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I am on an E-2 visa and want to study toward an MBA. Is that allowed?

MBA student notes

Just as not all nonimmigrant visa statuses in the United States allow the visa holder to work, not all allow the holder to enroll in school and study toward a degree. When it comes to the work visas – including the E-2 and TN visas, for example – the question of whether study is allowed comes up less frequently, likely because it is assumed that the visa holder will simply spend their time working for the employer. However, some individuals who are in the U.S. on work visas do have plans to bolster their resume by not only working, but also studying. This raises a number of important questions.

Which visas allow the principal visa holder to study?

Fortunately, many visas beyond the F-1 student visa allow the principal visa holder to study. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has published here a helpful chart that lists which nonimmigrant visas permit the holder to study. As the chart shows, most of the work visas allow the visa holder to enroll in school – including the E-2 visa and the TN visa.

What should the E-2 visa holder keep in mind if they decide to study?

The E-2 visa holder – and really any visa holder who is authorized and decides to study – should keep in mind the primary purpose of their visa. For the E-2 investor, their primary purpose is to develop and direct a business in the United States that generates income and jobs for U.S. workers. If enrolling in school negatively impacts this primary purpose, it could undermine the basis for them being in the U.S. in the first place.

The visa holder should therefore be deliberate and thoughtful about the amount of time that is required for them to fulfill the primary purpose and requirement of their visa, and whether they will be able to do so given the amount of time that an educational program would require. If the two cannot coexist, it is probably best to postpone the educational opportunity – or to pursue another visa option that is more aligned with that goal (such as an F-1 visa).

For an E-2 investor, their inability to generate income and hire U.S. workers would come up at the time that they apply to renew their visa. But if the E-2 visa holder can fulfill their primary purpose while pursuing a degree – even an MBA – then they can do so.

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