E-2 Visas Provide Immigration Opportunities to Wealthy Mexicans Fleeing Violence

February 4, 2010 7:07 am 4 comments

E-2-Visas

SAN DIEGO — Last year Jorge, a Tijuana business owner who asked for anonymity for safety reasons, was driving home from work when several cars attempted to corner him.

When he realized that he was in the middle of a classic kidnap setup, he quickly accelerated and squeezed his Mini-Cooper in between two of the cars. As Jorge escaped, shots rang out behind him and he arrived to the police station with a bullet wound to his arm.

At the station, however, the police told Jorge that there was little that they could do for him.

“I was told that as soon as I left they could not guarantee that I would live.” They asked Jorge if he wanted to be taken to the airport or the U.S.-Mexican border.

Even though Jorge’s life was threatened in Mexico and he fears returning, he does not want to risk losing his tourist visa in the United States by applying for political asylum or refugee status.

Holders of tourist visas in the U.S. who apply for asylum risk losing those visas if their case is denied, according to San Diego immigration attorney Jacob Sapochnick. Applying for refugee or asylum status demonstrates the intention to stay permanently in the U.S. — a measure used by the State Department as the basis to deny a tourist visa, Sapochnick says.

Those who have “a well-founded fear of persecution based on at least one of five internationally recognized grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” can apply for asylum and refugee status, according to a 2005 U.S. Justice Department report.

Yet it is often very difficult for asylum and refugee status to be granted. “Just witnessing a crime will not be sufficient. But, for example, former police high-ranking officers, government employees that were targeted could be potentially good candidates,” said Sapochnick.

One option available to wealthy Mexicans who flee the violence in their country is to apply for an E-2 or Investor’s Visa.

Since 1994, Mexico has been a so-called Treaty Country, making its residents eligible for E-2 visas. While the State Department only says that the investment needed must be “substantial,” Sapochnick says that a recommended investment varies between 50,000 to 100,000 dollars.

“[O]rdinary skilled and unskilled workers do not qualify” for E-2 visas, according to the State Department guidelines.

Such requirements disqualify many victims of violence in Mexico. In 2008, The Los Angeles Times reported that half of the victims of violence in Mexico were at or below the middle class level.

The select few who meet the investment requirements to qualify for the E-2 visa must then show that they are involved in their business. “The visa is not just about moving the funds,” Sapochnick said. “We need to show they set up the company, have a lease, start doing business.”

Not many of these visas are granted every year. In 2009, the U.S. granted Mexico only 2,499 treaty investor and treaty trader visas. This is a small number compared to the 7,598 student visas and 6,020 exchange visitor visas approved for Mexicans in 2009, according to State Department statistics.

Yet, the small number of E-2 recipients is partially due to the small number of applicants — 70 percent of all E-2 applicants in 2009 were granted visas, according to a 2009 State Department report.

As a point of reference, the ceiling for the number of refugees admitted by the U.S. in 2009 was 5,000 for all of Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a State Department’s Report to Congress.

Jorge now lives in San Diego, California in a house bought in the name of his girlfriend, a U.S. citizen. He hopes to soon have enough saved to apply for an E-2 visa. Meanwhile, Jorge must decide whether to risk his life by returning to Mexico or continuing to overstay his tourist visa in the U.S.

“Today, in spite of the tranquility of living in a country [the U.S.] with guaranteed security, I still have to risk my life when I go to Tijuana to work,” said Jorge.

Image: Paola Reyes

4 Comments

  • As a bi-cultural local Realtor with a commercial background, knowing the guidelines of the E 2 visa could be a market nitch. Mexico has a lot more to offer than just farm workers and cheap labor. Thanks for the information.

