The E2 visa permits individuals, as well as their dependents, to live and work in the United States. The visa is granted by the USCIS based on the applicant’s substantial investment in a US business. This comprehensive guide provides everything you need to know about the E2 requirements and application process.
E2 Visa Requirements
- E2 visas are only available to citizens of countries with which the US has a treaty of commerce and navigation. Applicants must be citizens of these countries: being a permanent resident is not considered sufficient. A complete list of all the treaty countries can be found here.
- An applicant must be able to prove that he/she has invested (or is in the proven process of investing) a substantial amount in a bona fide US business.
- An applicant must be able to prove that he/she is entering the US for the sole purpose of developing and directing the business in which he/she invested.
As is often the case in law, criteria 2 and 3 above are somewhat open to interpretation. There are several ways to prove your compliance with these requirements – each of which is discussed in turn below.
Substantial Investment in a US Business
The USCIS requires that the investor’s capital must be “at risk” in a commercial sense. Essentially, it must be shown that the capital was invested with the goal of making profit, and that it can be lost (completely or partially) if the investment fails. In short, an applicant must be able to prove that he/she has skin in the game.
Whether or not a particular investment is considered substantial will always be somewhat dependent on context. However, there are a few general guidelines:
- An investment is substantial if it can be considered a significant portion of the total cost of purchasing/starting the business in question.
- An investment is substantial if it is large enough to prove the investor’s financial commitment to the success of the business.
- An investment can be considered substantial if it is enough to make it likely that the investor will be successful in his development of the business.
- In the case of a startup, an investment must be shown to be enough to start and operate the business (there must be sufficient runway, so to speak)
Although E2 visa applications have been approved and can be approved for investments of less than $100 000 if all criteria are met, a general guideline is that the e2 investment amount ought to be more than $100 000 to be considered substantial.
Finally, it must also be shown that the enterprise that is being invested in is, in the ordinary sense of the word, a business. This requires proof that the business is an entrepreneurial venture that produces goods or services with the express goal of making profit. The business must not be considered marginal – i.e. it must be proven that the company is making more than is needed to support the livelihood of the applicant and his/her family.
It is also possible to prove that, while the company is not currently generating more than this amount, it has a high likelihood of doing so in the future. This is, of course, somewhat more difficult to prove.
Purpose of Developing and Directing the Business
An applicant must show that he/she is entering and staying in the US for the sole purpose of ensuring the success of the enterprise in which he/she invested. This can be proven if the applicant has 50% or more ownership of the venture. Alternatively, an applicant must be able to prove that he/she is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business. This will have to be proven with reference to his/her managerial position within the company.
Documents Required for the E2 Visa Application
The following standard documents are needed for every E2 application:
- A DS-160 form. Each applicant has to present a separate DS-160, even if more than one applicants are in the same passport.
- A valid passport that will not expire for at least 6 months after the intended period of stay in the US.
- One standard passport photograph (it is always a good idea to take two).
- Proof of intent to return to country of origin.
- Proof of a source of income.
Of course, the bulk of the application will consist of proof of the investment’s scope and substance, and the nature of the US business. For this, each situation will determine what exactly is needed, but a good guideline will be to use following documents to prove that all requirements are met:
- Business Plan
- Tax Returns
- IRS Documentation
- Business Licenses
- Contracts/Service Agreements
- Bank Statements
- Organizational Charts and Job Descriptions
E2 Visa Processing Time
Normal processing time for an E-2 visa is 2-4 weeks. This can vary depending on the workload of the particular consulate.
It is possible to pay for the process to be expedited. The premium processing service guarantees that visa applications will be processed within 15 calendar days. To apply for premium processing, applicants have to complete an I-907 form and pay the premium processing fee (at the time of writing, this fee was $1 225).
There is no designated dependent visa for E2 visa holders, but an applicant’s spouse and children (younger than 21) can apply for derivative E2 visas. The only requirement that will also apply to them specifically and individually is that they need to be citizens of a treaty country.
Usually, the dependents’ E2 visas will be valid for the same period as the investor’s E2 visa. However, if a dependent is not the same nationality as the principal, their visa might be valid for a different period depending on the treaty with their country of citizenship.
Renewing an E2 Visa
E2 visas must be renewed every two years. It is advisable to renew an E2 visa before the applicant’s I-94 expires. In that case, the applicant will be able to work in the US for another 240 days pending the renewal decision. If the application for renewal is submitted after the expiration of an I-94, the visa holder is allowed only 40 days in the US pending the renewal decision.
Consult a Visa Lawyer
If you are considering applying for the E-2 investor visa, you should do so with the assistance of a qualified immigration attorney. LawTrades would be happy to help. Check out our legal plans for subscription-based legal services. For one fee you can gain access to unlimited legal consultations, a $0 service fee, and drastically reduced hourly rates. It’s more of an on-demand type of service that is ideal for individuals who may need ongoing legal help throughout the year.