Good news for New Zealanders! As of today, the E-1 and E-2 visas are available options for travel and stays in the United States. These are visas based on substantial trade (E-1) and substantial investment (E-2). We routinely help business clients with these types of visas.
In 2018, Congress passed the “Knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors Act,” otherwise known as the “Kiwi Act.” Passage of this law allows Kiwis to apply for E-1 and E-2 visas, like over 80 other countries around the world. The gist of the E-1 (Trader) and E-2 (Investor) program is to facilitate trade and investment bilaterally between countries. The law is conditioned on New Zealand having a reciprocal program in place.
Here is USCIS’s announcement:
Certain New Zealand nationals can now request a change of status to the E-1 nonimmigrant trader classification and the E-2 nonimmigrant investor classification under Public Law 115-226. Beginning June 10, eligible New Zealand nationals already in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to request a change of status to E-1 or E-2 classification, or a qualifying employer can file Form I-129 on their behalf. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrants, and employees who are already in the United States, may also seek to change status to E-1 or E-2 classification as dependents by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
Any Form I-129 and Form I-539 for a New Zealand national requesting a change of status to E-1 or E-2 classification filed prior to June 10, 2019, will be rejected, but may be refiled, together with the required fee, on or after June 10.
The E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant classifications are open to citizens of countries with which the United States has a treaty of commerce and navigation or similar agreement, and in certain other cases, such as here, where Congress has enacted legislation. E-1 status allows citizens of certain countries to be admitted to the United States solely to engage in international trade on their own behalf. E-1 status is also available to certain employees of such traders or qualifying organizations. E-2 status allows citizens of certain countries to be admitted to the United States when they are investing substantial capital in a U.S. business. E-2 status is also available to certain employees of such investors or qualifying organizations.
For more on the E-1 and E-2 classifications, see our E-1 Treaty Traders page and E-2 Treaty Investors page.
The Department of State’s Consulate in New Zealand has also posted information on this big change, including information videos.
If you’re interested in this visa, and doing more business in or with the United States, we’re happy to help as we can. In my experience, E visa applications can vary a great deal on their merits, depending on the nature of the business, investment, or trade. The visas are terrific, once acquired, but the government can be very demanding in regards to the necessary proofs. Also, USCIS and the Department of State adjudicate cases differently. The administrative and procedural hurdles involved are another consideration. Consulates around the world vary quite a bit in their demands of applicants, as well as their timelines and procedures for processing applications.