Probably the best visa for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a business in the US.
The E2 investor visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign entrepreneurs from a treaty country to enter the United States by investing at least $100,000 in a U.S. start-up company, or by purchasing at least 50 % of a US company. of any size and remaining in the country to direct their operations.
An initial E2 visa is valid for up to 5 years, but foreign entrepreneurs who obtain it can renew it indefinitely if their E2 investor for business remains in operation. In other words, an E-2 visa can last a lifetime.
For these and other reasons discussed below, the E-2 investor visa represents the best opportunity for most foreign entrepreneurs to start or buy a business in the United States and remain in the country for a long time without investing or spending a fortune
So how can you get one? Let’s start by taking a closer look at who qualifies.
The eligibility requirements for the E2 investor visa
To qualify for the E-2 investor visa, you must meet the following 6 eligibility requirements:
- You must be a citizen of a country that has signed a trade and navigation treaty with the United States.
- The list of treaty countries is quite long, but you should make sure your country is on it.
- You must have invested or be actively in the process of investing in a bona fide business in the United States.
To satisfy this criterion, you must demonstrate to the US government that:
- Has invested or will invest its own capital, including funds and/or other assets, in a bona fide business in the United States for the purpose of generating profit
- Your capital is “at risk” of partial or total loss if your investment fails; Y
- Obtained the legally invested capital.
In practice, this means that you will need to prove with proper documentation (eg bank statements, tax returns) that your capital was and is irrevocably committed before you will know if your E-2 visa application has been or will be approved. That’s a bit scary for many applicants, but you can apply again if your initial E-2 visa application is rejected. The US government may simply want you to put more capital into the business before approving your visa because the business is unlikely to be successful otherwise.
You can rely on loans as part of your investment capital, but only if you are personally responsible for repayment. Your investment may also include personal credit card debt as long as it is not insured by or on behalf of any company.
While you cannot conduct business or accept money from clients until your E2 investor visa is approved, you will need to show that your business is ready to go. That means your business must have a US bank account, signed lease, website, furniture, office equipment, and everything else you need to get off to a good start. It should be clear that you are fully committed to starting your business and making it successful.
Finally, you may only invest in a “bona fide business,” which is defined as a real, active, and operating commercial or business enterprise that produces goods or services for profit and meets applicable legal requirements for doing business within its jurisdiction. Know more about what is forgivable equity builder loan?
3. Your investment must be “substantial.”
You cannot get an E2 visa unless your investment in a US business is “substantial.”
What does that mean exactly?
Well, according to current US regulations, capital investment is substantial if it is:
- Substantial relative to the total cost of establishing a new business in the US or purchasing an existing one;
- Sufficient to demonstrate your financial commitment to the successful operation of the business; Y
- Of an amount that allows the successful development and management of the company.
At this point, the most frequently asked question is: “Can you give me some kind of ballpark figure on how much I will have to invest? ”
If we can. The US government does not specify the amount that must be invested to be considered substantial, but based on our research and experience, an E2 investor visa generally must invest at least $100,000 in the US business.
Some service-oriented businesses (including law firms) are not particularly expensive to set up and maintain, for example, the US government may grant an E2 investor visa to an applicant who has only invested or is in the process of investing $50,000 to $100,000, especially if a reasonable amount of working capital is set aside as part of that investment, but this is not the norm.
4. You cannot invest in a “marginal” company.
If the US business enterprise in which you invest does not have the present or future capacity to produce more than that which will provide you and your family with minimum subsistence resources for at least the next 5 years, the US government.
The US will deny your E-2 visa application. To avoid that conclusion, you will need a persuasive business plan showing the US government the anticipated development and growth of your business over at least a 5-year period as part of your E-2 visa application process. . (We work with several companies that specialize in developing business plans for E2 visa applicants.)
5. You must apply to enter the United States solely to “direct and carry on” the business and be able to do it well.
The United States government will not approve your E2 visa application unless you are the one directing and developing it and have the proper authority and talent to do it well. This can be established by showing that you have operational control of the business or that you own at least 50% of the business and that you have the skills, experience and/or educational background to make the business a success for at least the next five years. years (as described in your business plan). In other words, you have to be the boss, know what you’re doing, and run the show.
