If you are looking to establish or invest in a business in the US, the E2 visa may be open to you.
The E2 visa USA for Treaty Investors offers individuals temporary permission to come to the US either to set up or invest in a US-based company.
The E2 visa application process is complex and demanding on applicants. Before you can apply for an E-2 visa, either as an investor or an E2 employee, the company must first apply to be registered as an E2 treaty investor business.
You must also have already made investment in the US business prior to your E2 visa application – with no guarantees of success. This means professional advice is crucial to optimise your application for US entry clearance.
Read on for answers to frequently asked questions about the E-2 investor visa, including eligibility requirements, how much to invest and how to apply.
NNU Immigration are here to help!
NNU Immigration are specialists across all classes of US visa, including the E2 visa.
The application rules for the E2 visa program are complex. The E2 visa is particularly demanding in its eligibility criteria and requirements for supporting documentation, including submission of financial investment information and a solid business plan.
With exceptional knowledge and insight into the visa application processes, we advise non-US entrepreneurs and investors, their dependents and their employees on available US visa and immigration options, including the E2 visa, providing full support submitting applications to the relevant US authorities.
US immigration policy is undergoing a period of considerable upheaval; we can advise on the prevailing impact of any changes in US visa rules that may impact the entry routes available to you.
Do you have a question about an E2 visa?
E2 Visa FAQs
What does an E2 visa allow a holder to do?
The E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa (NIV), which means the holder is granted temporary permission to live in the US, to set up or invest in a US company.
The maximum period of stay is five years, although the final decision will be determined by your nationality and the discretion of the consulate approving your application.
E2 visa holders have permission to travel in and out of the US without restriction.
Who is eligible to apply for an E2 visa?
Investors from one of the treaty nations intending solely to ‘develop and direct’ the company would be eligible to apply for an E2 visa.
In addition, following successful completion of the E2 company registration process, you will be required to seek visas for ‘sponsored employees’ – individuals you wish to employ at your US company.
To be eligible, sponsored employee applicants must:
- have the same nationality as the owners of the foreign company;
- be filling an ‘executive, managerial or essential role’ at the US company – as detailed in the E2 company supporting documentation;
- intend to return to their residence abroad following completion of their work in the US; and
- if they are UK citizens, present evidence of their residence in the UK.
The employees must apply for E2 status at the consular post where your E2 registration application was filed, and should expect to be invited to interview to discuss their application and specifically to demonstrate requisite managerial level experience or essential skills.
How does a foreign company apply for E2 company registration?
Before you can apply for an E2 visa as an individual applicant, your company (non-US) must first be registered as an E2 Treaty Investor Business.
An application evidencing the foreign company’s eligibility must be filed at a US consular post abroad, along with an initial E2 employee visa application.
Filing requirements vary from post to post, and processing times can fluctuate based on consular workload.
It is best to confirm estimated processing times at the appropriate consular post at the time the E2 company registration and visa applications are filed.
To be eligible for company registration, the following key requirements, among others, must apply:
- The foreign company must be owned and controlled at least 50% by individual nationals of a treaty country (see below).
- The foreign company must be investing in a new or existing enterprise in the US. In practice this could mean establishing a new business venture, or purchasing a pre-existing business.
- The company cannot be an idle investment held for potential appreciation in value. For example, investment in undeveloped land or shares by an investor who has no intent to direct the enterprise would not meet the criteria.
- You must demonstrate that risk capital has already been committed by you as the applicant investor, and that the invested capital is subject to partial or total loss in the event that the entity fails. For example, by providing evidence of a lease on commercial premises for your business.
- The foreign company must demonstrate that the capital invested is irrevocably committed to the enterprise and primarily derives from corporate earnings.
- The invested funds must be substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or creating the relevant type of enterprise.
- The foreign company must be in possession of the funds it will invest and the funds must be fully committed to the business.
- The foreign company must show a clear and legitimate path regarding the source of capital it will be investing.
How much do you need to invest for an E2 visa?
To qualify, you will need to show there has been and will be a ‘substantial investment’ in a US enterprise. ‘Substantial’ is assessed in a proportional sense. It is a subjective standard with no bright-line test or fixed threshold.
A substantial investment is one that is sufficient to ensure the investor’s commitment to the successful operation and development of the enterprise by its proportion to the total cost of the business.
If the company is an ongoing concern in the US, then the focus will be the actual revenues that the business has achieved, and the number of jobs created in the United States.
In the absence of prescriptive direction, we are able to advise on what the authorities require in a successful application.
The key take away for applicants is that there is no arbitrary figure to work to. You will need to calculate the level of investment (costs) as appropriate to the nature of your opportunity ie relating either to start-up a new business (lease, inventory, marketing, IP etc?) or for the purchase price of existing business.
Additional factors are also likely to influence the investment level, such as the industry and type of business. A consultancy practice for example should require a smaller level of investment than a manufacturing business.
There are inevitably pros and cons to this approach. While it can be more challenging for applicants to understand and pre-empt what level of investment adjudicators will accept as substantial, this degree of flexibility means it may be possible to secure the visa with significantly less investment than say the EB-5 program.
