One of the main purposes of the immigration system is to allow foreign nationals into the U.S. who will make a positive impact on the United States economy, society, and job market. Because of that, it should not be surprising that special preference is given to investors and entrepreneurs who wish to develop an enterprise in the U.S. Read on to learn what the E-2 visa fees are and how much you need to invest to qualify.
E-2 Visa Fees and Application Cost
Here are the basic fees that you can expect to encounter when pursuing an E-2 visa:
- The basic filing fee for all I-129 petitions is $460. This fee must be paid each time that the petition is filed including for extensions and amendments.
- If you are outside the U.S. and need to use consular processing, then you will need to pay a $205 filing fee for your DS-160 visa application cost.
- There is an $85 biometric services fee.
- If your spouse or dependents are going to accompany you, an I-129 petition will need to be filed for each visa issued along with the required filing fee.
- Some additional costs may include traveling costs to the embassy and the U.S. as well as the premium processing fee.
To recap, if you are in the U.S., then your total application cost will be $460 for each E-2 visa you need. If you are outside the U.S., then each visa will have a total application cost of $750.
What About Premium Processing?
Because the usual six-month processing time for the I-129 petition can be difficult to plan for, the USCIS has created the premium processing service. This allows you to have your petition processed within 15 calendar days for an extra E-2 visa fee of $1,440.
However, this feature does not alter your chances of getting approved. It only speeds up the processing time for your petition. It is also important to note that even though premium processing has been suspended for H-1B visas, it is still available for anyone petitioning for an E-2 visa.
How Much Do I Need to Invest?
While your investment amount is not necessarily considered an E-2 visa fee, it is a cost that must be considered when preparing to petition for this visa.
Officially, there is no minimum or maximum amount of funds that must be invested in order to qualify. The USCIS does not quantify this requirement because the investment amount depends heavily on the size of the proposed enterprise.
The stipulation placed on the investment is that the enterprise cannot be considered “marginal”. The USCIS defines a marginal enterprise as “one that does not have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the treaty investor and his or her family.”
In contrast, your investment must be considered “substantial” in order to qualify. This means that:
- The amount of money invested is a large portion of the total purchase cost of a pre-existing enterprise or the cost of developing a new one.
- The amount should make it clear to the USCIS that your financial commitment is enough to promote the success of the enterprise.
- The amount should make it clear that your enterprise is likely to succeed due to your involvement and investment.
A general rule of thumb is to make sure that your investment exceeds $100,000. If the enterprise is larger than your investment will need to be adjusted appropriately. If the enterprise is very small, then a smaller amount may be allowable. However, because there are no concrete numbers given by the USCIS, it is important to sit down with your immigration attorney to decide if your investment amount is sufficient.
How Much Does It Cost to Extend My E-2 Visa?
In order to apply for an extension of your visa, there are a few E-2 visa fees involved with the necessary forms:
- I-129 basic filing fee: $460
- I-539 Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status fee: $370
It is important to remember that these forms and their E-2 visa fees must be submitted for your spouse, and each dependent that needs an extension on his or her visa.
How Should I Pay These E-2 Visa Fees?
The USCIS requires that you make your fee payments in the form of either a cashier’s check or money order. On the whole, many experienced attorneys will advise you to make each payment out separately rather than combining them into one large E-2 visa fee payment.
This is helpful to avoid confusion or miscalculation, which could lead to a costly delay in your E-2 processing. To be sure that you are submitting your payments correctly, work alongside your immigration attorney.
Can I Get a Refund?
Anyone with a significant amount of experience with the USCIS knows that refunds are not a common occurrence. If your petition is rejected, denied, or lost, you should not expect to receive a refund for your E-2 visa fees.
However, there are three situations in which the USCIS will issue you a refund:
- If they asked for a form and fee that was not necessary for your visa process.
- If they asked for a fee that was greater than the listed amount.
- If they were unable to process your petition within 15 calendar days if you opted for premium processing. Note: the USCIS will not refund the basic filing fee, only the premium processing fee.
What are the Lawyer Fees?
Each immigration attorney will have his or her own fees which may vary widely. At VisaNation, we offer a flat lawyer fee for our services. To see our fees, you can visit our fees page on our website.
E-2 Visa Background
The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa designed for foreign nationals who wish to invest significant capital into an enterprise in the U.S. These foreign nationals must be citizens of countries that hold a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, or Navigation with the United States.
To qualify for an E-2 visa, the following requirements must be met:
- The investor—either a person, corporate entity, or partnership—must have citizenship in one of these treaty countries.
- If it is a business, at least 50% of it must be owned by persons with the treaty country’s nationality.
- The investment, which can be in funds or assets, must be “substantial,” committed, and irrevocable.
- The investment must be sufficient enough to guarantee the successful running of the operation.
- The investment must generate significantly more income than just to meet your personal and family needs or it must have a significant impact in the United States economy.
- The investment must be a real operating enterprise, an entrepreneur undertaking, or active commercial enterprise.
- You (the investor) must have control of the funds and you must put the investment at risk in the commercial sense.
- Your purpose in coming to the United States must be to develop and direct the enterprise.
- If you are not the principal investor, you will be considered an essential employee, employed in an executive, supervisory, or highly specialized skill capacity. An ordinary skilled or unskilled worker does not qualify for an E-2 visa.
