Choosing Between the L-1A and E-2 Nonimmigrant Visas

Oscar Wilde once said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  If that is true, then I suppose I should be flattered by the several Vietnam migration agents who know absolutely NOTHING about U.S. immigration law but who are faithfully pirating LatourLaw Vietnam’s blogs and claiming them as their own.  Please try to remember that it is probably wisest to secure your U.S. immigration advice from a U.S. immigration law firm with expertise as opposed to a clueless migration agent eager to sell you whatever pays him/her the highest commission. (-;

There seems to be a lot of confusion about when an L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa is the right solution for a quick transfer to the U.S. and when the E-2 Treaty Trader is the better option.  When I started private immigration practice in 1991, the L-1A was without a doubt the most reliable and versatile way of getting a foreign entrepreneur into the U.S. Things have since changed and getting an L-1 is anything but easy these days.  (See this great Bloomberg article which best explains how even tech giants are having huge problems with L-1 visas)

Both L-1 and E visas are used by foreign investors seeking to work in the U.S. for business-related reasons but today the E-2 is my “go to” preference for a number of reasons.  (Grenada’s CBI program as integrated with a LatourLaw-structured E-2 can get our investor families into the U.S. in as little as six months!)  

Here are comparative considerations between the two visa categories…

For an L visa, a U.S. employer petitions on behalf of an alien employee of an overseas parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the U.S. company. (Practically speaking, most times, for entrepreneurs first starting business in the U.S., that U.S. company is a brand new one formed for L-1 purposes.) This employee must have been employed with that organization in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge position prior to coming to the United States. L-1 workers can come from any foreign country so long as they meet specific requirements.

In contrast, E-2 Treaty Investors must come from a country which has a treaty of trade in place with the U.S.  Vietnam does not, hence the Grenada CBI program, the only passport investment program which offers investors a U.S. E-2 option.  Since E-2 visas are only available to nationals of those countries where a bilateral investment treaty or treaty of commerce and navigation exists, a Vietnamese investor can satisfy that through Grenada CBI.


Another important difference is in initial approval time: while a newly formed U.S. company seeking transfer a foreign executive from an affiliate will only get an initial one year approval, the same investor forming a U.S. business using the E-2 will usually get a five year approval.  Moreover, an E-2 Treaty Investor can renew his or her visa indefinitely, provided the business is still operational; LatourLaw has had clients remain in E-2 status for literally decades!  L-1s, in contrast, have a seven year limit.

My conclusion: if I was a Vietnamese executive considering either an L-1 or an E-2 and I expected to keep my investments in Vietnam, I’d go for the E-2 for the following reasons:

  1. Risks associated with a new U.S. company formation for L-1 purposes are made even riskier given the fact they’ll get an initial one year approval; few new businesses are solidly on their feet in that time period, and you’ll have to start justifying your L-1 extension 8-9 months after your initial L approval…not easy!
  2.  By going with Grenada CBI, the investor makes a reliable and safe real estate investment which can be liquidated in 3 years while allowing the investor and family to keep their Grenada passports indefinitely.
  3. Once the Grenada passports are in hand, the option to have one parent pursue U.S. residency through EB-5 while the other remains the E-2 investor offers huge potential economic benefits including reduced U.S. income taxation, elimination of foreign capital gain taxes, secure tax residency in Grenada while living in the U.S. and much more.


LatourLaw’s Grenada CBI/E-2 Turnkey Franchise option offers Vietnamese investors the fastest and most reliable path to moving their family to the U.S. in less than one year.  Contact us for more information.