Note also that investment must represent a personal financial risk to the investor and must be in an active opportunity; passive investments, like stocks and bonds, do not qualify under the E-2.
Some key points to consider include:
- Property investment does not count as part of the E2 investment requirement. The investment must be made in a trading business with employees – not stocks or property.
- Expenditures already incurred can be included in the investment calculation. This could encompass a broad range of expenditure and outlay, from travel, sales and marketing to equipment purchases and a range of other expenses.
- The investment cannot be marginal, and must have the capacity to generate more than a minimal income.
- The investment should result in employment for US citizens.
What is the E2 visa business plan?
Your application for an E-2 visa also requires submission of a formal business plan.
The plan should detail your projections for the business, and how your E-2 investment is going to be utilized to make the business operational and successful in meeting your growth targets.
Which are the E2 Investor visa countries?
The owners of the foreign company must be nationals of a country that has a treaty of commerce with the United States, or a country designated by Congress as eligible for participation in the E-2 non-immigrant visa program.
If you are a national of another country, there may still be alternative entry options available to you, depending on the nature and required duration of stay. Take advice on your particular circumstances.
Even if you have satisfied the treaty investor visa requirements, the maximum possible duration of the E-2 visas will be dictated by your country of origin. For example – for UK citizens, the maximum is five years, but for Mexican nationals it is 12 months. Some countries operate under a maximum of 3 months stay (e.g. Egypt, Jordan).
Looking specifically at the treaty between the US and UK, E-2 classification requires that UK citizens reside in the UK at the time they apply for their E-2 visa. You will need to evidence that UK residence has been maintained through for example maintaining a job and home in the UK.
What evidence and documentation will I need to submit in the E2 visa application?
In order for a foreign company to be granted E2 registration as a treaty investor, it will necessary to gather documentation evidencing that each requirement has been met.
Such documentation would include, among others:
- evidence of the nationality of the foreign company;
- evidence of the trail of investment from the foreign company to the US company, and usage of such funds to develop the enterprise;
- evidence that the US company is, or soon will be, a real and operating enterprise;
- if the foreign company is investing in an operating business, evidence that the business is more than marginal; and
- if the foreign company is investing in a start up, evidence that the business will be more than marginal.
How long does it take to get an E-2 investor visa?
E-2 visa processing times are determined largely by the US Consular post where you filed your petition (usually in your country of residence). As a general guide, you could expect E-2 visa processing to take around one to two months.
Processing can take longer if there are issues with your application. For example, where you have received a request for further information. This emphasises the importance of ensuring your application is full and complete when filed.
Will there be an E2 visa interview?
4- 6 weeks after submitting your application and business plan to the US Embassy, you should expect to be invited to attend an interview.
You will be questioned on the information you have provided about yourself and the business in your application and business plan.
It will be important to prepare well for the interview, to be familiar with the detail of your submissions and to answer any general questions for example about your immigration history and education and work background. The business plan will also be scrutinized to ascertain the degree of economic benefit your business would bring to the US market.
Can I bring my family or other dependents with me?
The spouse and children of an employee granted an E2 visa may apply for E2 visas, which will allow them to reside with the employee in the US.
Dependent visa applications may be made at the time of the E2 employee’s interview, or by scheduling a separate interview at a US consular post following approval of the E2 employee’s visa application.
Once in the US in E2 status, an E2 employee’s spouse may apply for employment authorization which will allow them to work legally in the US for any employer.
Can my spouse work in the US?
E-2 spouses are permitted to work at any job (except for certain government positions) but should first apply for an employment authorization card (EAD) prior to taking up any employment in the US.
Can I renew my E2 visa?
E2 company registrations are renewable indefinitely (for up to five years at a time), provided the foreign and US companies continue to meet E2 requirements.
E2 visa applicants should apply to extend their E2 visa before expiry of their current grant of leave to maintain continuity of status in the United States. However they must demonstrate as part of their renewal their continued intent to return to their home country following completion of work in the US.
There are additional factors to take into consideration when applying to extend, including the requirement to provide specific documentation to accompany and support your renewal application. Take professional advice on your specific circumstances.
There is no limit to the number of times you can apply to renew your E-2 visa.
Each renewal is an application, requiring a petition and supporting documents to be submitted evidencing that you have met the requirements under the visa and that you continue to be eligible under the route e.g. creating at least two full time jobs for US resident workers.
What if my E2 visa application is refused?
If your application is rejected, you will be informed by letter.
The letter will identify the grounds for refusal. On this basis, you may wish to seek professional advice on your options to either petition or to reapply.
Can I apply for a US Green Card with an E2 visa?
An E2 visa does not provide a path to permanent resident status but options may be available to you depending upon a number of factors, including whether you continue to operate an overseas business or have extraordinary achievements, awards or recognition in your field. Seek advice on the options available to you.
Should I consider the E1 visa?
The E1 Treaty Trader visa is potentially open to individuals or businesses of treaty nations engaged in substantial trade activity with the US – as opposed to the E2 which is relevant where there has been and will be further significant investment in a US business in which the investor has at least a 50% ownership. Take advice on suitability based on your circumstances.