In a letter dated February 23, 2018, the US Embassy in Paris notified “Golden Arrow” participants that the program to expedite E-2 visa issuance for critical employees of large French corporations is coming to an end. The Golden Arrow program allows employees of select pre-approved French companies to quickly schedule and obtain E-2 visas for employment in the United States in executive, managerial and essential skills positions. Golden Arrow employers are large, established French-owned companies with significant operations in the United States and France. Golden Arrow enables participants’ employees to skip the Embassy’s normal lengthy review process to determine if the company qualifies as an E-2 treaty investor. This allows the US Embassy in Paris to focus on the individual applicant’s qualifications and background, rather than the company’s.
Effective March 12, 2018, all E-2 visa applicants in Paris will follow the same application procedures. According to the Embassy’s letter, Golden Arrow “did not significantly decrease processing times for applicants.” Since processing times for participants were generally less than 3 business days, it is unclear how the Embassy expects processing times to speed up once the program is eliminated. Starting on March 12th, all applicants, including employees of current Golden Arrow companies, will need to submit (and US Embassy officials will need to review) extensive documentation regarding the ownership, income and overall operations of companies that clearly qualify as E-2 Treaty Investors. As of this writing, the Embassy’s website has not yet been updated to reflect the new application process. However, it is difficult to see how this change will not result in visa issuance delays for critical employees of large, established French corporations.
The letter issued by the Embassy in Paris hints at a wider policy change within the US Department of State. Many consular posts around the world allow large, established companies to pre-register in order to avoid duplicate efforts with each E-2 visa application. These programs are critical for large corporations that rely on the ability to quickly move critical employees to the United States for temporary assignments. E-2 visas are based on long-standing treaties between the United States and dozens of countries, most of which are close allies and trading partners. Because these same treaties are relied upon by US companies to transfer US citizens to foreign assignments, further restrictions on E-2 visas will almost certainly lead to reciprocal curtailing of visa availability for US companies and their US citizen employees. It remains to be seen whether other US embassies around the world will follow suit and end similar E-2 registration programs. We will post further updates when they become available.