6. You must intend to depart the United States when your visa expires. (But you can renew it indefinitely).
To meet this eligibility requirement, you must sign a document stating that you plan to return home after your visa expires.
But here’s why that shouldn’t worry you too much: Once you get your E-2 visa, you can renew it indefinitely as long as your E-2 business continues to operate. In other words, by simply keeping your business going and filing regular renewals to prevent your visa from expiring, you can potentially stay in the United States for life, just like your loved ones who came with you based on your E2 investor. . visa status.
The E-2 visa application process
You can apply for an E-2 visa in two ways.
If you are outside of the United States, you must file an online DS-160 application, as well as a DS-156E supplement, at the United States Consulate. You must also complete a separate DS-160 application for any dependents. The consulate typically has a website with specific application instructions, including any supporting documentation that must be submitted with it.
Consulates generally grant E2 investor visas for (up to) 5 years, in part depending on the reciprocity agreement between the two countries and the strength of your business plan, and allow you to enter and leave the United States at any time you want. want. And, as noted above, you can renew your E-2 visa indefinitely before it expires.
If you are in the United States on another type of visa, you can petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to change your status to an E2 visa. As part of this process, you will need to submit an I-129 form, an E-2 visa supplement, along with supporting documentation.
If you have dependents who are also in the United States under your visa (not E-2) and want to change their status as well, they will need to file Form I-539. Then, if USCIS grants your petition, you’ll get the E-2 status you need to build and run your business. USCIS generally grants E2 status for only two years, with the option to renew it indefinitely.
However, once you leave the United States after your change of status to E-2, and before re-entry, you will need to reapply for the E-2 visa at a US consulate abroad. .
Unfortunately, you will need to resubmit all of your supporting documentation as if you were doing it for the first time. Then, if the consulate approves your application, which is not guaranteed because they will be judging not only the business plan but the success of your business since you started, they will add an E-2 visa to your passport, allowing you to return. to enter and leave the United States as you wish, as long as your E-2 visa remains valid.
- Can relatives enjoy an E-2 visa and live in the United States?
As an E-2 investor, you can obtain an E2 derivative visa for your spouse and any children under the age of 21.
Your spouse can also apply for an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) to work in the US after receiving E-2 status and can work any job they want, including but not limited to your business. Your children cannot work in the United States, but they can attend any school in the United States that accepts them.
- Does an E-2 visa lead to a green card?
The E-2 visa is a non-immigration visa that requires the visa holder to have no intent to permanently immigrate to the United States at the time the visa is issued or used to enter. As such, an E2 visa does not provide a direct path to a green card (permanent residence), and it is important to keep this in mind at the outset. However, after entering the United States on an E2 visa that can be renewed indefinitely, an E-2 visa holder may eventually explore and proceed with various indirect pathways to permanent residence and even citizenship under certain circumstances.
Some of the most common and popular indirect pathways from E-2 visa status to permanent residence include:
- Permanent Residency through the EB-2 “National Interest Waiver”: An applicant must meet the following three requirements to be eligible for a green card through a National Interest Waiver: (1) the proposed foreign endeavour or business has substantial merit and is important to the United States; (2) the foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavour or business; and (3) it would be in the United States’ interest to waive the standard EB-2 requirement that the applicant have a job offer from a US company that has obtained a labour certification (showing that there is no suitable US employee for the job). ). In light of these requirements, an E2 visa holder has successfully developed a business that serves the national interest of the US.
- The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program: E-2 visa holders who successfully develop and grow their business in the United States can generate sufficient resources to obtain permanent residence through a qualified direct investment in their existing business or a qualified indirect investment through an EB-5 regional centre. In November 2019, USCIS raised the investment threshold for an EB-5 visa to $900,000 for Specific Employment Areas (“TEAs”) and $1.8 million for all other areas and enacted other regulations to reduce fraud and corruption in the program, but it remains a viable option for E-2 visa holders who can afford it.
