Significant reduction in E-1 and E-2 Visa validity period for French nationals scheduled to take effect on Sept. 26, 2019

The US Department of State has announced that the validity period of E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Trader Investor visas for French nationals will be reduced significantly from 60 months to 15 months. The Department of State initially stated that the change is being implemented as a response to “treatment afforded to U.S. citizens by the Government of France,” however, no further information was provided.

What are the Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) classifications?

France and the United States maintain a treaty of commerce and navigation, part of which allows French nationals to come to the U.S. to “engage in substantial trade” (using the E-1 visa category) or to “develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which [they] have invested a substantial amount of capital”. (using the E-2 visa category).

What is the impact?

The duration of the E-1/E-2 visa for French nationals has been substantially reduced to 15 months. For those who travel frequently, they will need to renew their visas more often. It is important to note that a visa is purely a travel document, it does not impact the E-1/2 visa holders entitlement to 2 years of status in the U.S., providing the visa is valid at the time of entry to the U.S.

French nationals holding an E-1/E-2 visa in their passport should take note of their visa and I-94 expiration dates to ensure their status is timely renewed, and if necessary their visa is too.

Who will be impacted?

The 15-month visa limitation will only apply to new or renewal E-1/E-2 visa requests from September 26, 2019 onwards. French nationals currently holding valid E-1/E-2 visas can continue to travel using their existing visas.

How do you handle this change?

Employers should take extra efforts to actively monitor visa and I-94 expiration dates, particularly for those employees who travel frequently, and ensure extensions are filed as early as possible.

It is not yet clear whether this is a temporary or permanent change to the visa validity periods for French E-1 and E-2 visa applicants. Ellis Porter will continue to closely monitor this issue and provide updates as they become available. If you have any questions about how this change impacts your French employees, please contact your Ellis Porter attorney to discuss further.