Investment Visas (E-2)
The E2 Treaty Investor visa allows the investor to live and work in the US to direct and develop the business, and allows entry of Executive, Management and Essential skills employees. In larger businesses, management and executive level employees may be sent to the US instead of the owners of the business. Employees that are also nationals of the same E2 visa country as the investor may also qualify for an E2 visa.
If the business is 50/50 controlled by nationals of two different E2 eligible countries, then nationals of both countries may be able to gain entry under the E2 visa scheme. The E2 visa can continue to be extended indefinitely as long as the business continues in the US. Due to COVID-19 related delays around the World, processing times are likely to be much longer than normal. If applicants are already in the US and can apply for an E2 visa from within the US this is a much quicker option under premium processing.
Many businesses may also wish to consider the L1 visa option. One benefit of the L1 visa category for executives and managers is that obtaining a.n L1 visa first may make it easier to obtain a "Green Card" in future. There is also no investment requirement for the L1 visa. However, you need to show employment outside the US for at least one year in the last three years.
Unlike the H1B visa category, there is no quota for E2 visas. The investment necessary to qualify for E2 Treaty Investor status varies and there is no set minimum. For consultancy businesses, for example software businesses, this could be tens of thousands of dollars or less in some cases. However, for smaller investments to register the business as an E2 business can be more difficult.
E2 Visa Investment Requirements
When you apply for E2 registration of a business you need to be in the process of investing money. Unless an escrow arrangement is possible, you should show that you have made a substantial investment before applying. An escrow arrangement is possible in some circumstances.
For example, if you are buying an existing business money could be held in escrow to only be invested if you are granted an E2 visa. You should have realistic plans to establish and fund the business. Usually, the qualifying E2 visa business should eventually create employment for US citizens and residents of the US.
Nationals of many Countries can apply under the E2 visa scheme. Unfortunately, nationals of India and China cannot apply under the E2 visa scheme unless they wish to gain entry as a spouse of an E2 visa holder or can gain some other citizenship. Some Indians are applying under the fast Grenada citizenship program to become eligible to apply under the E2 Treaty Investor visa scheme. Even if you have to apply for another citizenship first under a Citizenship investment scheme, this is probably still a cheaper and faster alternative to the EB5 immigrant investor program that has greatly increased in cost since 21 November 2019 to a minimum investment of $900,000.
The investment used to qualify for an E2 visa must be in an active and operating business that requires people to work in the business. Therefore businesses that do not require any employees which could include passive investments in say property or stocks and bonds do not qualify. Usually at least part of the investment should have been made or money should be held in escrow before applying for E2 Treaty Investor Registration and E2 visa status. If you are buying an existing business it may be possible to apply for E2 registration based on a purchase agreement with the money being held in escrow, with the investment only going ahead if the visa is granted. The business needs to be registered as an E2 Treaty investor business before you can apply for an E2 visa.
It is important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney when applying for an investment visa. We can discuss your options and lay out a path for success.