Take a look at the current E 2 visa treaty countries, the benefits of the E 2 visa, and other investment options for nationals not from treaty countries.
- Grants the Ability to Work Legally in the United States
- Affordable Investment Minimum
- Dependent Eligibility
- Travel and Period of Stay Regulations
What is the E 2 Visa Treaty?
An E 2 treaty country is one that maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. As an investment-based visa, the E 2 category allows investors to live and work in the United States in exchange for making a substantial investment in a U.S. enterprise. Only nationals from an E 2 visa treaty country can apply. While there are currently over 70 E 2 countries, many nations do not hold an E 2 treaty with the United States.
In addition, nationals of E 2 countries who are already living in the United States under nonimmigrant status are eligible for the E 2 visa and its privileges.
Which Countries Are Part of the E 2 Treaty?
The full alphabetized list of E 2 countries is as follows.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- China (Taiwan)
- Congo (Brazzaville and Kinshasa)
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Slovak Republic
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
List of Non Treaty Countries
The following countries do not maintain an E 2 treaty with the United States.
- China (Hong Kong)
- El Salvador
- Faroe Islands
- Isle of Man
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
- Vatican City
Foreign nationals who possess citizenship in only non treaty countries are not eligible for an E2 visa. However, it is still possible to become eligible for this immigration category by gaining citizenship in any of the E2 visa countries.
What Are the Benefits of the E 2 Visa?
The E 2 visa is one of the employment-based visa categories (E visas), which include the E 1 and EB 5 options. The E 2 category offers each treaty investor one of the quickest and most affordable routes to live and work in the United States. It also provides a variety of benefits regarding travel, period of stay, and dependent classification for family members.
Grants the Ability to Work Legally in the United States
One of the main advantages of the E 2 visa is the ability to work legally in the United States. Applicants from treaty countries can either purchase an existing business or establish a new one, with the type of enterprise entirely up to the investor’s choosing. In any case, the E 2 visa criteria require investors to possess at least 50% interest in the business and a title indicating significant operational control. The E 2 visa also allows applicants with treaty investor status to hire employees of the same nationality. Although these workers do not own 50% of the enterprise, they are eligible because nationals of their country possess ownership. However, E 2 employees must be executives, supervisors, or have specialized skills that make them necessary for the job position.
As the E-2 visa is one of the E visas, projected employment creation is especially crucial for applicants.
Affordable Investment Minimum
The E 2 visa is an excellent option for foreign nationals looking for an affordable way to gain work authorization in the United States. Unlike many other investment-based visas, the E 2 has no officially set minimum investment amount. Instead, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) simply requires the investment to be “substantial.” This means that the investment amount must be enough to
- Cover the cost of purchasing or establishing an enterprise;
- Ensure the applicant is financially committed to the business;
- Substantiate the claim that the treaty investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise.
The amount of E 2 investment capital will vary depending on the chosen business. However, the investment must be considered proportional to the nature of the enterprise. Many industry professionals recommend going no lower than $100,000.
Spouses and dependent children of E 2 investors are also eligible for the E 2 visa. These family members will, in general, be granted the same period of stay as the primary applicant, and can also apply for extensions. Additionally, dependents do not need to be of the same nationality as the E 2 investor, meaning they are eligible for the visa even if they are not citizens of one of the E 2 treaty countries.
Spouses of E 2 investors can apply for employment authorization. Unlike the main applicant, who is restricted to working at the chosen E 2 enterprise, spouses may be granted permission to work anywhere in the U.S.
While children may not be able to obtain work authorization, they can study in the United States as long as they are under 21 years of age.
Travel and Period of Stay Regulations
The E 2 visa is initially granted for a two-year period, and extensions are granted in increments of two years each. There is no limit to the number of extensions an E 2 investor can receive. An E 2 treaty investor can live and work in the United States for as long as their extensions are approved.
E 2 investors can freely travel in and out of the United States with no restrictions. There is also no limit on how long investors can spend abroad. However, visa holders are urged to keep an eye on their visa status and expiration date; issues can arise if an E 2 investor’s visa expires while they are outside of the United States.
How Can Nationals Invest if They Are Not From an E2 Treaty Country?
Despite the abundance of E 2 treaty countries, not all foreign nationals interested in the E 2 visa are able to apply. As mentioned before, a way to achieve eligibility is to obtain citizenship in one of the E2 treaty countries, such as through an investment-based immigration program.
Prospective investors may find the EB-5 visa to be a viable option, particularly because eligibility is not treaty-based; any national from any country can apply, even if they are not from a treaty country.
Benefits of the EB-5 Visa
The EB5 Immigrant Investor Program was established in 1990 to promote economic growth and job creation through foreign investment. For prospective applicants with the necessary capital, the EB-5 program can be an excellent way to obtain permanent residency status in the United States. The EB-5 visa does not require a U.S. employer to act as a sponsor, nor does it necessitate specialized knowledge or skills.
Upon making a qualifying investment in the United States and receiving USCIS approval, an EB-5 investor, their spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21 are granted a two-year period of conditional residency status. If the investment fulfills EB5 requirements by the end of this period, the investor will receive a permanent Green Card that can be renewed continuously. Five years after first obtaining conditional residency status, an EB5 investor can apply for U.S. citizenship, if desired.
Although the E 2 visa can be renewed continuously, holders must abide by all E 2 visa requirements and work at their enterprise. This is not the case with the EB-5 visa, as the permanent residency status visa allows the holder to live and work anywhere in the United States regardless of the investment location.
Transitioning from an E-2 to an EB-5 Visa
Some E-2 visa applicants make their investments with the intention of transitioning to the EB-5 visa. There are many reasons for doing so, such as the difference in investment amounts.
The lowest investment amount for an EB5 visa applicant is $800,000 if the project is located in a targeted employment area (TEA), with projects outside of TEAs requiring $1,050,000. Some prospective applicants do not have enough capital to meet this requirement and instead opt for the E 2 visa, which is more affordable. As an investor’s E 2 business expands through additional capital injection, they may be able to make the transition to the EB5 visa and make a more substantial investment of at least $800,000.
Another reason E 2 applicants might invest with the intention of switching to the EB-5 visa is application processing. The I-526 petition, the first application in the EB-5 process, can have a processing time of two years or more. In contrast, a request for E 2 classification typically takes only 2–4 months, granting the ability to live and work in the United States relatively quickly.
The E 2 and EB5 Visa Categories
In summary, the E 2 visa is a viable option for foreign nationals wishing to run their own business within the United States. Visa holders are granted the ability to lawfully live and work in the country and freely travel in and out of the United States. Moreover, dependent family members are also eligible for E 2 visas.
The E 2 visa can be used as a stepping stone toward obtaining the EB-5 visa. However, navigating this transition can be complex. As a leader in the EB-5 investment field, EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) has helped hundreds of investors begin the EB-5 process. Foreign nationals interested in the EB-5 program can take the next step by booking a call with EB5AN to learn more.