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E-2 Investor Visa for The United States

Relocating to the United States as an Investor

Navigating U.S. Immigration regulations is daunting and complex. This is especially true for certain visa types, amongst them the "investor visa categories." One of the most time-tested investor visa categories for the United States is the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa.

At present there are 80 Nations globally that maintain a Treaty with the United States. So if you are lucky enough to be a passport holder from one of these treaty countries you may be eligible for this visa.

The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

As the name implies, the core component to this visa is focused on investment. Through the E-2 Treaty program an investor (i.e. main applicant) has options to start their own business or invest in an existing business. It is also industry-agnostic -- so as long as the business is considered "active", or real and operational -- it does not matter the industry-sector you choose.

Minimum Investment Requirements for the E-2 Visa

In fact, per US immigration regulations there are no minimum investment requirements for the E-2 visa. Rather, it is necessary to demonstrate that the investment amount is “substantial” with regard to the E-2 Enterprise (i.e. U.S. Company). In other words, the amount of investment will depend on the nature of the U.S. business, and the U.S. Consular Officer who reviews your case will analyze the financial figures presented in a five-year business plan.

In practice, it will also depend on who you ask. U.S. immigration lawyers have different threshold requirements for the cases they are comfortable taking. Overall, you should probably be weary about any immigration lawyer that can guarantee success, but you should also be apprehensive about those who might accept your case with an investment that is less than $50,000 USD. For example, a service oriented business that has very little overhead and equipment might be able to get away with this minimum threshold investment, but still there is tangible risk.

Example A: Real-Estate Management Company

Nature of Business. Provides a variety of residential and commercial management services for properties, such as: collecting rent, maintenance, and administrative matters.

Requirements. Small office space, phone line, computers and internet.

Employees. 1-2 full-time employees

Advised Minimum Investment. $100,000 USD +

Example B: Real Estate Development Company

Nature of Business: Purchases undervalued properties in the US market, performs construction work to renovate and sell properties at higher value.

Requirements: Initial working capital to purchase properties, purchase of core equipment and materials, and hiring of sub-contractor labor.

Employees: 1-2 full time employees

Advised Minimum Investment. $250,000 USD +

No Requirements to Own a Foreign Business

Unlike the other counterpart non-immigrant Executive/Managerial L-1 Visa, the E-2 Investor visa is tabula rasa. In other words, you are starting with a complete blank slate, and do not need to involve your foreign business to have a successful E-2 application. This proves to be advantageous, as involving a foreign entity can burden an immigration filing with a significant amount of material requirements – i.e. tax returns, organizational charts, bank statements, payroll slips, and much more. In addition, unlike the L-1 visa, there are no requirements to keep your foreign entity operational during the duration of your E-2 visa.

With the E-2 visa, an application is very forward looking. The US Consular officers are concerned solely about your E-2 business enterprise. They want to be convinced that you are imminently in a position to direct a real, operational business in the United States.

Ability to Start or Acquire a New Business in any Industry Area

As mentioned above, there are no restrictions regarding the type of industry your business operates, as long as the E-2 enterprise is an active and operational company. Therefore, “passive investments,” those that simply accrue in value without any real operational structure, do not qualify for the E-2 visa (i.e. stock investments, real-estate investments).

Through Relocate, you can find licensed U.S. immigration advisors that specialize in E-2 Treaty Investor Visas, and have represented clients in virtually every industry sector.

NOTE: Since U.S. immigration regulations are also federal, there are also no geographic limitations on which State you may operate your business.

Starting or Acquiring a Business in the United States

The E-2 visa permits an investor-applicant to either launch their own venture, or acquire an existing U.S. business. So, which is the better option? For purposes of U.S. immigration law, there is absolutely no preference. However, there may be practical business concerns an investor will want to consider. For this, it is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. Some considerations could be:

Involvement in the U.S. Business

How involved in the U.S. business do you want to be (i.e. daily managerial operations v. executive and board-decisions)?

This is an important consideration for the investor. The E-2 visa does require the main applicant to be a full-time employee of the E2 enterprise (i.e. U.S. business). The function of your role will depend on the business plan and how you present yourself in the application. That said, it is important to demonstrate that you have the capacity to direct the overall operations of the U.S. business. There are multiple ways to do this, and you should consider whether you want to be more involved in the daily operations of the U.S. company, or if you prefer to have executive duties more relevant to broader policy decisions for the company.

Visa Duration and the option to extend or renew the E-2 visa Indefinitely

The U.S. State Department maintains a reciprocity schedule with every applicable treaty country. This means that the total duration (i.e. validity period) of the visa will depend on an applicant’s nationality. For example, British nationals are eligible to receive a five (5) year E-2 visa, while Egyptian nationals may only receive an E-2 visa for three (3) months.

Visa Duration v. Permission to Stay on an E-2 Visa

It is important not to confuse the validity period with the duration of stay. The duration of stay applies to the actual stamp that the US Customs and Border patrol officer places in your passport at the time of entry. Therefore, even though an Egyptian national may obtain a valid E-2 visa for only three-months, they may be permitted to legally stay in the United States for a total of 2-years.

Another advantage of the E-2 Treaty Investor visa is the fact that there are no limitations on the amount of times you may extend or renew your E-2 visa. Unlike other U.S. visa categories that present a limitation on the term of the visa (i.e. 7-years for the L-1 visa), no such restrictions exist for the E-2. However, an applicant must demonstrate that the E-2 enterprise is continuing to operate and function as a business to qualify for an extension.

Multiple Entry-Visa for the United States

Similar to the validity period mentioned above, the U.S. State Department maintains a reciprocity schedule with every treaty country with regard to the number of entries. The number of entries is the amount of times an E-2 visa holder may effectively enter the United States. Most E-2 visa treaty countries maintain a multiple entry-visa policy, which means there are no restrictions on how many times one may enter the United States during on the E-2 visa. While there are no restrictions on travel for most E-2 visa holders, it is also important that you account for your time outside the U.S. for purposes of an extension or renewal of the visa.

Potential to apply for a Green Card through the EB-1C Immigrant Visa & EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa

The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa. With an E-2 visa you may effectively live and work in the United States and be eligible for other social benefits, such as: obtaining social security numbers for yourself and your dependents, sending children to school in the United States, tapping into the US health-care system, establishing U.S. bank accounts, building up financial credit lines, and more. However, the E-2 visa does not lead directly to a U.S. Green Card (i.e. Permanent Residence). Both the L-1 and E-2 are nonimmigrant-based visas. To obtain a Green Card and become a United States Permanent Resident, you must have a valid “immigrant-based” visa.

The EB-1C is an immigrant-based visa available for multinational executives and managers. If you own multiple businesses and/or maintain a director capacity position at both a U.S. and non-U.S. business, you may qualify for the EB-1C visa.

Connect directly with a qualified immigration lawyer and learn more about your U.S. business-immigration pathways, such as the E-2 Treaty Investor and L-1 Managerial/Executive Visas today.

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