If you are foreign investor planning to apply for an E-2 visa for business purposes, then you must already be a citizen of a country that maintains a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, or Navigation with the United States. You must also be able to provide evidence of the investment or intention to invest in a bona fide company based in the United States. If these caveats apply to you, then you may want to consider filing a petition to receive an E-2 investor visa.
Why Choose the E-2 Visa for Business Investors?
The main advantage of having an E-2 visa for business is that you can travel in and out of the United States while working for the company in which your investment lies. With the E-2 business plan you can also work and travel with your relatives, any dependents younger than twenty-one, and your spouse.
One of the most attractive aspects of the E-2 visa for businesses, however, is the ability to stay indefinitely. While the initial visa is granted for two years, unlimited extensions are easily granted provided that the qualifications for the E-2 visa are met.
If you are a national of a country that does not hold the aforementioned treaty with the United States or you would like the freedom to expand your work to companies other than that of your initial investment, you may want to consider applying for an EB-5 green card. Be sure to consult with a qualified immigration lawyer to see which one is the right fit for your circumstances.
What Business Investors Need to Qualify
There are a number of qualifications that anyone filing for an E-2 visa should take into consideration. These are designed to determine if you are both fiscally and legally capable of investing in and developing a business enterprise.
The first is that your investment be placed in a business that is labeled bona fide. The USCIS defines a bona fide business as a “real, active, and operating undertaking which produces services or goods for profits.” These profits must also be enough to support the basic living needs for you and your family. Otherwise, the business will be labeled as “marginal” and your petition will be denied.
You can click here for a full list of items that can demonstrate the legitimacy of your investment. Another requirement for an E-2 business visa is that your investment must be considerable. This usually is represented by a percentage of the total value of your enterprise but is ultimately up to the discretion of the USCIS.
A bill of sale, proof of funds in escrow, or an analysis of the value of business assets are just a few examples of possible evidence of a substantial investment. These items also serve to fulfill another requirement: that the capital that funds your investment must be wholly yours and irrevocably committed to your enterprise.
You must also prove that your funds have been obtained legitimately. The items you can use to verify this are as follows:
- Foreign tax returns
- Property or pay records
- Loan or mortgage agreements
- Any money orders, wire transfers, or canceled checks.
The last requirement for your E-2 visa business plan is proof that you are capable of directing your business from a legal standpoint. You must provide evidence that you have sufficient influence in the company to demonstrate ownership in the enterprise. The list of items that serve as proof includes:
- A table of capitalization
- Any relevant by-laws
- Evidence of ownership of a controlling interest in the company if you do not own at least fifty percent of the company.
- Stock purchase agreement
- Partnership agreement.
What is a Substantial Investment?
One of the most contentious aspects of the E-2 business investor visa is that fact that there are no numerical figures attached to the investment amount. The USCIS only states that it must be “substantial”. This may be a vague and confusing term, but we’ve been able to parse it out through our experience.
We’ve found that the smaller the value of your enterprise, the larger your investment must be in relation to the enterprise, and vice versa. If you are planning on investing in a large hotel chain, you may only need to invest ten percent of the value of the enterprise to qualify. On the other hand, if you are purchasing a small bakery, you may be responsible for most if not all of the value of the enterprise. Our rule of thumb is that $150,000 is the minimum that will be accepted, though each situation is different.
How to Apply for an E-2 Visa for Business Investment
The way that you normally obtain an E-2 business visa is through a U.S. Consulate. If, however, you are in the United States on another workers visa, then you can go to an immigration officer at a port of entry in the United States to have your status changed to the E-2 classification.
If you are not within the boundaries of the U.S. when applying for E-2 visa, it is necessary to first obtain a different visa to enter the country before applying to transfer your status to the nonimmigrant E-2 class.
To apply for this change of status or to go through the consular process you will need to complete the form I-129, a petition for a nonimmigrant worker. This must be done before your previous visa expires or you may risk imminent deportation or a possible ban from further entry into the United States.
If you are planning on having your spouse, dependents, or relatives travel and stay with you, they will need to change their respective statuses as well. This can be done by filing separate I-129 forms or by filing a single I-539 with a fee. Your spouse can work with you on your enterprise provided that they complete and submit an I-765 form that also has an accompanying fee.
Of course, you should also submit any of the aforementioned documents of evidence along with your I-129. Any lack of the required proof items may lead to delaying the processing of your petition. It is usually advisable to submit more evidence than is required rather than not enough evidence.
E-2 Visa Processing Time
You should give about six months for your I-129 to be processed, though this timeline may change depending on how busy the service center that is processing your petition is. This part of the process can be expedited using the premium processing option, which allows you to shorten your I-129 processing time to just 15 calendar days for an additional fee. Keep in mind that premium processing does not increase your chances of getting an approval, it only shortens your E-2 business investor visa processing time.
If you are already in the U.S. under another nonimmigrant visa, then your status will automatically switch once your I-129 is approved. However, if you are not already in the country, you will need to go through consular processing. The time it takes to schedule an interview and the date that the interview will be set is entirely dependent on the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that you are dealing with.
E-2 Visa Cost
Fortunately, the E-2 business investor visa is relatively inexpensive, if you discount the actual investment. The only mandatory costs are the $460 filing fee for the I-129 and the fee for the online visa application if you are going through a U.S. consulate.
There are also some optional costs to take into consideration when filing for an E-2 visa:
- Any travel costs that are necessary
- The premium processing fee of $1,410
- Attorney fee. These fees vary widely from firm to firm. See our flat E-2 visa rates on our fees page.
Summary: E-2 Visa for Businesses
If you believe that your company ranks among the myriad of E-2 business enterprises that have been permitted to operate within the United States, then the first thing to do is to get in contact with an experienced immigration attorney that can help you gather the materials and forms that you need so that you can successfully navigate that sometimes tedious process of filing for a visa.
Your E-2 visa business ideas may be more suitable for a different visa category. At Immi-USA, our immigration lawyers have a great track record of success with obtaining E-2 visa for a wide range of businesses and startups. Please fill out our consultation form so that our attorneys can assess your situation to present you with the options that are in your best interests.