In order to break down the E-2 visa fees, we must first break down the individual forms and steps required to obtain this advantageous visa class.
How to Apply for an E-2 Visa
The E-2 visa application process will depend on whether you are applying in the United States or outside the United States. If you are in the U.S., your application will be processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you are outside the U.S., your visa application will be processed at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence.
E-2 Visa Process in the United States
Here are the steps if you are already currently in the U.S. under a different visa:
- You must first file an I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the USCIS. This may take up to six months to process if you do not opt for the premium processing service. You must file this petition before your previous visa expires. Otherwise, you will be considered “out of status, which can have serious consequences.
- If your petition is approved, then your status will automatically switch to E-2 visa status.
E-2 Visa Process Outside the United States
Here are the steps if you are currently outside the U.S.
- You will also need to file an I-129 petition and wait for approval.
- If the petition is approved, you will then be issued an appointment date for an interview with an immigration officer.
- On that date, you will need to travel to the designated U.S. consulate or embassy in your home treaty country in order to have your biometrics taken and go through your interview. You must bring your completed DS-160 online visa application with you along with the E-2 visa fees involved.
- If the interview goes well and your background check is cleared, then you will be issued your E-2 visa in a few weeks.
Once your visa is issued, it will be valid for an initial period of five years. At the end of that period, you will have the opportunity to extend your visa indefinitely in one-year increments provided that your involvement in your enterprise is still required.
One of the main advantages of the E-2 visa is that you do not need an employer or program to sponsor you and petition on your behalf. As an entrepreneur investor, you can self-petition, cutting down on the processing time. However, this means that all processing fees are your responsibility instead of your employer’s.
If you are the employee of a treaty investor, then you also qualify for an E-2 visa. However, you must have your investor employee file a petition on your behalf.
It is important to note that you must be a citizen of one of these treaty countries in order to qualify. You do not need to be currently living there, but you do need to maintain valid citizenship in one of those countries.
When Should the E-2 Visa Investment Be Made?
You can only be considered to have made your E-2 visa investment after you have put the “money at risk.” This means the investment amount has been irrevocably committed to the business enterprise. Without that, your E-2 treaty investor registration may not be granted. Keep in mind that uncommitted funds put in a bank account or similar financial security will not count as an investment. Also, idle or speculative investments or a paper organization does not qualify as an E-2 investment.
However, if you aren’t comfortable parting with your funds before the approval of your E-2 registration, you can play it safe by putting the investment funds into an escrow account. In fact, the escrow account arrangement could be your best bet if you are purchasing an existing enterprise. It is an ideal way of buying a franchise, purchasing expensive capital equipment, and leasing a commercial space for your E-2 enterprise. You would only need to work out an agreement on how the funds would be transferred to the seller after the approval of your E-2 registration.
How to Sponsor an E-2 Visa Employee
Once the principal investor has successfully registered as an E-2 treaty investor, they can file an E-2 visa application on behalf of their qualifying employees. An employee may qualify for an E-2 visa under one of these two categories:
E-2 Specialist or Essential Skilled Workers
For an employee to qualify for this category, they must be highly skilled level people. It must be demonstrated in the petition that the employee:
- The employee has specialized knowledge of the enterprise which may not be easily found in the United States
- It is necessary to bring the employee to the United States for the efficient operation of the enterprise.
E-2 Managers, Executives and Supervisors
Under this category, the employee must meet any of the above three descriptions. E-2 managers and executives should be those in top positions and manage an entire structure of the business or a critical part of the business. If it is a larger business, the principal investor may not even spend much time in the United States.
In such instances, the E-2 employee who will oversee the business operation must demonstrate the managerial or executive skills required for the smooth running of the enterprise. Relevant supporting documents such as resume, job description, and supporting letter must also reflect the employee’s ability and experience in such roles.
E-2 Visa Frequently Asked Questions
Can I bring my family members?
Treaty investors and employees may be accompanied or followed by their immediate family members. The qualifying family members are spouses and children who are under 21 years of age. The family members must have the same nationalities as the investor or employee. They will have to seek an E-2 visa as dependents, and if approved, they will be granted the same period of stay as the investor or employee.
They can apply by jointly filing a single I-539 form. Spouses of E-2 workers may also work in the United States by filing an I-765 form to request an employment authorization document. If approved, they will be able to work anywhere and for any employer in the United States.
What is the processing time for an E-2 visa?
The processing times will depend on where you are applying for your E-2 visa. In some embassies or consulates, the whole application process may be completed in a few weeks. In some others, it could take some months. If you are in the United States, you will have the advantage of using premium processing which will reduce the processing time to 15 calendar days. Another factor is whether you are setting up a new enterprise or buying an existing one. If you are buying a business that is already registered as an E-2 enterprise, the registration process should be easier and quicker.
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
At the end of the day, there is no immigration situation that you should try to tackle alone. While retaining an immigration attorney may seem like just another E-2 visa fee on top of an already-expensive visa, having an expert by your side can help you protect your investment and increase your chances of approval, potentially saving you a significant amount of money.
VisaNation Law Group’s highly-experienced attorneys have an extensive track record of helping investors and entrepreneurs obtain E-2 visas and even the EB-5 green card for investors. If you have any questions about the E-2 visa fees or anything else about this lucrative immigration path, feel free to contact VisaNation Law Group lawyers by filling out this form and scheduling your consultation.