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Public Statements

Allowing Israeli Eligibility for Certain Visas

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H.R. 3992 is legislation that was introduced by our colleague, Howard Berman, which I have cosponsored, and I appreciate his leadership on this issue. The Judiciary Committee approved this legislation by voice vote. The bill adds Israel to the list of countries eligible for E 2 visas.

E 2 visas are temporary visas available for foreign investors. A foreign national may be admitted initially for a period of 2 years under an E 2 visa and can apply for extensions in 2-year increments. The U.S. has entered into treaties of commerce that contain language similar to the E 2 visas since at least 1815, when we entered into a Convention to Regulate Commerce with the United Kingdom.

Currently, the nationals of over 75 countries are eligible for E 2 status, from Albania to the Ukraine. In fiscal year 2010, over 25,000 aliens, including dependents, were granted E 2 visas.

In the past, countries became eligible for the E 2 program through treaties signed with the U.S. However, in 2003, the Judiciary Committee reached an understanding with the U.S. Trade Representative that, from now on, no immigration provisions were to be included in future trade agreements. As a result, specific legislation would be required to add countries to the E 2 program.

In order to qualify for an E 2 visa, an investor has to have a controlling interest in and demonstrate that they will develop and direct the enterprise. In addition, the investor has to invest and put at risk a substantial amount of capital. This is measured by a proportionality test: the higher the cost of the business, the lower the proportion of its total value the investment has to represent. In addition, the investment has to be large enough to ensure the investor's financial commitment to the enterprise and that the investor will successfully develop and direct it.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3992, and I again thank my colleague, Congressman Berman of California, for introducing a commonsense bill that helps spur job creation and economic growth here at home and also invest in our relationship with one of our closest allies. The investments in business enterprises fostered by this bill benefit the economies of both the United States and Israel, and they also will create jobs and strengthen the already strong friendship between the United States and Israel.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


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