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: