The Ultimate Guide to E-2 Visas: Everything You Need to Know - ImmiVisa
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May 22, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to E-2 Visas: Everything You Need to Know

Embarking on the journey to obtain an E-2 non-immigrant visa marks a significant step toward realizing your entrepreneurial aspirations in the United States. 

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur seeking to establish a startup or an established business owner looking to expand your operations, understanding the intricacies of the E-2 non-immigrant visa process is paramount.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the nuances of E-2 visas, offering a roadmap to navigate through the intricate labyrinth of requirements, procedures, and considerations. 

From deciphering eligibility criteria to unraveling the intricacies of investment and business requirements, we leave no stone unturned in equipping you with the knowledge and insights necessary to embark on your E-2 visa journey confidently.

Whether you’re a seasoned investor or a first-time entrepreneur, this guide is your indispensable companion on the path to E-2 visa success.

What is an E-2 Visa?

An E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows individuals from treaty countries to enter, work, and live in the United States based on a substantial investment they have made in a U.S. business. 

This visa is particularly aimed at entrepreneurs, managers, and key employees who must hold citizenship from a country with which the United States has a treaty of commerce and navigation.

To qualify for the E-2 visa, the investor must contribute a significant amount of capital to a new or existing enterprise, ensuring their stake is more than marginal. There is no minimum investment amount specified, but it must be substantial relative to the total cost of either purchasing or establishing the enterprise.

The E-2 visa is valid for up to two years. The visa holder has the option to indefinitely extend the visa in two-year increments as long as the business continues to operate and comply with E-2 visa regulations. 

This visa does not directly lead to a green card but can offer a pathway to other visa categories that do. It is essential for the investor and their business to show that the investment is not marginal and that the business is creating jobs or providing some economic benefit to the United States.

Application process

Applying for an E-2 visa involves multiple steps that you’ll need to carefully follow to ensure a successful application process. Here’s a guide to steer you through:

Determine eligibility

Ensure you meet the key criteria, such as being a national from a treaty country and having made a substantial investment in a U.S. business. 

Collect documentation

Gather necessary documents, including proof of investment, business plans, ownership documents, and personal identification.

Complete Form DS-160

Fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and print the confirmation page to bring to your interview.

Pay the Visa fee

Submit the required visa application fee. Retain the receipt as evidence of payment.

Schedule and attend your interview

Depending on your age and location, you may be required to interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you reside. Be prepared to discuss your business plans and investment, and provide all requested documentation.

Wait for a decision

After the interview, they will process your application, and you will be informed about the decision.

Remember, the wait times for visa processing vary by location, season, and individual case, so plan the application well in advance of your intended travel date. If you are unsure about any part of the E-2 Visa application process, a business immigration lawyer can help you through a visa consultation. 

A man and woman at a table with a laptop and papers, discussing E-2 non-immigrant visa with a business immigration lawyer.

Investment requirements

As we mentioned earlier, applicants must make a substantial investment in a bonafide enterprise in the United States to qualify for an E-2 visa. 

Key considerations for the investment include:

  • Sufficiency: The amount should ensure the investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise. 
  • Risk: The capital must be at risk for the purpose of generating a return on the investment; merely having funds sitting in a bank account or similar security does not qualify.
  • Source: The investor must demonstrate that the funds come from a legitimate source.
  • Active Investment: The investor must have control over the funds and the investment must have the capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the investor and their family or it must have a significant economic impact in the United States.

It is crucial to document the investment process meticulously and provide evidence such as bank statements, itemized lists of goods and materials purchased for the business, lease agreements, and other relevant financial documents.

Maintaining E-2 Visa Status

Maintaining E-2 Visa status requires adherence to specific rules and conditions. It’s crucial to ensure that the business through which the E-2 visa was obtained remains operational and engages in substantial trade or services. The visa holder must also continue to direct and develop the enterprise.

Here’s what E-2 visa holders should do to maintain their status:

  1. Keep your investment substantial and at risk.
  2. Ensure the business is not marginal and has the capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living or has a significant economic impact.
  3. Engage hands-on in the business operations, showing control and decision-making responsibilities.
  4. Despite the visa being renewable indefinitely, you should retain the intention to depart the U.S. once your business dealings are complete.
  5. Reinvest profits to grow the business further or to maintain its position in the market.

Failure to adhere to these conditions may result in the termination of E-2 status. Routinely documenting business activities and financials is wise, as immigration officials may request this information when extending or renewing your E-2 visa.

Alternatives to E-2 Visas

When considering immigration and business options in the United States, the E-2 visa is a popular choice. However, there are alternative visas that might align better with different individual circumstances. Here are some noteworthy alternatives:

L-1 Visas

The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa designed for transferring managers, executives, or specialized knowledge employees from an overseas office to one of its offices in the United States. This visa is particularly useful for multinational companies looking to expand their operations or enhance their team’s capabilities in the U.S. 

The L-1 visa facilitates the temporary transfer of a qualified employee who has worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch office of the company outside the U.S. for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding the application. 

There are two types of L-1 visas: L-1A for executives and managers, and L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge.

H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Typically, roles in fields such as IT, finance, engineering, architecture, and more qualify for this visa. 

To obtain an H-1B visa, both the employer and the employee must fulfill specific requirements. The employer must demonstrate that the position requires specialized knowledge and that the wage offered meets or exceeds the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of employment. 

The visa has a cap each year, making the process competitive, with applications often exceeding the available visas quickly. This visa also allows the holder to work in the U.S. for three years, with the possibility of extending it for a total of six years.

O-1 Visa

The O-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa reserved for individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements in the fields of science, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. 

To qualify for an O-1 visa, applicants must provide evidence of their extraordinary abilities, such as awards, significant contributions to their field, published material, or a high salary due to their achievements. 

