Navigating U.S. Immigration regulations is daunting and complex. This is especially true for certain visa types, amongst them the investor visa categories. In this article, I cover some of the most important aspects and benefits to consider for the popular E-2 treaty investor visa category.
Relocating to the United States as an Investor: The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
At present there are 80 countries that maintain a Treaty with the United States for purposes of being eligible for the E-2 visa. If you are lucky enough to be a passport holder from one of these treaty countries you will have the right to apply for this visa.
Learn what countries are covered by the E-2 Visa 👉 View E-2 Visa Treaty Country List.
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 option to: (a) start their own business; or (b) invest in an existing business.
So as long as your business is considered active, real and operational -- it does not matter the industry-sector you operate in.
Top-7 Reasons to Apply for the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
1. 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 +
2. No Requirements to Own a Foreign Business with the E-2 Visa
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.
3. Ability to Start or Acquire a New Business in any Industry Area with the E-2 Visa
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).
NOTE: Since U.S. immigration regulations are also federal, there are also no geographic limitations on which State you may operate your business.
4. Starting or Acquiring a Business in the United States on the E-2 Visa
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 US Business. How involved in the US 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. US 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 US 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 US company, or if you prefer to have executive duties that are more relevant to broader-policy decisions for the company.
Do you have a clear business plan?
Knowing your US business model is critical to the overall E2 application. It is impossible to file an E2 application without satisfying some of the core E2 requirements. Please note that before applying for an E2 visa the applicant must:
- Establish the US business
- Have a strong 5-year business plan
- Secure a commercial lease
- Hire a minimum of 1-2 employees; and
- Mobilize the investment capital.
As you can see, the US business needs to be more than just “an idea” – the E2 visa requires the investor-applicant to take tangible risks and present a US business that is already or imminently ready to operate.
Through my personal practice, I provide a full-suite of services for clients that either wish to launch a new US venture, or acquire an existing US business.
5. Visa duration for up to five-years and option to extend and renew the E-2 visa indefinitely
The US 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 E2 visa, while Egyptian nationals may only receive an E2 visa for three (3) months.
However, 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 E2 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 E2 visa. Unlike other US 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 E2. However, an applicant must demonstrate that the E2 enterprise is continuing to operate and function as a business in order to qualify.
6. Multiple Entry-Visa for the United States
Similar to the validity period mentioned above, the US State Department maintains a reciprocity schedule with every treaty country with regards to the number of entries. The number of entries is the amount of times an E2 visa holder may effectively enter the United States. Most E2 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 E2 visa. Thus, there are no restrictions on travel for most E2 visa holders.
7. Potential to apply for a Green Card through the EB-1C Immigrant visa & EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa
The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa. With an E2 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 US bank accounts and building up financial credit-lines, and more. However, the E2 visa does not lead directly to a US Green Card (i.e. Permanent Residence). Both the L1 and E2 are non-immigrant based visas. In order 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 that is available for multinational executives and managers. If you own multiple businesses and/or maintain a director capacity at both a US and non-US business, you may qualify for the EB-1C visa.
Frequently Asked Questions About the E-2 Visa
Am I eligible to apply for the E-2 Visa?
The United States of America maintains a list of nations that are eligible to apply through the E-2 treaty investor program. In essence, if you hold a passport from one of these treaty countries, you are eligible to apply for the E-2 Visa 👉 View E-2 Treaty Countries
What if my country is not on the E-2 Treaty List?
Many major nations, such as China, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil are excluded from the E-2 Treaty Program. However, you might want to consider alternative options, such as the L-1 visa or a Citizenship by Investment strategy.
How long does the E-2 process take?
The E-2 process will depend on the particulars of the client case as well as the applicable US Consulate. As discussed above, it is necessary to execute several requirements for the US business before applying. That said the E2 processing timeline can be broken down into two main parts:
(A) Working with qualified immigration attorneys to prepare your E2 Case: ~ 1-5 months
(B) Government Processing (Consular Processing or USCIS): ~1 month
Do my children qualify as dependents for the E-2 visa?
Dependents will be your legal spouse as well as children under-21 at the time of filing.
Can I get a Green Card with the E-2 visa?
No. The E-2 visa a non-immigrant visa that permits you to live and work in the United States. If you are seeking an immigration solution that provides a pathway for Permanent Residency in the United States you may want to consider other immigrant-visa options.
What is the minimum investment for an E-2 Visa?
There is no minimum investment requirement for the E-2 visa. The amount of capital required for a successful E-2 application will depend on the nature of the US business. Contact me to learn more about how to effectively structure your E-2 investment.
Can you help me find a business for the United States that meets E-2 requirements?
Yes. I work closely with qualified business consultants work together to present US business opportunities that meet E-2 requirements.
Can you help me sell my business to an E2 investor?
Yes. I work closely with qualified US business owners and provide services that help connect a seller with an interested foreign investor or demographic market. Please note that we do not work with all business owners and ensure that the target business is suitable for E2 purposes.
David is a highly qualified U.S. business immigration lawyer. He has successfully represented hundreds of clients in 45+ countries around the world for obtaining the E-2 treaty investor visas.
Contact David for a consultation about your investor visa goals for the United States.