A bill championed by U.S. Rep. Howard Berman adding Israel to the list of countries eligible for E-2 investor visas was approved unanimously by the Senate tonight, allowing Israeli investors to expand their businesses in the U.S., spurring job creation and economic growth here.
The legislation will now be sent to the President for signature. Once signed into law, Israel will join the list of over 75 countries that are eligible for E-2 visas.
"This bill sends enterprising Israeli investors a clear and unambiguous message: The United States is open for business," said Rep. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "The expansion of Israeli enterprises here will result in job creation for American workers. Israel is an incubator of entrepreneurship, already a global leader in security and defense technologies, medicine, agriculture, and clean energy. Our nation will benefit greatly from bringing their innovations and scientific advancements to our shores."
Added Berman, "Israeli investors have a natural home in the San Fernando Valley and Southern California to expand their businesses, hire American workers, and strengthen the economy. Organizations like The Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit, non-governmental organization encouraging trade and investment opportunities are well positioned to seize on this opportunity."
The Berman legislation was introduced in February and cosponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. It was championed immediately by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) who helped pass the bill through his committee and then the House of Representatives by a vote of 371-0.
"Senator Leahy played an instrumental role in advancing this legislation forward, and I thank the Chairman and his staff, as well as the bill's cosponsors, Senators Schumer, Kirk and Kyl," said Berman.
Israel serves as an important U.S. trading partner, with bilateral trade between the two countries reaching $36.9 billion in 2011.
Israel is among the U.S.'s 10 largest export markets per capita. Despite a population of only 8 million people Israel is among the U.S.'s 24 largest export markets by value, ahead of countries such as Russia, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, and Argentina.
Between 2000 and 2010 Israeli Direct Investment in the U.S. totaled $58.5 billion and in 2010 Israel was the largest supplier of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the U.S. from the Middle East. In fact, Israel supplied nearly as much FDI to the U.S. as China. These investments have created and support tens of thousands of jobs in both countries.
Background on E-2 Investor Visas: E-2 visas are temporary visas available to foreign nationals who must be a national of a country with which the United States has a treaty. To qualify for the visa, a foreign national must come to the U.S. in order to develop and direct the operations of a business in which the applicant has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. The E-2 visa is based on the principle that foreign direct investment into the U.S. spurs economic growth.