Iranian Nationals No Longer Eligible for E1, E2 Trade and Investment Visas, USCIS Says

Iranian nationals will no longer be eligible for E-1 and E-2 trade and investment visas, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency announced on Wednesday.

USCIS revealed the new development in a press release, asserting that the change came as a result of the October 3, 2018, termination of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights with Iran.

The E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visa classifications allow nationals of a treaty country to be admitted into the U.S. for the purposes of engaging in international trade or to invest capital in a U.S. business.

Given that "E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visas are based on trade and investment treaties or specific legislation providing for reciprocal treatment of the respective countries' nationals," USCIS said, "the existence of a qualifying treaty or authorizing legislation is therefore a threshold requirement for issuing an E visa."

The Trump administration had terminated the 1955 treaty in 2018 after the United Nations' top court demanded that the U.S. end sanctions preventing food and medical supplies from entering Iran.

Noting the U.S.'s continued disputes with the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time that the decision was one that was "frankly... 39 years overdue."

The secretary of state insisted that the U.S. had always planned to leave humanitarian exceptions to sanctions intact. However, Pompeo maintained that either way, the international court did not have the power to dictate the makeup of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

In a separate announcement of the termination of Iranian eligibility for E-1 and E-2 visas, USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans said: "There are no other qualifying treaties with Iran currently in force or other Iran-specific bases for granting or extending E-1 or E-2 status to Iranian nationals."

"Accordingly, a national of Iran is no longer eligible for an extension of stay in E-1 or E-2 status or a change of status to E-1 or E-2 on the basis of the Treaty of Amity," Koumans said.

He said USCIS would be sending out "Notices of Intent to Deny" to applicants who had filed applications for E-1 and E-2 visas after October 3.

Iranians who currently hold the visa status, he said, will only be allowed to remain in the U.S. until their current status expires.

Koumans made clear, however, that "the changes described in this notice do not prevent Iranian nationals and their dependents from seeking admission in, or applying for a grant of, another nonimmigrant visa classification for which they believe they can establish eligibility under U.S. immigration law."

Immigrants prepare to become American citizens at a naturalization service on January 22, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. USCIS has announced that Iranian nationals will no longer be eligible for E-1 and E-2 treaty trader and treaty investor changes. John Moore/Getty

While the new development might have been expected, it comes at a time of tension between the U.S. and Iran.

In recent days, those tensions have been alleviated somewhat after reaching a boiling point following the U.S. assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iran's missile attack on bases in Iraq in response.

Earlier this month, Iran admitted to having shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet after mistaking the aircraft for a potential threat. The country said it had been at its "highest level of readiness" amid high tensions with the U.S.

All 176 passengers and crew members onboard the flight, many of them Iranian or Canadian, died.