Senator Charles E. Schumer announced late last week that the Senate has passed his bipartisan legislation that would allow Israeli nationals access to E-2 investor visas, which permit foreign investors to live and work in close proximity to the companies they wish to support, creating jobs in the United States. After obtaining an E-2 visa, foreign investors may initially be admitted into the United States for a period of two years and then can apply for extensions in two-year increments. Currently 79 countries across Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa have obtained E-2 visa status for their citizens; Israel does not have access to E-2 visas because the trade treaty Israel signed with the U.S. occurred before the E-2 visa existed. The House and the Senate have both passed the bill, so it awaits the President’s signature in order to become law. Schumer said that granting E-2 visas to Israeli nationals is critical to spurring job creation in the United States.
“We have many companies throughout the country that could see huge improvements with Israeli investment,” said Schumer. “In many cases foreign investors want to bring their own executives to the U.S. to oversee the growth of companies they have already created. Unless the E-2 visas are made available to Israelis, this country is missing out on a valuable resource that will help create jobs and stimulate our economy. These visas will also help promote Israeli businesses and culture in the United States.”
Israel has proven itself to be a close ally and important trade partner with the United States, and E-2 visas would further strengthen that relationship. Israel is among the top suppliers of Foreign Direct Investment to the U.S. in terms of total and per capita investments. In 2009, Israel and the United States had $28.3 billion in total bilateral trade in goods. Further, between 2000 and 2008, U.S. Direct Investment in Israel totaled $67.2 billion and Israeli Direct Investment in the U.S. totaled $44.1 billion. With hundreds of existing Israeli companies in the United States and hundreds of U.S. companies based in Israel, Schumer said that this grant of E-2 visas to Israeli investors would bolster the investment flow between the two countries – creating thousands of American jobs.
Since an agreement with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in 2004, countries can only receive E-2 status through a Congressional grant. In the 2010 fiscal year, 25,500 foreign investors and their dependents were granted E-2 visas. Schumer introduced the bill to allow Israelis access to E-2 status, along with Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), in May 2011. After Schumer’s initial introduction of this legislation in the Senate, Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, which the House passed in May 16, 2012. The bill only awaits the president’s signature to become law.