Well, you can’t apply for an E-2 visa while you’re in the United States because visas are only issued by U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, but you can apply to change your legal “status” to an E-2 treaty investor while you’re in the USA. Think of E-2 visas as entry tickets to the United States. To get one, you have to be in another country. But while you’re in the USA, you have a “status.”

So, for example, if you entered the United States on a tourist visa with the intention of simply being a tourist but change your mind for some legitimate reason at some point during the latter part of your stay and decide to become an E-2 visa investor, you can petition the USCIS to change your legal status from B-2 to E-2. You won’t have an E-2 visa, but you will have E-2 status, under certain conditions.

One of the biggest advantages of petitioning for E-2 visa status while you’re in the United States is the opportunity to request premium (expedited processing). For a premium processing fee of $2,500, you can get a response from the USCIS to your petition within just 15 days. That’s as fast as it gets.

And if USCIS grants your petition, you’ll already be in the United States and ready to get to work in your new E-2 visa enterprise right away. With so many U.S. embassies and consulates either closed or not operating at full capacity, immediate access to your business in the U.S. can be invaluable.

But there are significant disadvantages to petitioning for E-2 status in the USA rather than applying for an E-2 visa abroad. Here are a two of the most notable.
First, if USCIS grants your petition for E-2 status, your status will only be valid for an initial period of 2 years during your stay in the United States. You can renew it if you’re E-2 business remains operational and your meet other requirements for an E-2 visa investment, but E-2 visas are commonly issued abroad and valid for a period of 5 years, not two, and those are renewal, too.

Second, if you change your legal status to E-2 while in the USA, you’ll lose that status the minute you leave the United States (with a few minor exceptions), and you won’t be able to enter the United States again unless and until you apply for an E-2 visa all over again.

In addition, U.S. embassy and consulate officials do not need to take your former E-2 status into account when determining if you deserve an E-2 visa. They can and will take a fresh look at your situation and make their own decision, which increases the cost and complexity of the matter, not to mention delays abroad in processing. In contrast, E-2 visa holders can enter and leave the United States freely without losing their visa or status.

What the best move for you?
Well, it depends. With so many U.S. embassies and consulates closed or barely operational, and with all of the consequent delays, you may decide that the advantage of petitioning for E-2 status while you’re in the USA outweigh the disadvantages. It’s increasingly common these days. Or, if your home country embassy is providing good service, or you’re not in a hurry, you may decide to go for the 5-year visa instead. We have clients doing it both ways because their needs and circumstances differ.
If you’d like to discuss the possibilities further, we invite you to schedule a consultation with us at www.bovinolawgroup.com.

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