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • North America Today in Latin America United States Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled a three-part executive order on immigration that would protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, sidestepping a year of gridlock over immigration reform in the Republican-led House of Representatives. The president’s plan, presented in a fifteen-minute speech, would also expand border enforcement and facilitate legal immigration for skilled immigrants. Obama stressed that while the nearly five million undocumented immigrants affected would be allowed to register and legally seek […]

    Read more →
  • Central America Honduras Today in Latin America Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Top Story — The bodies of reigning Miss Honduras María José Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofía, 23, were found in a riverbank grave in an area west of the capital city, Tegucigalpa, police announced Wednesday. Since the sisters went missing on Nov. 13, their disappearance has become national news in the country with the world’s highest peacetime murder rate. Sofía Alvarado’s boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz, has been arrested and is considered the main suspect in the killings. Aris Maldonado, an […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Colombia News Briefs North America Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    An agreement has been reached between FARC rebels and the Colombia government on steps to release Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate, according to a statement released by the Cuban and Norwegian governments, which were involved in brokering the deal. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended two-year-old peace talks with the FARC in the wake of Alzate’s capture, insisting that the talks would not resume until Alzate was returned. Alzate, who is the the highest-ranking officer to be taken by the […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Top Story — Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto on Tuesday accused “violent movements” of taking advantage of anger over the September disappearance of 43 students to sow unrest as discontent over the issue shows no sign of abating. His remarks come as pressure builds over the missing students from the rural Ayotzinapa teacher training school in Guerrero state, who officials recently said corrupt local police arrested and turned over to a drug gang, which killed them and incinerated their bodies. […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Peru Today in Latin America Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Top Story — Just two weeks before the U.N. Climate Change Conference begins in Lima, Peru, nonprofit Global Witness has released a widely publicized report naming the country the fourth deadliest in the world to be an environmental or land activist. Since 2002, 57 activists have been killed in Peru, more than half of them in the last four years. Peru is facing international scrutiny due to the slow pace of an investigation into the Aug. 31 killing of four […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Southern Cone Today in Latin America Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Top Story — Brazilian authorities on Friday arrested 27 people in connection with an investigation into a multibillion-dollar corruption scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Among the 27 was the firm’s engineering director, the second senior executive to be arrested in connection with the scandal. Following the arrests, President Dilma Rousseff said that the “symbolic case” would change Brazilian society forever. Rousseff served as energy minister under her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The investigation began when a […]

    Read more →
  • Colombia News Briefs Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended the government’s peace talks with FARC guerrillas after the group’s apparent detention of an army general, jeopardizing the future of the negotiations at a key moment. General Rubén Darío Alzate and two others reportedly went missing in the rebel-dominated northern province of Chocó. The president has said that all signs point to FARC, and that he expects the group to release the three before continuing with negotiations. The FARC, however, have not confirmed […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Top Story — A Venezuelan court has refused to release leading opposition politician Leopoldo López, despite appeals by the United Nations, the López’s defense lawyer said Thursday. López has been imprisoned along with other opposition figures since February for his alleged role in anti-government protests that left at least 40 people dead and hundreds injured. He faces charges of inciting violence in an attempt to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, who took office after his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chávez died […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Blog Colombia Today in Latin America FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    Top Story — The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, has issued a statment saying that they “profoundly lament” killing two indigenous Nasa men near the southwestern municipality of Toribío earlier this month. The apology comes after seven FARC rebels were put on trial in a tribal court for the killings on Nov. 9, and five of them given long prison sentences. The two Nasa men were part of the indigenous guard, the police force in the indigenous territory. According to […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Maduro Puts Price Limits on Barbies, Fearing Holiday Speculation

    Maduro Puts Price Limits on Barbies, Fearing Holiday Speculation

    Top Story — Barbies are flying off the shelf in Venezuela after its socialist government mandated the plastic dolls be sold at a special discount price for the holidays. The low price cap is part of President Nicolás Maduro’s “Operation Merry Christmas,” a plan designed to insulate consumers from skyrocketing prices during the holiday season. Refrigerators, plasma TVs, computers and other electronic appliances are also part of the Christmas special, and Venezuelans have been camping by the hundreds outside of […]

    Read more →