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Understanding E-2 Investor Visa’s and How to Obtain One for Yourself or a Loved One

Business TravelIn an effort to promote trade and economic growth between the United States and countries it shares treaties with, the Department of Homeland Security, through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), allows certain businesspeople from abroad to enter the country as investors through the E-2 Visa, also known as the Treaty Investor Visa. The E-2 visa essentially lets these individuals stay and work in the US for the business they invested in, or own outright.

Features and Benefits of the E-2 Visa

Features and factors to consider when applying for an E-2 visa include:

  • Treaty investors can qualify for an E-2 visa by either opening a new enterprise, or purchasing an existing enterprise.
  • Visas are valid for up to 5 years and can be subject to unlimited extensions.
  • The length of visa validity depends on the “reciprocity” agreement between the U.S. and the investor’s country of origin.
  • Visa length will also depend on the nature of the investor’s enterprise and employment. For example, new companies may lead to a shorter visa validity length.
  • Spouses of E-2 visa holders can also apply for work permits in the United States. Children, however, cannot.
  • Children (minors) of E-2 visa holders have the option of acquiring permanent resident status in the U.S.

The E-2 visa is popular with overseas investors due to the relatively simple application process, the possibility of seeking self-employment, and the attractive benefit of being able to seek as many extensions as visa holders want.

It’s for these reasons that many people refer to the E-2 visa, as well as the E-1 visa, as the next best thing to a green card. In addition, the USCIS doesn’t limit the number of E-2 visas issued to qualified applicants.

Countries That Are Recognized Under the Visa Program

E-2 visas are open to nationals from any country with which the United States maintains trade and navigation treaties.

See the full list of treaty countries below:

Albania Egypt Macedonia (FRY) Thailand
Argentina Estonia Mexico Togo
Armenia Ethiopia Moldova Trinidad & Tobago
Australia Finland Mongolia Tunisia
Austria France Montenegro Turkey
Azerbaijan Georgia Morocco Ukraine
Bahrain Germany Netherlands United Kingdom
Bangladesh Greece Norway Yugoslavia
Belgium Grenada Oman
Bolivia Honduras Pakistan
Bosnia and Herzegovina Iran Panama
Brunei Ireland Paraguay
Bulgaria Israel Philippines
Cameroon Italy Poland
Canada Jamaica Romania
Chile Japan Serbia
China (Taiwan) Jordan Senegal
Colombia Kazakhstan Singapore
Congo (Brazzaville) Korea (South) Slovak Republic
Congo (Kinshasa) Kosovo Slovenia
Costa Rica Kyrgyzstan Spain
Croatia Latvia Sri Lanka
Czech Republic Liberia Suriname
Denmark Lithuania Sweden
Ecuador Luxembourg Switzerland

* Certain conditions and restrictions may apply between certain countries and the U.S.

Requirements for the E-2 Visa Program

The E-2 visa program features the following requirements:

  1. Nationality and Role in the Enterprise
  • Only investors from countries with active treaties with the U.S. can apply for an E-2 visa.
  • Applicants must either own the business stated in their application, or share 50 percent ownership with other investors from the same country of their origin.
  • Applicants can work only for the company in the U.S. that sponsored their investor visa. Moreover, they must occupy a key position in the organization (e.g. as an executive, manager, or supervisor) they intend to work for.
  1. Substantiality
  • The applicant must make a substantial investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States. Although there isn’t a legal minimum amount, the investment needs to be sufficient to serve as capital for running the enterprise successfully.
  • The USCIS will use an ‘Inverted Sliding Scale’ to determine the viability of the investment against the total cost of buying and operating the enterprise.
  • The investment should be large enough to prove the investor’s commitment to the enterprise’s commercial success and account for its possible failure.
  • Notably, the percentage of investment for low-cost enterprises should be higher than the percentage of investment for high-cost enterprises.
  1. Nature of the Business
  • The applicant must invest in a U.S. company engaged in commercial activity that meets all state and federal requirements for doing business.
  • Applicants should invest in real operating enterprises that seek to make profits.
  • Idle or speculative investments are not considered under the E-2 visa program.
  • Likewise, funds parked in a bank account or security fund are not considered an investment.

Differences Between E-2 and EB-5

E-2 treaty investor visas, however, shouldn’t be confused with an EB-5 Investment Based Green Card, which lets immigrants apply for permanent resident status by investing in the U.S. economy.

The E-2 visa is temporary and lasts up to 5 years, during which time the visa holder can move freely in and out of the U.S. In addition, green cards through investment require a capital investment amount of at least $500,000, while E-2 visas have no required dollar minimum.

Contact Lyttle Law Firm to Schedule a Consultation

Call the offices of the Lyttle Law Firm today to learn more about the E-2 visa program. Contact us at (512) 215.5225 for a discussion on how we can help you with your immigration goals.