E2 visa for entrepreneurs & investors to gain a foothold into the US market
The E-2 visa permits citizens of certain foreign countries to enter the United States to invest in and manage a business. This can be investment in a start up or in an existing operation.
The visa grants temporary permission for the holder to live in the US for the purpose of developing and directing the enterprise. E2 visa holders are however limited to working only for their company.
The E2 visa also allows holders to travel in and out of the US without restriction provided their visa remains valid and that entry into the US is on the basis of E-2 related activity.
The E2 visa offers a is attractive compared to other investment routes such as the EB-5 immigrant program as
Petition processing is typically quicker for the temporary E2 visa than the alternative investment route, the permanent EB-5 program – generally a matter of months rather than years.
E2 visa eligibility requirements
To be eligible for an E-2 visa, you will need to show:
- You are a national of a country with which the US has a Treaty of Commerce & Navigation. Currently this extends to over 70 countries, including the UK.
- You have controlling interest in the company (more than 50%).
- You have made a ‘substantial’ investment.
- The business will be more than ‘marginal’, and able to support more than you and your family.
- The business will generate jobs for US-resident workers.
- You have a title that indicates ownership or executive-level employment status in the company.
- The company must have legal standing in its state of operation.
- You have intention to leave the US once you cease working at the E2 company or by the expiry of the visa period.
How much is the E2 visa investment amount?
To be eligible to apply, E2 applicants must have already made a “substantial”, upfront and at-risk financial investment into the company. There is however no fixed minimum threshold or investment amount specified under the rules.
The level of investment will be assessed in line with the investment needs and costs of the business in question. Multiple factors will be taken into consideration by the adjudicator when determining a suitable amount. For example, the cost of making the new business operational, the nature of the business (eg a manufacturing company would be expected to require more capital investment than say a consultancy-based business), the stage it is at in its lifecycle, among other considerations. Taking advice will help ensure you understand what the adjudicator will be looking for.
What is the E2 visa application process?
The first stage in the E2 visa application process is to apply for company registration as an E2 treaty investor business. This requires evidencing the foreign company’s eligibility. The petition is to be filed at a US consular post abroad. Note that filing requirements vary from post to post, and processing times can fluctuate based on consular workload. As such, take advice on the approach stipulated by the specific post you intend to file at.
For the individual E2 application, you will be required to complete the DS-160 form online and provide supporting documentation. This will also need to include submission of a formal business plan.
The business plan will play a critical role in your application and should be used to convey to the adjudicator details such as how the E-2 investment is going to be utilized, market research, financial projections and job creation plans.
4- 6 weeks after submitting your application and business plan to the US Embassy, you should expect to be invited to attend an interview at the consular post where your filed the petition.
The interview will be the adjudicator’s opportunity to question you on all aspects of your application and the information you have provided. Preparation will be essential – familiarise yourself with all of your material and in particular the business plan.
How long does an E2 visa last?
An E2 visa can be granted for up to five years. The specific duration will depend of the applicant’s nationality and the discretion of the adjudicator.
For the initial visa period, E2 visa holders are permitted to stay in the US for up to 2 years, at which point they have to leave the US. Provided their visa duration was longer than 2 years, they can re-enter the US to resume their business activity for the duration of the visa validity.
Is it possible to extend the E2 visa?
Yes, you can apply to extend your E2 visa USA, provided you can show you continue to run the E2 company and satisfy the requirements of the visa. There is no limit to the number of extensions you can apply for.
It will be important however that you apply to renew in good time ahead of your current visa’s expiry. Remaining in the US past your visa validity is likely to impact any future US immigration applications.
Can I bring employees to the US?
It is possible, but restrictions apply for E2 employees.
The E2 employee has to have the same nationality as the investor and they have to be employed for a supervisory or executive role within the E2 company, or hold special qualifications that make the employee essential to the operation. This is a high threshold, and the petition will need to evidence that the requirements are satisfied.
Can my family join me in the USA?
Spouses and dependants of E2 visa holders can apply to come to the USA. E2 spouses are also able to apply for work authorization permitting them to carry out any type of work while in the US, not just for the E2 company.
Do you need advice on the E2 Visa USA?
E2 visas demand substantial supporting documentation to evidence eligibility. With upfront investment a mandatory requirement, the stakes are high to ensure you build a compelling and comprehensive petition. Contact us for guidance on your application.