spouse is able to study part or full time while holding an E visa and there are no restrictions on this freedom to study. Unlike spouses of H-1B holders*, the E-2 spouse may also apply for authorization to work while in the US. This is basically a work permit and for many couples the person who is allowed to work may turn out to be the one who is earning the most money from their employment. In many cases, it is sensible to consider who in a marriage has the best opportunity to convert their skills into a green card if that is what you want in the future. If one person has much higher qualifications and employable skills than the other, they should be considered the spouse for visa purposes, while the other becomes the principal investor. This may mean that the spouse gains a green card through employer sponsorship and this in turn means that the investor and children can gain green cards through being sponsored by the spouse.
What can the children of the E2 visa holder legally do in the US?
Only children under 21 are able to accompany the E2 visa holder to the US as long as they themselves have applied for and hold an E visa. This allows them to do any amount of part time or full time study but does not permit them to work legally while in the US.
It might be possible for the investor to nominate one of their children as a business partner. As long as this child is entitled to 50% of the business then they will be entitled to an E2 employee visa in their own right.
Note that many young people in the US will want to be able to get a job and this could prove to be an issue if your own children are not able to do so, especially if they have already made fiends and relationships with American youth of their own age. It is a good idea to discuss these ideas with your children well before you make the move to this country to prevent family friction in the future.
One option for a family member who goes to college is to apply for a work permit after their first year of college. This may or may not be granted depending on the youth’s exact financial circumstances.
Also note that if your children reach their 21st year while living in the US, they will then no longer be eligible to keep their E visa status and will need to apply for another visa category in their own right or leave the country.
* - Update May 12, 2014: There is a proposal to allow H-4 spouses work authorization. Keep checking back with us for the latest on this changing portion of the immigration law.