Whether it is for a prospective job or for a U.S. visa, going through an interview can be a stressful situation. If you need to participate in an E-2 visa interview, it helps to be completely prepared long before you sit down with your consular officer. In this post we’ll answer these questions:
- Who needs to go through the interview?
- How should you prepare for the interview?
- What should you expect from your E-2 interview experience?
- Are there any sample questions?
E-2 Visa Background
If you are considering using the E-2 visa as your entry point into the U.S., then here are the basics. Understanding the requirements is crucial to preparing for your E-2 visa interview. This visa classification is designated for treaty investors who are willing to invest a significant amount into a U.S. enterprise and commit to developing it throughout their stay.
To qualify, you must be a national of a country that holds a treaty of trade and commerce with the U.S. If you aren’t sure whether or not your country is a treaty nation, you can search for it in on the Department of State website.
The second requirement has to do with your investment. The USCIS does not give an official minimum requirement for the investment, only saying that it must be substantial. As a rule of thumb, it’s generally understood that the smaller the enterprise, the larger the percentage of the cost of the company your investment must be. Confusing? Here is an illustration.
Matthew wants to invest in a small bakery worth $150,000. To qualify for the E-2 visa, he will likely need to commit upwards of 70% of the total cost. However, if he were to invest in a large restaurant chain worth $8 million, he would be able to invest a much smaller percentage to qualify.
Lastly, you must make sure that the enterprise is not going to be considered marginal by the USCIS. It must be bona fide, meaning that it must be real, operating, and able to support your basic living needs.
If you qualify, the process is relatively simple. You need to file an I-129 petition with the USCIS along with all of the evidence you need to support your investment and your enterprise. If your petition is approved, you may be asked to appear for a one-on-one interview with a consular officer.
Change of Status vs. Consular Processing
If you are currently already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant visa status (such as an H-1B, L-1, or O-1), then you may not be called in for an interview. In these cases, you can simply file a new I-129 for your E-2 visa and change your status.
However, if you are outside the U.S. are you are not under any nonimmigrant status, you will likely need to go to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to go through an E-2 visa interview.
The E-2 Visa Interview
The purpose of the interview is to verify that you meet all of the qualifications and that you are who you say you are. The important thing is to remain calm and remember that, if your case is legitimate, you have nothing to worry about. Here are some things to be aware of before attending your E-2 visa interview.
What to Bring
If you are called for an interview, then you will need to complete the DS-160 online application for nonimmigrant visas before attending. Here is a list of some of the things you might need at your interview:
- A passport of yours that will be valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
- Two passport-style photos according to the Department of State photo guidelines.
- A printed confirmation sheet for your DS-160
- The printed receipt of payment for the DS-160 fee
- The I-797 approval notice you received for your petition
- The Appointment Notification Notice for your E-2 visa interview
- Any evidence you have to support your eligibility for the E-2 visa. This may include bank statements, lease agreements, receipts, contracts, etc.
- You should also bring evidence that supports your strong ties to your home country such as a mortgage, deed, or vehicle title that would incentivize you to return home after your E-2 stint has been completed.
- Lastly, it is always a good idea to bring a business plan for your enterprise to demonstrate that it is not marginal and that you plan to create new jobs for U.S. workers. While a business plan is not technically required, few E-2 applicants are approved without one.
It is important to note that the above items constitute a general list. Depending on your situation, your attorney may advise you to bring additional documents to help support your case.
What to Expect
When you arrive at the U.S. consulate or embassy, you should be there at least 20 minutes early, even if you are not called for some time after the interview start time. This will help offset any time it takes to get through the security screening to get into the building.
Once you are inside, you will need to check in and wait for your name to be called. When that happens, you will meet an immigration officer who will take your fingerprints and check your passport. Then you will meet with your interviewing officer.
This step usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes as the officer reviews your documents and asks you questions about your investment, your enterprise, and your intentions and plans once in the U.S. Usually, the officer will immediately let you know whether or not your visa has been approved. In this case, then your passport will be held so that the visa can be printed and added to it. You will receive a notification once it is ready.
Here are some of the more common questions asked at your interview. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list and that the officer is not limited to these E-2 visa interview questions:
- Have you ever visited the U.S. before? If so, when?
- Do you have a home, vehicle, business, or family in your home country?
- What do you plan to do after your E-2 visa expires?
- What enterprise are you investing in for your E-2 visa?
- How do you plan to develop this enterprise?
- What are the financial projections of the enterprise?
- How much money has been invested up-front in the enterprise?
- What percentage of that money was spend on acquiring essential items for the enterprise?
- What will be your role in this enterprise as it grows?
The important thing to understand is that honesty is key. It is far better to say “I don’t know” than it is to lie or fabricate an answer. If you don’t pass the interview due to a lack of information, you can always apply again. However, if you were dishonest in your interview, then there may be complications if you attempt to apply again.
That being said, it is important to be well-versed in your business plan and your intentions before going in for your interview. Have a binder with all of your documents and evidence clearly labelled so that both you and the officer can easily find necessary information. You immigration attorney can help you organize your binder in a way that works best for your E-2 visa interview.