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E-2 visa rules present problems for immigrants

The United States has long held itself out as the land of economic opportunity, attracting immigrants from around the world who wanted to find a better life through hard work. But that comforting image of advancement and prosperity belies a bitter reality facing many immigrants who have sought visas here. In fact, current immigration law puts up many hurdles that immigrants are finding increasingly hard to surmount.

For example, take the case of one British family, who came here 17 years ago to run a restaurant and hotel. They arrived under E-2 visas, usually offered to those who want to start a business in the U.S. They brought their 4-year-old British-born daughter, who has been living here on her parents' visa. But on the eve of turning 21, she must now return to the United Kingdom because she has failed to obtain a visa of her own.

It has not been for lack of effort, however. She and her parents have been trying for the past nine years. U.S. immigration agencies simply have not gotten around to her repeated requests over the course of nearly a decade. Regrettably, she is not the only immigrant to face difficulty in coming to and remaining in the U.S.

The E-2 visas used by her parents are granted to nearly 26,000 immigrants each year, but they are completely off-limits to citizens of certain countries, such as China and India. Some in Congress have introduced legislation that would seek to improve the E-2 visa by offering a path to permanent residency. The bill would award green cards to immigrants who open a business on an E-2 visa and employ five American citizens.

Admittedly, the proposal is relatively small compared to the vast scale of immigration law as a whole. But it would make a large difference to a number of immigrants here on E-2 visas who have struggled to remain here.

Source: CNNMoney.com, "Visas come up short for entrepreneurs," Jose Pagliery, Aug. 6, 2012.

• Immigration law can present a complex and tortuous path for those trying to establish a new life in the U.S. If you would like more information on our firm, please visit our North Carolina family immigration page.

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