Learn more about the E 2 visa and its benefits for immigrant investors.
- Investors Already Residing in the United States
- Investors Filing From Their Home Country or a Foreign Country
What is the E 2 Visa?
The E 2 treaty visa is an investment-based visa that grants holders the ability to live and work in the United States as foreign entrepreneurs. In exchange for making a significant economic contribution to a U.S. business—that is, an investment—applicants receive an E 2 visa.
While the visa offers a variety of benefits, perhaps the most significant is that there is no officially set E 2 visa investment amount, making this immigration option much more flexible and affordable than other investment-based visas with high minimum investment thresholds. Instead, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires the investment to be “substantial” in proportion to the business.
A substantial investment is defined as enough to
- Either purchase an existing business or establish a new one;
- Prove the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the bona fide enterprise;
- Support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully direct and develop the business.
The E 2 visa minimum investment amount varies depending on the business and its industry sector. Despite there being no set threshold, E-2 immigration consultants widely recommend going no lower than $100,000. The higher the investment amount, the easier it will be for the applicant to prove their financial commitment to the business.
Naturally, investors must prove that their E 2 visa investment amount is substantial and irrevocably committed to the bona fide enterprise, meaning that they will be at risk of financial loss if the business venture is unsuccessful. The evidence a treaty investor can provide to demonstrate compliance with this requirement includes:
- Records of money orders and checks;
- Corresponding personal and business bank statements;
- An itemized list of goods and materials purchased for the corresponding financial accounting documentation of the investment enterprise;
- A lease agreement;
- A term sheet, letter of intent, or Memorandum of Understanding;
- A bill of sale;
- Escrow documents;
- Loan and mortgage agreements;
- A capitalization table;
- A valuation analysis of the business assets;
- Purchase agreements;
- A valuation analysis of stocks;
- The stock purchase agreements, alongside meeting minutes, stock ledger, stock certificate, and corresponding forms of payment for stock.
In addition, each E2 treaty investor must be a citizen of a participating treaty country. A treaty country is one that has signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. The E2 treaty country list currently includes over 70 nations. China, a country with a high demand for EB-5 immigration as well, is currently a treaty country.
Active Participation in Managerial Duties
The level of involvement required of a treaty investor ultimately depends on the management structure of the investment project. However, the E 2 program requires a treaty investor to be actively involved in the enterprise.
Each treaty investor must show they will be actively managing and working within the enterprise soon after entering the United States. Otherwise, the investment may be considered passive.
Who Can Make an E 2 Visa Investment?
Investors Already Residing in the United States
E 2 applicants already residing in the United States must submit Form I-129, identity documentation, and evidence of lawful status to USCIS. Form I-539 must also be filed for every one of the investor’s dependents (that is, his or her family: any spouse and children under 21) included in the application process.
A treaty investor applying from within the United States also has the option of premium processing, which results in a processing time of approximately 15 days after filing. Otherwise, an E 2 application typically has a processing period of approximately two to four months.
Investors Filing From Their Home Country or a Foreign Country
E 2 applicants applying outside of the United States do so through the U.S. consulate or embassy in their country. U.S. consulates do not have uniform instructions regarding E 2 visa applications. In fact, the guidelines often vary significantly across countries. Some consulates require a treaty investor to mail their application, others require submission through email, and so on. Because of these variations, E 2 visa applicants should visit the consulate’s website to familiarize themselves with their instructions before starting the application process.
Once the consulate receives the application and supporting documents, E 2 visa applicants can schedule an interview. If the interview is successful, the applicant will be granted an E 2 visa.
The E 2 visa is initially granted for a two-year period of stay, with additional extensions granted in two-year increments. There is no limit to the number of extensions an E 2 treaty investor can receive. However, E 2 investors must also maintain an intent to depart the United States upon expiration or termination of the visa.
There are no educational requirements for the E 2 visa. However, since the treaty investor will be partially or wholly responsible for directing and operating a business, they must demonstrate their capabilities to do so. An E 2 investor’s skills and experience must be relevant to the enterprise and enable them to successfully implement their business plan.
Should You File for an E 2 Visa?
The E 2 visa is ideal for those who wish to enter the United States as a foreign entrepreneur and operate their own businesses. Moreover, the type of enterprise is entirely up to the investor’s choosing as long as it fulfills E 2 program requirements.
Although investors are free to choose from a variety of enterprises, these cannot be marginal, meaning that they must be capable of generating more than enough income to support the treaty investor and their household. Therefore, an E 2 business must have a significant impact on the U.S. economy.
Although the E 2 visa minimum investment amount is flexible and usually much lower than many other investment-based visas, applicants still risk wasting time and money with an unsuccessful E 2 enterprise.
Working with an immigration law firm is often the safest route for E 2 investors, as they can assist with the company’s formation process. An E 2 visa and its benefits are contingent upon the performance of the investor’s business, making it crucial for investors to plan carefully.
E 2 investors must also provide a comprehensive business plan to further support their application. The goal is to demonstrate how the substantial investment will be utilized, that it is sufficient to make the business operational, and that it will enable the treaty investor to meet growth projections. In addition, the business plan must follow a particular format and be E 2 program-compliant. A detailed and well-prepared E 2 business plan will boost an investor’s chances of approval and reduce the chances of being issued a request for evidence (RFE) or a denial. A consulting firm may offer assistance in crafting the business plan.
Is an E 2 Visa Worthwhile?
The E 2 visa offers one of the quickest and most affordable routes to live and work in the United States. It also grants a variety of benefits regarding dependent eligibility, period of stay, and travel requirements.
An investor’s dependents do not have to be of the same nationality as the main investor. These family members will, in general, be granted the same period of stay as the treaty investor and be able to apply for extensions.
Children will be able to study in the United States, and spouses can obtain work authorization. Unlike the primary investor, who is restricted to working at the E 2 enterprise, spouses can work at any company.
Furthermore, there is no limit to the number of extensions a treaty investor can be granted, and the E 2 visa allows holders to freely travel in and out of the United States without a limit on how long an immigrant with E 2 treaty investor status can spend abroad.
However, visa holders are encouraged to keep a close watch on their visa status while traveling. Issues can arise if an investor’s visa expires while they are outside of the U.S.
How Much Does it Cost to Apply for an E 2 Visa?
Applicants filing within the U.S. must submit Form I-129, while any dependents file Form I-539. The filing fees for these petitions are $460 and $370, respectively.
E 2 investors applying outside of the U.S. must submit Form DS-160 for each applicant. The fee for this petition often varies between consulates. Typically, it costs around $200 to file.
While many consulates also require applicants to submit Form DS-539E, there is no filing fee for this petition. There is also a small fee charged when the visa is issued to the investor. This fee will vary between consulates. Investors often prepare these applications with the help of an immigration lawyer.
Additional fees often arise in the E 2 investment process, such as through immigration law firm costs, biometrics fees, entity formation costs, and hiring a consulting firm to assist with the business plan.
The Benefits of E 2 Treaty Investor Status
The E 2 visa offers a flexible minimum investment amount and an affordable route into the United States, with many investments made at approximately $100,000.
With the help of an immigration lawyer, the E 2 visa can also be used as a stepping stone toward the EB-5 visa, which grants permanent resident status. A Green Card, in turn, can eventually lead to citizenship. As a leader in the EB-5 investment field, EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) has helped thousands of investors get started on the immigration process. Foreign nationals interested in the EB-5 program can take the next step by booking a call with EB5AN to learn more.