Given the upfront investment required with no guarantee of securing permission to operate in the US, E2 visa applications carry significant risks for applicants.
What is an E2 visa?
The E2 visa permits individuals from 80 specified treaty countries to invest in or set up a business in the US.
The E2 visa requires that applicants intend to make significant investment, equating to at least 50% ownership, in a US business. The investment must also be sufficient to provide employment for a number of people in the US.
There is no specified minimum investment threshold set by the US Government. However, the investment must be “significantly proportional” to the total investment. Typically this would equate to half the total value of the enterprise or, if a new business, an amount normally considered necessary to establish the business.
There are many benefits to the E2 visa. As a holder, you are allowed to travel in and out of the US without restriction. You can bring your spouse and dependent children up to the age of 21, and your spouse may also work while in the US.
The E2 visa application process requires significant upfront investment in the business in question, as well as substantial supporting documentation.
Given the financial risk of an E2 visa application, and the complexity of the application process, it is important to seek legal advice early on the options open to you for your specific circumstances, to avoid delays and errors, and to ensure your case is effectively represented to the US Government.
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Our legal experts are highly experienced in all areas of US immigration, including E2 visa applications. We have helped individuals from the UK, mainland Europe and across the globe secure entry to the US through the E2 visa. For advice and guidance on your application, please get in touch.
Your questions answered
What evidence do I need to provide for the E2 visa application?
To be eligible for the E2 visa, you must provide supporting documentation to evidence where your investment funds have come from, that all assets are personal assets, and that the business venture is close to going live. This could mean showing you have a business website, business bank account set up, a signed lease for business premises.
Documentation is also likely to include tax returns, bank statements, investment accounts, wage reports or payroll summaries (i.e., W-2s and W-3), contracts or customer/vendor agreements, and any business-related expenditures.
In addition, you will have to sign a document to confirm you intend to depart the US when your visa expires.
How do I apply for E2 visa?
The following documents should be presented, when applying for an E-2 visa:
- Completed and signed Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Completed and signed Form DS-156E, Treaty or Trader Investor Application
- Documents that establishing the nationality of your company
- A letter from your employer detailing your position and stating that you possess highly specialized skills essential for the efficient operation of the firm
- Evidence of investment in the US
- Other documents relevant to the case such as marriage and birth certificates of you and your family members
- A passport valid for travel to the U.S and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay
- Colour passport style photograph (37 x 37mm) for each member listed in the visa application. The picture should be taken before a light background and without head covering
If you are outside the US, applications should be submitted at the US Consular in your home country. If you are in the US lawfully, you may submit the visa application to a USCIS Service Center in the US.
How long is the E2 visa application process?
Timescales differ in each case. Consulars each have their own processes and timings, and different times of year are busier than others (summer). You can be looking anywhere from two weeks to be invited to interview at the Consulate through to 3 months.
Are there any restrictions to the E2 visa?
Under the E2 visa, you are only permitted to work for yourself or for the visa-specific enterprise – ‘sponsor’.
The E2 visa is also time-limited, depending on the country you are applying from. You can however apply to extend your E2 visa. There are no limits to the number of extensions you make, provided you continue to meet the visa requirements.
How long can I stay in the US on an E2 visa?
Each country has a different maximum amount of time that an E2 visa can be issued for. For example, an E2 visa can be issued for 5 years for a UK national but only for a maximum of 3 months for a national from Bangladesh.
Requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to two years each. There is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E2 nonimmigrant may be granted. All E2 nonimmigrants, however, must maintain an intention to depart the US when their status expires or is terminated.
Can my spouse and children join me on my E2 visa?
Spouses and dependent children up to the age of 21 are able to apply to enter the US under the E2 visa.
E2 visa dependent children lose their E2 visa status when they turn 21 years of age. At that time they need to find another status.
Up to the age of 21, dependants are permitted to study in US schools, colleges and universities, and do not have to apply for separate student visa.
Are there any travel restrictions on E-2 investor visas?
There are no travel restrictions on an E2 visa. You may travel as many number of times as required before the expiry of your E2 status and there is no time limit on your stay abroad.
How much do I need to invest to be eligible for the E2 visa?
The US Government has not specified a minimum investment threshold level. However, your investment must be considered “substantial”.
There are a number of factors which will determine the level required, including the nature of the business and the Consulate you are filing at. For example, a service business may not require the same capital investment as a manufacturer.
By way of indication, typically, investment capital and reserves should total as a minimum $100,000 – $200,000.
You should also keep in mind that investment amount requirements vary drastically by Consular posts and some posts would not accept an application with an investment amount of $50K. Some raise the bar to as high as $200,000 for any E-2 visa application.
Note also the you must demonstrate that the business will be more than ‘marginal’. It must be viable as a means of more than just supporting you and your family.
This be evidenced by letters of intent from prospective clients, and a business plan showing growth projections and plans to hire employees.
What should I include in the investment amount?
You must ensure your investment amount covers all relevant business-related expenditure and investment and assets, for example:
- legal fees
- lease payments made
- working capital – usually up to around $100,000
Do I have to have US employees to be eligible?
You are not required to employee US nationals at the time of your E2 application. What you must show is your plan to hire in time, usually a minimum of 3-4. Your business plan should articulate your projections in meeting this requirement.
Can I operate my business from home?
When applying for an E2 visa, a commercial premises lease to accommodate yourself and future employees is an important document in evidencing both your commitment to and the viability of the enterprise. Particularly in cases where the investment fund is relatively low, virtual or home office can tip the balance put of your favour.
If your visa is rejected, we advise seeking feedback from the Consular on the rejection. We recommend resolving any issues identified before reapplying for an E2 visa.
Am I able to extend my E2 visa or change status while on E2?
You are permitted to apply for change of status while on E2 visa by completing the relevant forms and providing appropriate supporting documents.
What happens if my E2 visa is rejected?
The business must be ready to go as soon as the visa is approved. Which means there is a high degree of risk with the E2 visa as it does require investment to have been made and money spent upfront with no guarantee of the vis being approved or of permission being granted to trade in the US.
There are measures you can take to reduce the risk on you in the event of a refusal. If you are buying a business or signing a lease, you can include a provision that indicates that you are not obligated under the terms of the agreement if the E-2 visa is not approved.
Is E2 a route to settle in the US?
Once you are in the US on an E2, you are able to look at other opportunities, such as green cards and eventually citizenship, provided you meet the relevant criteria.