The visa is particularly appealing because it does not have an annual cap and can be extended indefinitely in one-year increments as long as the individual continues to meet the visa requirements. This flexibility makes the O-1 visa a preferred choice for top-tier professionals seeking to work in the United States.

EB-5 Investor Visa

The EB-5 Investor Visa is a U.S. visa option designed for foreign investors who are willing to make a substantial financial investment in a U.S. business that will create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for American workers. 

Typically, the minimum investment required is $1.05 million, but this amount can drop to $800,000 if the investment is made in a rural or high-unemployment area. In return for their investment and the economic benefits it generates, investors and their immediate family members (spouses and unmarried children under 21) can become eligible for permanent residency in the United States. 

The EB-5 program is a popular route for investors seeking not only a return on investment but also a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

A woman with luggage stands by a window, possibly preparing for a trip.

Budgeting for E-2 Visa expenses

Embarking on the journey to obtain an E-2 visa entails various financial considerations. It’s essential to budget for the visa application fees and the associated expenses throughout the process. Here’s a breakdown of the key financial aspects to consider:

Application fees

The E-2 visa application process involves various fees, including the filing fee for Form DS-160, the visa application fee (MRV fee), and any applicable fees for dependents.

Legal fees

Hiring a business immigration lawyer or consultant to assist with your E-2 visa application can incur additional costs. However, professional guidance will streamline the process and increase the likelihood of success.

Business investment costs

The core requirement of the E-2 visa is a substantial investment in a U.S. business. Budgeting for the initial investment amount is crucial, considering factors such as business acquisition costs, startup expenses, and operational capital.

Living expenses

During the visa process, applicants may need to reside in the United States temporarily. Budgeting for living expenses, including accommodation, transportation, and daily necessities, is essential to sustain yourself and your family during this period.

Financial planning for the future

Securing an E-2 visa is only the beginning of your journey as an entrepreneur in the United States. As you plan for your future in the country, it’s crucial to consider various financial aspects:

Managing personal finances

Transitioning to a new country involves financial adjustments. When managing your personal finances in the United States, consider factors such as currency exchange rates, cost of living differences, and taxation implications.

Tax considerations

E-2 visa holders are subject to U.S. taxation on their worldwide income. Understanding your tax obligations and planning accordingly can help you minimize tax liabilities and ensure compliance with IRS regulations.

Financial goals for the business

Set clear financial goals and projections for your business in the United States. Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines revenue targets, expense forecasts, and strategies for growth and profitability.

Cultural and social integration

Adapting to American business culture

Navigating the intricacies of American business culture is essential for E-2 visa holders seeking success in the U.S. market. Here are some tips for adapting to American business norms:

Understanding business etiquette

Familiarize yourself with common business practices, such as punctuality, professionalism, and effective communication. Building rapport with colleagues, clients, and business partners is essential for establishing credibility and trust.

Networking skills

Networking plays a significant role in American business culture. Attend industry events, seminars, and conferences to expand your professional network and foster valuable connections. Utilize online platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with industry peers and potential collaborators.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can I buy a franchise to qualify for an E-2 visa?

Yes, purchasing a franchise is a common way to qualify for an E-2 visa. The investment must be substantial, and the franchise must meet the same requirements as any other business in terms of job creation and contribution to the economy.

2. What happens to my E-2 visa if my business fails?

If your E-2 business fails, you must either adjust your status in the United States by applying for a different type of visa or leave the U.S. Your E-2 visa is dependent on the continued operation of your business.

3. Can I switch from an E-2 visa to another visa type, such as an H-1B or a green card?

Yes, it is possible to switch from an E-2 visa to another visa type or even apply for a green card. Each option has specific requirements, such as finding a sponsoring employer for an H-1B visa or meeting eligibility criteria for a green card through investment, marriage, or employment.

4. How long can I stay in the U.S. on an E-2 visa if my business is successful?

The E-2 visa typically allows a stay of up to two years per entry, but it can be extended indefinitely in two-year increments as long as the business continues to operate and comply with all visa regulations.

5. Are there any restrictions on the type of business I can start with an E-2 visa?

Generally, there are no restrictions on the type of business you can start; however, the business must be legitimate and capable of generating more than enough income to support you and your family, and potentially create jobs.

6. Can I travel outside the U.S. with an E-2 visa?

Yes, E-2 visa holders can travel outside the U.S. and should be granted re-entry as long as the visa remains valid and the business is still operational.

7. How does a change in my business affect my E-2 visa?

Significant changes in your business, such as a merger, sale, or major shift in business model, must be reported to USCIS and may require a new E-2 visa application or amendment, depending on the nature of the change.

9. Can my children attend school in the U.S. while I’m on an E-2 visa?

Yes, your dependent children under 21 can attend U.S. schools, from elementary to high school, and they can apply for college as international students.

A man and woman at a table with a laptop and papers, discussing E-2 non-immigrant visa with a business immigration lawyer.

Partner with ImmiVisa for your E-2 Visa journey

Embarking on the E-2 visa process can be a daunting task, fraught with complexities and uncertainties. However, you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. ImmiVisa stands ready to be your trusted ally and guide, offering unparalleled expertise and support every step of the way.

Our team of seasoned immigration professionals specializes in E-2 visas and visa consultations, possessing the knowledge and experience to navigate even the most intricate aspects of the application process. 

From meticulously preparing your documentation to providing invaluable guidance during USCIS interviews, we’re committed to ensuring a smooth and successful E-2 visa experience for you.

Don’t let uncertainty and anxiety hinder your entrepreneurial ambitions. Partner with ImmiVisa today, and embark on your E-2 visa journey with confidence. Contact ImmiVisa for a visa consultation to learn more about our comprehensive suite of E-2 visa services, and discover how we can help turn your American dream into a reality.

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