Changes in E-Visa Investment Law for Iranian Investors

On October 3, 2018, the Trump Administration announced the U.S. would withdraw from the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights with Iran. On January 23, 2020, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that due to the treaty’s termination, Iranian nationals are no longer eligible for E-1 treaty trader and E-2 treaty investor changes or extensions of status based on the treaty.  

E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visas are based on trade and investment treaties (or in some cases, specific legislation). These classifications allow an alien of a treaty country to be admitted to the U.S. for engaging in international trade or investing a substantial amount of capital into a U.S. business. The existence of a treaty or appropriate legislation is a threshold requirement for issuing an E visa. USCIS will send Notices of Intent to Deny to those who filed applications after the October 3, 2018 treaty withdrawal. Iranians currently in the U.S. on E-1 or E-2 status may remain in the U.S. until their current status expires.

The decision has limited practical impact in the short-to-medium term. In 2018, only one E-2 visa was issued to an Iranian, compared to 20 in 2017. In 2016, no E-1 visas were issued to Iranians, and only 15 E-2 visas were issued, according to government data. In 2015, 25 E-2 visas were issued to Iranians. However, the decision is impactful in the long run. Reversing it would require a degree of confidence, resources and communication in U.S.-Iran trade relations that at the moment seems too far on the horizon to be worth considering.