Update: The impact of changes in E1 and E2 visas for French nationals


Since August, those of us working with French nationals on E1 and E2 visas had been closely following an announcement from the U.S. Department of State on changes that would reduce the validity period for E1 and E2s from five years to as short as 15 months.

In a recent ILW article , I wrote about whether or not those changes would be implemented after weeks of silence from the State Department. Now, it appears we have our answer.

Several days ago, Roland Lescure, a French elected official with access to the details of the negotiation, announced that indeed changes were being made to the E1 and E2 visa programs, with the validity period being cut from five years to 25 months.

Why reduce the validity period?

As previously noted, this reduction in validity is assumed to be reciprocal. Americans willing to work or invest in France are subject to similar restrictions.

The website of the U.S. Embassy in France described the change in validity period as “commensurate to the treatment afforded to U.S. citizens by the Government of France.” In other words, the U.S. is only retaliating to measures implemented by France. But, upon further research, this could actually be the result of a slight misunderstanding in the details of French business visa and how it reciprocates to U.S. E1 and E2 visa programs

All other visa programs such as L, H, and others were affected which means this is a full reorganization of visa timelines given to French applicants from the US administration.

The impact on first-time applicants

For those who are applying for an E1 or E2 visa for the first time, the best-case scenario for them is that the shorter time period until their first renewal might actually make the entire process less stressful. Instead of meeting requirements for a business plan over a five year period, their targeting around a two-year period, which means they will have to set reasonable goals and outcomes within a much shorter timeframe (i.e. they’ll be expected to hire fewer people over 25 months than if they were starting out during a 60-month period for example).

On the flipside, there may be some hesitation from French nationals to apply and relocate their family knowing that two years from now they will need to go through a renewal round. They will have to weigh the risks and rewards of moving their family knowing that they only have a two year period until having to renew their visa.

The impact on renewals

While the validity period shrinks dramatically, part of the negotiation between both countries was to make the actual renewal process easier. The American administration has said it is committed to making changes to the current renewal process to a certain extent, but has not provided details on what that would look like.

One way they could make it easier is to essentially standardize renewal conditions and minimize attorney involvement and administrative fees associated with renewal. Today, the conditions are very opaque. Even if you have several employees, your business is making a profit and you are following your previous business plan, you may still be subject to a fairly rigorous renewal process. You could still spend time away from your kids and family and spend a lot of money on ensuring your renewal is approved.

Standardizing renewal conditions and minimizing attorney involvement, as well as administrative fees, would help make the process smoother. Also, dropping the requirement of having an applicant’s full family in front of the counselor would also mitigate some of the stress and costs associated with renewals.

Reactions to this new ruling

The American administration and French officials settled somewhere in the middle compared to the initial announcement in August. On one side, there is a reduction of time for the validity period, which could slow investment in the U.S. from French nationals.

But on the other hand, if you make it easier for everyone to renew every two years, this ruling may have less of an impact on the absolute number of E1 and E2 visa applicants from France.

Within the next few months, we should know more about how the U.S. plans to ease the renewal process for French nationals. Until then, we will have to wait and see the full impact of this new ruling.

About The Author

Paul Monson is the Managing Director and Partner at Joorney Immigration Business Plans. The firm specializes in writing E2, L1 and EB5 business plans and market studies for foreign investors preparing their move to the US.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.