What are the primary differences between the L-1, E-2, and EB-5 visas?

The greatest difference between the L-1 and E-2 visas and the EB-5 visa is that the former two are nonimmigrant visas, while the EB-5 is an immigrant visa that offers a pathway to U.S. permanent residency. Nonimmigrant visas are those that do not directly lead to U.S. permanent residency.

L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa allows foreign nationals working for a company based in their country of residence to enter the United States and run that company’s U.S. office. There are two types of L-1 visas: L-1A and L-1B. The L-1A is for employees who act in a managerial capacity. The L-1B visa is for employees with special knowledge or skills pertaining to their role but do not serve in a managerial capacity. The L-1 visa is initially valid for 3 years and then can be renewed every two years for a maximum stay of seven years.

E-2 Visas

The E-2 visa is similar to the EB-5 visa in the sense that both are available to foreign nationals investing in U.S. businesses. The greatest difference, however, is that the E-2 is a nonimmigrant visa and does not lead to U.S. permanent residency. The E-2 visa is also specifically for investors from treaty countries—countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of navigation and commerce, or with which the United States has a qualifying international agreement. The E-2 visa is valid for an initial period of two years and may be renewed in increments of up to two years at a time. There is no limit to the total number of times the visa holder can apply for renewal.

EB-5 Visa

The EB-5 Visa is available to foreign nationals who invest the required minimum capital into qualifying U.S. EB-5 projects. The minimum investment thresholds, as of March 2022, are $800,000 for projects within a targeted employment area (TEA) and $1,050,000 for projects located elsewhere. In exchange for their investment, foreign nationals are granted conditional permanent resident status for a period of two years, during which time they must demonstrate that their project meets all requirements set forth by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After the two year period, EB-5 investors may apply to have conditions removed from their residency status with Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.