In recent years, foreign nationals have become increasingly interested in investment visas as an appealing avenue for immigration to the United States. While USCIS has programs for both immigrant and non-immigrant investors, most small-business owners are more likely to qualify for non-immigrant visas under the E category for Treaty Traders and Investors. Given its lesser investment amount threshold and indefinite renewal period, the E visa category has become a popular choice for investors looking to start businesses in the United States.
Within the last three fiscal years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of Treaty Trader and Investor visas that have been issued. In 2009, the total number of approved E category visas was 229,301 with subsequent increases to 383,700 in 2010 and 454,101 in 2011. As the market for foreign investors have expanded, there has been an influx of new business ventures in the United States in large part to foreign investors. Furthermore, of the number of approved Treaty Trader and Investor visas issued in 2011, the top three nationalities of approvals were: (1) Mexico – 140,636, (2) Japan – 96,668, and (3) Canada – 50,419. Additionally, the majority of approved Treaty Trader and Investor petitions are predominantly from North America, South America, and Asia.