E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Evelyn Susan Ginossi

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Immigration Attorney

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Posted 11 months ago. 1 helpful vote

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The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is available for foreign nationals seeking to live in the U.S. to invest, develop, and manage the operations of a business. The E-2 Visa is a great option for those would like to start a business – large or small. Qualifying for the E-2 Visa entails submitting an extensive file to meet the specific requirements previously set forth in the article posted here.

This FAQ represents our client’s most frequently asked questions on the FAQ. While the answers are accurate, more information may be required depending on your particular circumstances, so please do not hesitate to contact our office with any follow-up questions.

1. Can I get a Green Card with an E-2 Visa?

An E-2 Visa is a non-immigrant visa and will not give the holder the ability to apply for a Green Card.

Although the E-2 Visa holder will not be eligible for a Green Card, the E-2 Visa is often approved for a period of 5-years and can be renewed indefinitely for so long as the business is still in operation.

For those applicants who otherwise qualify for an EB-5 visa (or any other immigrant visa category leading to a Green Card), take caution and consult an attorney prior to applying for the E-2 Visa. Non-immigrant Visa categories require applicants to possess the intent to return home to their home country at some point; and applying for an Immigrant Visa category (e.g., EB-5) on its face demonstrates an intent to remain permanently in the U.S. Thus, an application to remain permanently in the U.S. while on the E-2 Visa will land you out of status under your E-2 Visa.

2. Do I Need to Invest $1 Million Dollars and Hire 10 Employees to Qualify for the E-2 Visa?

No, the $1 million/10 employees rule applies to the EB-5 Investor Visa, which is an immigrant visa category for permanent residence (Green Card). In contrast to the EB-5, the non-immigrant E-2 Visa does not require a specific amount of investment nor are any number of employees required.

3. Which countries are eligible to apply for an E-2 Visa?

The E-2 Investor Trader Visa is available only to people from the countries under an existing treaty with the U.S. Most common western countries are on the list (the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia), as well as many countries from Asia (Thailand, the Philippines) and South America (Chile, Paraguay), to name a few. Israel was also recently added to the list. For a complete list of countries, please see this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/fees/fees_3726.html

4. How long will it take to get an E-2 Visa?

An E-2 Visa is a document-intensive petition. Filing the E-2 Visa requires a combination of government forms as well as a collection of documents pertaining to the establishment of the investment in the U.S. Often, clients are coordinating and working on their investment plan for months before contacting us. Getting together a petition with the appropriate documentation can take weeks, depending much on the timeframe of the client to move to the US. Once the petition has been submitted, the processing time depends on the processing time at the Consulate where the applicant will be applying. This can range from 3 weeks to 3 months (or longer).

5. How Much Do I Need to Invest to Get an E-2 Visa? Is There a Minimum Amount?

While there is no required investment amount, a strong application will demonstrate significant capital (a minimum of $20,000 USD) spent on establishing the business (furniture, fixtures and equipment, one month of lease payments, accounting costs, government licensing and permitting costs), as well as working capital in a company bank account (generally above $35,000).

Generally, investments in service or consultant-based businesses will require a lower investment amount than investments in manufacturing-based businesses, as the standard applied by the government is specific to the type of business being considered.

6. Can I Borrow Money or Obtain Funding to Start the Business Under an E-2 Visa?

Yes, an applicant is able to obtain funding to start a business, so long as funds are traceable and tied to the business.

7. Do I need a Business Plan to Get an E-2 Visa?

Yes, a 5-year business plan is essential to a successful application.

8. Does Buying a Home in the U.S. Qualify for an E-2 Visa? Does Investing in Real-Estate Qualify for an E-2 Visa? What Kind of Business Can I start or Buy?

On its own, purchasing a home in the U.S. does not make an applicant eligible for an E-2 Visa. The E-2 Visa can be obtained by those either purchasing an existing or starting a new for-profit business in the U.S. Passive investments such as merely holding an interest in real estate or holding stock are not eligible investments for the E-2 Visa. In addition, not-for-profit businesses are excluded from the E-2 Visa category.

9. How Many U.S. Employees do I need to Hire to Get an E-2 Visa?

Hiring employees is not required under the E-2 Visa, but should be done as necessary for the reasonable operation of the business. The E-2 Visa requires that an investment not be “Marginal", meaning that the business cannot be set up for the sole purpose of supporting the applicant and his family.

Note, however, that in demonstrating that the investment is not “marginal", a showing of an intent to hire employees in the business plan is generally required. In other words, a strong application will show a pattern of growth in its business plan as well as the hiring of employees over the course of five years, as necessary.

10. Can my spouse and dependents live and work in the U.S. under the E-2 Visa?

Your spouse and dependents (under the age of 21) can also get E-2(D) Visas and will be eligible to work in the U.S. once they have applied for an “Employment Authorization Document" (an “EAD") within the U.S. The greatest benefit to your spouse and dependents under the E-2 Visa is that they will be able to work in any field once they have obtained their EAD, unlike the spouses and dependents of other visa categories (such as the TN Visa and the H1B Visa) who are not permitted to work in the U.S.

They can work in any field and this is a significant advantage of an E-2 Visa as many other non-immigrant visas, like a TN Visa and an H-1B Visa, do not allow a spouse to work in the U.S.

11. How much will obtaining an E-2 Visa cost?

Legal fees for an E-2 Visa will run between $4,500-$8,000 (or more) depending on the complexity of the business and the filing. Filing fees usually will not exceed $500.

12. Do I need a lawyer to get an E-2 Visa?

Yes. E-2 Visa regulations are complicated and require a detailed petition to be filed showing satisfaction of all legal elements. Hiring a lawyer is recommended to ensure that your case has been adequately filed.

Developing a strategy for moving your business to the U.S. always requires competent legal advice. For more information, contact us at evelyn@ibvadvisorygroup.com or at 310.746.3837.

Additional Resources

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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