The E-2 “Treaty Investor” Visa
Want to live in the United States? Always dreamed of starting and investing in your own business? If so, an E-2 “Treaty Investor” Visa might be the right visa to allow you to live, invest, and work in the United States.
The E-2 Visa allows “treaty investors” to come and work in the United States to develop or direct a business enterprise, in which they have invested in, or that they are in the process of investing in. The investor must be a national of a treaty country, like the E-1 Visa, and they must invest a sufficient amount of funds into the United States. If approved, you will even be able to bring some employees from your home country (assuming they also qualify), along with you. So what are the requirements for the E-2 Visa?
Well, the main requirements for the E-2 Visa are that:
- You are a national, or your business is a national, of one of the 53 Treaty Countries (and some territories) that are eligible for this visa, (to see a full list of eligible countries and territories, please click here);
- You make a “substantial investment” in a bona fide business;
- You as the investor must be able to directly direct, develop, or influence the business.
Along with these requirements, you must also agree to depart the United States when your E-2 Visa expires or is terminated. This is because the E-2 Visa is technically a Nonimmigrant Visa; meaning it does not allow the holder to have the intent to permanently live in the United States. However, this visa is readily renewable, and you can pretty much extend it indefinitely as long as you continue to live and work in the U.S., and continue to meet the requirements for the visa. Also, you can generally extend your E-2 Visa by simply exiting the United States and then re-entering, rather than by having to file a formal application.
The business must also be at least 50% owned by nationals of one of the 53 Treaty Countries, to qualify for E-2 Visa status in the U.S. Thus, you can have other investors from the United States, and other nationalities, but you just have to make sure you continue to meet this requirement.
The “Substantial Investment” requirement is probably the most complex of the requirements discussed, so let’s look into this a little bit more:
The foreign national must have made, or be in the process of making, a substantial investment in a bona fide business. So, what counts as a “substantial investment?” The State Department has recognized that the modern business world is very complex and global, with varying types of businesses, and each business requires differing amounts of investments in order to start and maintain it.
Consular Officers in the U.S. looking at applicants for E-2 Visas are supposed to be flexible to accommodate new businesses ventures of various types and sizes. There is no direct answer as to what constitutes substantial investment in any given case, and it largely depends on the type of business and investment. However, there are some general rules of thumb.
The “Influencing the Business” Requirement
Finally, the individual must be able to directly direct, develop, or influence the business. Normally, making a substantial investment in a company would mean the individual has a say in the direction and development of an enterprise. It is important that you, as the entrepreneur, can and do, direct or control the operations of the business. However, sometimes due to the nature of the business or the position of the individual, it is not easy to figure out if they have direct control over the business. When this is the case, often the entrepreneur will not be granted the visa or not be able to extend it. For example, in 1990 a Norwegian man was denied a formal E-2 Visa extension request, because even though he invested $150,000 in a down payment on a mobile home park, the authorities felt that the man was an unskilled worker and did not qualify for the E-2 Visa, because his janitorial services around the park did not directly influence or control the business. The INS must feel that you are in a position to direct and have influence, in the control of the company.
Want to bring foreign employees with you on your E-2 Visa journey?
Employees of treaty investors are permitted to have an E-2 Visa also, if they are:
(1) Coming to the United States to engage in duties of an executive or supervisory character; or
(2) If employed in a lesser capacity, the employee has special qualifications or knowledge that make them essential to the efficient operation of the enterprise; and,
(3) The nationality of their employer–the investor in the business or the company, must be the same as the employee.
The USCIS judges the essential aspect of each employee (if the employee won’t be working in an executive or supervisory capacity), depending on their job description and the type of business. One crucial question often asked by Consular Officers, when deciding an employee’s eligibility for an E-2 Visa, is whether the company and owners would be able to continue to operate the company without that employee, or if they are vital to the company.
The E-2 “Treaty Investor” Visa is a great way to potentially come and live in the United States indefinitely, by starting a new company, or through your existing company; for as long as you and your company continue to meet the requirements for the E-2 Visa. Although this is not a dual-intent visa, you are generally able to leave the U.S. at the end of your visa, and renew it by coming back in, instead of having to formally re-apply. The E-2 Visa is great for individuals who want to live in the U.S. and invest in a company, but who don’t necessarily have millions to invest like the EB-5 Visa (learn more about the EB-5 Visa here). The E-2 Visa allows individuals to fulfill their dreams of both living in the United States, and starting a business, whether small or large. As E-2 Visas are a delicate and complex legal matter involving large investments, consulting with an experienced Immigration Attorney, will generally give you the best shot at success.
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