WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives has passed legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) to increase trade and investment ties between Portugal and the United States by making Portuguese nationals eligible for E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visas.
Dubbed Advancing Mutual Interests and Growing our Success (AMIGOS) Act, the bipartisan legislation was approved on June 23. It’s a measure the House previously passed in December 2019 and was included as an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last year. However, it did not make it into the Senate version, which was ultimately signed by President Donald Trump.
Hence, the bill was reintroduced by Cong. Cicilline in this congressional session with a new number.
“Rhode Island is home to one of America’s strongest Portuguese communities,” Cong. Cicilline told O Jornal. “Every day, Portuguese-Americans make rich contributions to the vibrant fabric of life in Rhode Island. The AMIGOS Act will strengthen ties between our countries and lead to enhanced economic opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m proud that the House passed this bipartisan bill. I look forward to the work ahead to get this bill through the Senate and onto President Biden’s desk.”
Addressing the House floor before the vote last week, Cong. Cicilline stressed that Portugal is one of the United States’ closest economic partners and strong allies.
“Today, the United States maintains that long standing relationship as the 5th largest export market for Portugal and its largest trading partner outside of the European Union,” he added.
Cong. Cicilline said the United States is Portugal’s largest trading partner outside of the European Union, with bilateral trade reaching $6.6 billion in 2019.
“There are currently over 130 American companies operating in Portugal in a wide range of economic sectors, including pharmaceutical, chemical technology, banking, and health sectors,” he noted. “In 2019, the United States direct investment position in Portugal was $2.3 billion dollars, an increase of 6 percent from 2018. Direct investment position from Portugal in the United States, however, experienced a 1 percent decrease to $1.4 billion from 2018 to 2019.”
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, the E-1 nonimmigrant classification allows a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation (known as a treaty country) to be admitted to the U.S. for up to two years to engage in international trade on his or her own behalf.
The E-2 visa allows a national of a treaty country to be admitted to the U.S. for up to two years, when investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business.
Qualified treaty investors and employees can request an extension of stay, which may be granted in increments of up to two years each. There is no limit to the number of extensions that may be granted.
Portugal is one of only five EU countries whose citizens are not eligible for E-1 and E-2 visas. The other ineligible EU nations are Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia and Malta.
Both these visas require that a treaty exist between the United States and the principal foreign national’s country of citizenship. Although most EU countries had pre-existing bilateral investor treaties with the United States before joining the union, Portugal did not.
“In the absence of a bilateral treaty, which Portugal cannot enter due to the rules of the European Union, Congress has the power to authorize E-1 and E-2 visa benefits to other countries… I am proud to lead this effort to support our ally and friend Portugal,” said Cong. Cicilline, noting that Congress has previously stepped in to grant E-1 and E-2 visa benefits in the absence of a bilateral treaty, passing legislation in 2012 and 2018 to include Israel and New Zealand, respectively.
The legislation was co-sponsored by Cong. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Cong. William Keating (D-Mass.), David Valadão (R-Calif.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).
“This bipartisan, bicameral bill will help create more American jobs and increase investment across the country” said Rep. Costa in a prepared statement. “I’m confident this common sense legislation will also strengthen the bonds between United States and Portugal and build on the incredible contributions Portuguese-Americans have made in the Valley and throughout the United States.”
The bill has moved to the Senate and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) are sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.
“Generations of hardworking Portuguese immigrants have made important cultural and economic contributions to Rhode Island,” said Sen. Whitehouse in a prepared statement. “Our bipartisan AMIGOS Act would deepen America’s ties to Portugal by boosting commerce between the two countries and encouraging more job-creating investments in the United States.”
If the Senate approves the legislation, it will be sent to President Joe Biden for his approval and be signed into law.
Originally Appeared Here