Obtaining an E-2 Visa by Starting a Business in the U.S.
E-2 Investor Visa-Start a Business in the U.S.
The E-2 investor visa offers a unique opportunity. An investor who starts a business in the United States, or purchases or invests in an operating business, may qualify for the E-2 visa. The E-2 visa is one of the most flexible options for someone hoping to obtain a U.S. business visa. There is no minimum dollar amount required, and virtually any type of legitimate business that can be expected to generate significant profit may qualify.
The E-2 visa may offer an opportunity for the founder of a tech start-up employing dozens of PhDs or of a local coffee shop employing a handful of servers.
Some advantage of the E-2 visa versus other types of U.S. business visas include:
- Obtaining an E-2 visa is not dependent on the sponsorship of an employer
- The flexibility regarding type and size of business opens up visa opportunities for those who might not qualify for other types of business visas
- The investment required may be significantly less than that required for an EB-5 visa
- There is no specific number of jobs the applicant must create to qualify
- The process can often be completed in just a few months
- Unlike some employment-based visas, the E-2 investor visa may be renewed repeatedly
However, there are also some limitations. The most significant limitation is that the E-2 visa is available only to citizens of E-2 visa countries. These countries are parties to immigration treaties with the United States.
If you’re interested in exploring whether the E-2 visa is the right option for you, talking to an experienced business immigration attorney is a powerful first step. You can schedule a consultation right now by calling (212)-984-0781 or completing our contact form.
E-2 Visa Countries
As of June, 2017, E-2 visa eligibility extends to citizens of:
Congo Costa Rica
Trinidad & Tobago
Steps Toward Obtaining an E-2 Investor Visa
The basic steps toward securing an E-2 visa are straightforward:
- Start or purchase a business in the U.S.
- Move investment funds into the company
- Apply for reclassification or for an E-2 visa
Of course, successfully completing the process is a bit more complex. Simply starting or purchasing a business doesn’t automatically qualify the applicant, even if he or she is a citizen of an E-2 treaty country. An experienced immigration lawyer can be your best resource when determining whether or not you may qualify for an E-2 visa.
Substantial Investment Required for E-2 Visa
Unlike the EB-5 visa, which involves investment of specific minimum dollar amounts and the creation of a specific minimum number of jobs, the E-2 visa requires the investment of “a substantial amount of capital.” What constitutes a substantial investment will vary depending on location and the nature of the business. For example, the amount of capital required to substantially fund and successfully operate an auto repair shop in Manhattan may be substantially greater than the amount required for a similar business located in the rural Midwest. The investment must also be committed to the business the investment must be at risk if the business fails.
An E-2 Visa May Not Be Based on a “Marginal” Business
The operation of the business must be expected to generate significant income. Although the amount of income required is also determined on a case-by-case basis, the general rule is that the business must be expected to generate more income than would be required to support the investor and his or her family, or to have a significant economic impact. For example, a company might qualify despite low profit margins if the business was self-supporting and employed dozens of people in an economically blighted area.
The business need not be immediately profitable (and, in fact, most businesses are not). As a general rule, the business should be expected to generate a significant profit or have a significant economic impact within five years.
Differing Processes for Investors Inside and Outside the U.S.
The application process for an E-2 visa differs depending on whether you are already legally in the United States or are applying from outside the U.S. Those who are in the U.S. on temporary visas can use Form I-129 to request a change of status.
However, those outside the U.S. must use the longer and more complicated process of applying for an E-2 visa abroad and then applying for entry as an E-2 visa holder at a U.S. port of entry. Applicants outside the U.S. will apply using online form DS-160. However, the specifics of the process may differ depending on your U.S. embassy or consulate.
Tips for Opening a U.S. Business and Obtaining an E-2 Investor Visa
If you’re considering starting a business in the United States and applying for an E-2 investor visa, you’ll want to conduct some research before taking the next step. Educating yourself and preparing to put together a successful visa application or petition for change of status will involve:
- Determining whether or not your home country is an E-2 visa country—since this is a threshold issue, make sure you qualify on this basis before investing time or research in other aspects
- Conducting due diligence to determine the viability of your existing business plan, or to determine the location and type of business most likely to both serve your needs and qualify
- Connecting with an experience U.S. immigration lawyer for guidance on the technical aspects of the application process and considerations you may have overlooked
- Researching the market and industry you intend to operate in and constructing data-supported projections regarding profitability and economic impact
You will also have to provide a significant amount of information and documentation, both for the general immigration process and to qualify your business and demonstrate that your funds were obtained legally and are eligible for investment in the United States. This process can be complicated, and even minor errors can delay approval.
Starting a business almost always involves a significant investment of time, money, and creative power—not to mention the courage to take a risk with your money and your personal investment. The time, effort, and financial investment required can be even greater when you are setting up a business in a foreign country and applying for a visa in connection with that effort.
If you’re investing at that level, it doesn’t make sense to take chances. Part of your preparation should be to obtain the assistance of an immigration attorney who is knowledgeable about the E-2 investor visa application process.