The U.S. government has reserved visa classifications for countries with which it maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. Among other things, the citizens of these countries are given the privilege of setting up investment as E-2 Treaty Investors or work as E-2 Treaty Employees in the U.S. It comes with many benefits for the investors, their employees, and their family members.
E-2 Visa Background
The E-2 treaty investor visa belongs to the classification of nonimmigrant visas meant for nationals of countries that have a treaty with the U.S. It is purposely set up to allow citizens of these countries who are interested in setting up enterprises in the U.S. to invest funds in the country. An E-2 visa beneficiary enjoys many benefits which include getting into the country on an employment-based visa.
The opportunity to extend your stay an indefinite number of times after the first two years is one of these benefits. Another advantage of this nonimmigrant visa is that the opportunities are also extended to the employees of the investors.
How Can I File E-2 Visa Application?
The E-2 visa application can be filed from inside and outside the country. For instance, if you already residing in the U.S. under a different visa status, you may file for the E-2 visa by changing your current resident status to E-2 status. To achieve this, you will need to file an I-129 petition to request a change of status. As an E-2 employee who is also already in the United States, your qualifying employer can file the I-129 to request change of status on your behalf.
Intended investors and employees can also apply for the E-2 visa from outside the country. However, if you are filing either as an investor or employee from outside the United States, the form application and completion instructions may vary for different countries. You must follow the guidelines as provided on the website of the embassy or consulate that you are using.
Am I Qualified for an E-2 Treaty Visa as An Investor?
To be qualified to apply for an E-2 visa, the following are some of the requirements you must meet:
- You must be a citizen of one of the countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.
- You must have invested, or actively about to invest, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the U.S.
- You are seeking to come to the U.S. solely to build and direct the investment enterprise. You have to prove this by showing at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or by proving the possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.
Am I Qualified for an E-2 Treaty Visa as An Employee?
To qualify as an E-2 treaty employee:
- You must meet definitions of “employee” under relevant law
- Your role in the enterprise must be of an executive or supervisory position. If you are to occupy a lesser position, you must have special qualifications.
What E-2 Visa Documents Should I Submit?
As discussed above, the application process and supporting evidence may be determined by your nationality and the consulate you are filing from. However, at the interview, be prepared to present documents showing your personal and business profiles. This includes your existing and/or newly proposed investments. You must also prepare the evidence supporting your investment proofs as an investor in the I-194 form you filed.
For your investment, the evidence to present includes the source of funds and assets you are willing to or have invested in the enterprise. Among other things, you must show that you did not directly or indirectly obtain the fund through criminal activity. You must also file sufficient evidence to back your claims. Otherwise, your application may be denied or subject to further review.
Your evidence filed must explain the detail of the origin of the funds in relation to the investment enterprise. The following are some of the items to present:
- Bank documents showing the origin of all the funds used in payments for investments and the legitimate paths of the funds (including copies of all wire transfers from overseas, front and back copies of canceled checks, and copies of bank statements).
- Documents showing your foreign business registration licenses and records
- Documents showing your foreign tax returns including property, franchise, income, or any other tax returns.
- Documents proving your domestic and/or foreign bank records. This includes evidence of all funds transferred, bank statements, letters of credit, and/or any other evidence of foreign or domestic assets and accumulated income you held via the claimed sources of income you used in your investment.
- Documents showing your pay records, personnel records, and/or retirement records, etc. that prove the claimed sources of the income you used in your investment.
- Documents showing your ownership of the property and any income you have derived from the property that are the claim sources of your income used in your investment
- Documents showing mortgages or loan agreements, promissory notes, security agreements, and/or evidence of borrowing which is your unsecured personal business capital or capital secured by your own assets different from those of the investment enterprise and for which you are primarily and personally liable.
E-2 Visa Documents Newly Established Business
If you have already invested or are actively in the process of investing in a new enterprise, you must present documents showing all the bank transactions to prove that truly your funds have been invested or being invested in the treaty enterprise. This must include canceled money orders, or personal business, or cashier’s check and all other documents with which you transacted for the purpose of the treaty investment. Others are:
- Documents showing a well-detailed and itemized list of materials and goods purchased to set up the treaty enterprise, also corresponding forms of all payments you made in buying those materials and goods.
- Financial accounting of the treaty enterprise showing its purchase transaction. It must, in detail, describe each transaction made and identify your at-risk funds, including all corresponding forms of payments made for those transactions as certified by the bank.
- Equity of purchase of the treaty enterprise agreement or similar agreement for the purchase and sale of equity between you and the enterprise.
- Documents showing the details of the enterprise premises. This must include the monthly rental fee, and total footage of the premises, all office, production, manufacturing, and/or warehouses spaces. All payment made for all these must be presented, signed with the date.
Documents for a Purchased E-2 Treaty Business
If you bought or are actively in the process of buying an already existing business, the following items may be required as parts of the supporting evidence:
- Documents showing the executed agreements that specifically explain the details of the purchase of the enterprise.
- Evidence of valuation, e.g. an appraisal or validation analysis of the business assets, which gives details of the value of the assets purchased.
- Business and financial records of the pre-existing business. This includes the latest financial statement which shows the Balance sheet and Statements of Income and expenses; the most recent federal income tax return; the Quarterly Wage Reports for all employees.
What is the E-2 Visa Processing Time?
The I-129 processing time, which you will first file for change of status to E-2 visa, usually takes up to six months to complete from the day you file the application. However, to speed up things for applicants who don’t want to wait for that long, USCIS has provided an alternative processing time called premium processing. Premium processing will give you the opportunity of having your I-129 petition processed within 15 calendar days. This means within 15 days, you will know if your petition has been approved, denied, or you will be asked for further evidence.
After processing your petition, the USCIS will send you a receipt notice to confirm that your I-129 has been received, then a written notice of decision will be sent to you. If your petition has been approved, it is then you can now apply for E-2 visa.
What is the E-2 Visa Filing Fee?
Just like most visa applications with the USCIS, the E-2 visa filing comes with a cost. You will pay $460 for I-129 and $85 for a biometric fee if applicable. However, if you are filing from outside the U.S., you will have to pay an additional $160 filing fee for your DS-160 visa application. If you want to go premium to ensure a fast process, the premium processing fee is $1,225.
What is the Validity Period of the E-2 Visa?
Investors and employees granted E-2 visa are given the initial stay of two years after which they may decide to request for an extension of stay by renewing their E-2 investor or employee visa for as many times as they want. The number of times for the renewal has no limit as you can always extend your stay after every two years. However, upon expiration or termination of your E-2 status, you must be prepared to leave the United States if you don’t take action to extend it.
If you travel abroad while still on E-2 nonimmigrant status, you may be granted an automatic two-year period of readmission whenever you are ready to return to the U.S. This means you will not have to start another process of filing a new I-129 again. Your E-2 dependents and employees will also get that same extension.