- Employer Sponsorship: An E2 visa holder or their spouse can also obtain a green card through a job offer from a US-based employer and an application for an EB-2 (advanced degree or exceptional ability) or EB-3 (bachelor’s degree or skilled worker) visa. This is a very long and complex process that includes a labour certification to prove that there are no US citizens fit for the job, and it is often very difficult to find a US employer that is willing to invest time and money in such a sponsorship process. . The US government has also denied more certifications than usual in recent years. However, it is an option worth considering.
- Family-Based Green Card Applications: Finally, E2 visa holders can obtain a green card through the sponsorship of a family member in the United States. This can happen relatively quickly if the E2 visa holder is sponsored by a spouse or parent, but otherwise, it takes many more years.
- Do I have to invest a million dollars to get a US investor visa?
No, the E-2 visa does not require a specific investment amount. It just needs to be substantial in relation to the business. There is another visa called the EB-5 visa that requires a minimum investment of US$800,000 and is a good option for some investors who can afford it and want a green card, but it is completely different from the E-2 visa.
- Can I get a loan and use the proceeds to start the business?
Yes, you can borrow money and use the proceeds as part of your investment, as long as you are personally responsible for repaying the loan and your business is not overly leveraged.
- What is the minimum I can invest to obtain an E2 visa?
There is no legal requirement that you spend at least $100,000, or any other specific amount of money, to obtain an E-2 visa. USCIS has approved E-2 visa applications with low investments of about $50,000.
If the company you invest in is a service company (for example, a marketing or consulting company), the US government will generally require a much smaller amount of investment capital than if your company were to manufacture products, especially if the manufacturing process is complex and capital intensive.
In short, E2 visa applicants generally must invest at least $100,000 to get their visa approved, but there are exceptions. It may be one of them. It depends on the nature of the business you want to start and run, and the quality of your business plan.
- Do I have to hire US employees?
There is no legal requirement that you hire a specific number of US workers for your business, but you should expect and plan to hire at least some US employees to keep your business running and generating significant profits over time.
If your business plan calls for the creation of jobs and wealth in the US, the US government will consider you much more favourably during the E2 investor visa application process. If not, or if the only employees will be you and a family member, the US government will likely consider your business “fringe” and as such unacceptable.
You do not need to hire and pay any US workers before receiving your E-2 visas, but your E-2 visa business plan should detail exactly when you will do so and what the terms will be.
- Do I need a business plan?
You must submit a compelling 5-year business plan to the US government along with your E-2 visa application. They will examine it closely. Therefore, it must be solid as a rock. We work with several companies that specialize in helping E2 investment visa investors with business plans that give the US government what it is looking for in a document like this.
- Can I get an E-2 visa by investing in real estate in the United States?
E-2 visa regulations exclude investments in real estate, stocks, and similar “passive” companies, as well as non-profit organizations. They require you to start a new business or buy an existing one by making a substantial investment, keeping it active, running its operations, and making money over an extended period of time.
- I need a lawyer.
The E-2 visa process is relatively long and complicated, and you will have a large amount of money at risk. You should retain a qualified immigration attorney to ensure that you have taken all necessary steps, complied with all relevant regulations and requirements, and submitted your E-2 visa application and supporting documentation to the US government. to have a higher chance of success. Additionally, your investment in legal services can and should be counted toward the investment required to start your business in the US.
- How long does it take to get an E-2 visa?
The process of investing in your new business in the US or buying an existing one can take many months, often 6 months or more, even before your E-2 visa application and voluminous supporting documents are prepared and submitted to the US government. When submitting the E-2 visa application documents, the receiving US consulate must process and review everything. Processing time varies from country to country, but generally takes 2-3 months and maybe longer depending on the circumstances.
- How much?
Contact us to receive a quote on legal fees for the E-2 visa process based on your specific situation and circumstances.
Legal fees and costs vary, for example, depending on whether you plan to include family members, employees, or other investors in the process.
Assistance with the E-2 visa process
To significantly improve your chance of success with the E-2 visa process, we recommend that you retain a US immigration attorney who will give your application the time and attention it requires. The E-2 visa process is relatively long, complicated, and document intensive, but it can still be enjoyable, cost-effective, and ultimately life-changing if you have the right people on your team to make it a success.