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My children will be aging out of the E-1/E-2 visa. What options do they have?

By October 4, 2023E-2 Visa
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If you are in the U.S. on an E-1 Visa or E-2 visa, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for E-2 dependent visas and accompany you in the U.S. Your spouse can also work in the U.S. and your children can attend school. But what happens when your child turns 21? Can they stay in the U.S. and what options do they have?

What options do your children have after they turn 21?

There are several options your children have after they turn 21. It’s important to keep in mind that your children can only stay in the U.S. on an E2 dependent status until they turn 21, regardless of the expiration date on their I-94 form. We generally recommend to start discussing their next visa/status change couple months before they turn 21 so they have sufficient time to get a new visa/switch status in the U.S.

1. Applying for an F-1 student visa

Your children can apply for an F-1 student visa. This is probably the most common way to switch their visa status after they turn 21. F-1 visa will allow your children to study at a US College/University. Your children could either change their status to F-1 status through USCIS or they could apply for an F-1 visa at a Consulate abroad. If they are Canadians, they would just apply for the F-1 admission at the border. One advantage of the F-1 visa is that it will allow them to work in the U.S. after they graduate on their OPT.

2. Applying for a TN visa

If your children are Canadian or Mexican nationals, they could qualify for a TN visa. They would generally need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree and the occupation they want to work in in the U.S. would have to be on the TN occupation list. For example, if your children want to study and get their degree in Canada after they graduate high school in the U.S., they could do that and after they graduate they can then apply for a TN visa assuming they meet the requirements. Please note there are some TN categories that allow qualification based on work experience (instead of education), but usually TN visa applicants need to show at least a Bachelor’s degree.

3. Applying for an E-2 Investor Visa

Another option for your children would be to apply for their own E-2 Investor visa. They would need to meet all the E-2 visa requirements (e.g. make an investment, show that the business is not marginal, etc.) and if they are very young/just recently graduated College and don’t have any work experience, it may be hard to persuade the Consular officer that they will be able to develop and direct the E-2 enterprise. We have had cases where the E2 investors were quite young and it’s possible that these will be approved, but these cases are scrutinized more by the officers.

4. Applying for an E-2 employee visa

If you plan to hire your children and bring them to the U.S. under the E-2 employee visa, their applications may be scrutinized by the Consulate. If your child just turned 21, has no work experience and you are bringing him/her under the managerial/executive category, the Consulate may wonder if they are qualified to perform the job you are bringing them to the U.S. for.

5. Applying for an H-1B/E-3 Visa

If your child finds a US employer that wants to sponsor them for a work visa, the H-1B visa or the E-3 visa may be an option. For both, they would generally have to have at least a Bachelor’s degree and the job and their degree would have to be in the same/similar fields.

If your children plan to move back to your home country and they just occasionally want to visit you in the U.S., they may come on ESTA or B-2 tourist visa.

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