For many people, the process of immigrating to the United States can be a long and difficult one. There are a number of different visas that can be obtained in order to live and work in the U.S., and each has its own set of requirements. One such visa is the E-2 Investor Visa, which allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to run their own businesses. If you’re an immigrant who is interested in obtaining an E-2 Investor Visa, here are six tips that can help you through the process:
1. Determine if You Qualify
The first step in applying for an E-2 investor visa is to determine if you qualify. To qualify, you must be a national of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. You can check to see if your country is on the list of qualifying countries here.
2. Invest in a New or Existing U.S. Business
To qualify for an E-2 investor visa, you must be investing in a new or existing U.S. business. Your investment must be “substantial”, which the USCIS defines as being “sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise.” The amount of your investment will vary depending on the type and size of the business.
There is no law that determines the minimum required investment amount, generally it’s highly recommended that the petition invest at least $100,000 in the enterprise that is being developed to present a good case to an immigration official.
3. Create or Preserve Jobs for U.S. Workers
Your investment must also create or preserve jobs for U.S. workers. This means that, in addition to yourself, your investment must create or maintain at least two full-time jobs for qualified employees who are not related to you.
It’s generally recommended that you have five or employees within the first five years of operation to create a case the you as the petitioner are creating and preserving jobs for U.S. workers. Below is an example from a manual provide by the U.S. government
“A marginal enterprise is an enterprise that does not have the present or future capacity to generate enough income to provide more than a minimal living for the treaty investor and his or her family. An enterprise that does not have the capacity to generate such income but that has a present or future capacity to make a significant economic contribution is not a marginal enterprise. The projected future capacity should generally be realizable within five years from the date the alien commences normal business activity of the enterprise.”
4. Can You Be Involved in the Management of the Business?
As the owner of an E-2 visa business, you must be involved in its day-to-day management. This means that you cannot simply invest money and then leave the running of the business to others. You must take an active role in its operations.
While running your current business you may run into other opportunities that come to you. You may choose to invest in these new endeavors, although this may be very fruitful it is ill advised to actually work on day-to-day operations. You cannot work at the other company you choose to invest in. You can however receive dividends
If the new business is related to the E-2 business, the owner may provide services to the non-E-2 business as long as they are working in their capacity for the E-2 company. Usually, there should be some type of written service agreement in place, but this could also just be an oral agreement. Here are some additional precautious tips for an E-2 holder starting an endeavor;
- The E-2 holder should not receive salary, but instead money in the form of a dividend.
- The E-2 holder can be involved in the business but limit the involvement to strategy.
- The E-2 holder should not have any day-to-day activities associated with the company.
- The Business being invested in should have some employees so any operations can be properly attributed to someone else other than the E-2 holder.
- It is possible to get an E-2 visa for another company, in order to have less restrictive requirements.
5. Make Sure Your Investment is At Risk
Your investment must be at risk in order for you to qualify for an E-2 visa. This means that you cannot simply invest money in a safe, low-risk venture such as a bank account or government bond. Your investment must have some element of risk in order to qualify.
How Can You Safely Make Risky Investments?
Yes, this may seem counterintuitive but you can take many precautions. For example you can lower the limit the investment amount, say you invested $250,000 but decided the investment only need $100,000 at the very minimum. Another strategy is find a business that requires a lower start-up cost than the current venture you set out on.
Furthermore you could put funds into an escrow account. For example you want to become a franchisee and your money is tied to an escrow, that escrow account can have a contingency that relies on you receiving an E-2 visa, and if you don’t receive an E-2 visa those funds are sent back to you, lowering you risk.
6. Make Sure Your Chosen Business is Eligible for an E-2 Visa.
Not all business are not treated equal in the eyes of U.S. immigration. The E-2 visa regulations require that your E-2 business be an active for-profit business. This means that the E-2 company cannot be a non-profit business. Similarly, the E-2 company cannot be a passive business, such as an investment in real estate.
For instance you can not run a non-profit company because it does not bring value to the U.S. economy. Additionally real estate investments don’t count as a valid business for the E-2 visa. If you are invested in the U.S. real estate market or the 33 other navigational countries tied to the U.S. E-2 visas, you can however own a real estate business and there’s no limit on the amount.
Following these six tips can help you increase your chances of successfully obtaining an E-2 Investor Visa. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the process can be complex, and each case is unique. If you’re interested in applying for an E-2 Investor Visa, our team of experienced immigration attorneys can help guide you through the process and ensure that your application is as strong as possible. Click here to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys to see if you qualify for an E-2 visa strategy session.