The E-2 Investor Visa allows an individual to enter and work in the United States based on an investment in a U.S. business. The E2 visa is valid for three months to five years (depending on the country of origin) and can be extended indefinitely. The investment must be "substantial", generally at least $100,000 in a startup, business or franchise. The E-2 visa is available only to citizens of certain countries.
There are a few key E-2 visa requirements for investors that will help you prepare your petition and ensure that you are a qualifying applicant. You can check the status after completing your petition.
The Investor Must Be a National of a Treaty Country
Treaty countries currently include:
Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Congo, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia.
It is important to note that you must be a legitimate citizen of one of the above countries in order to fulfill the E-2 visa requirements. It is not enough to maintain a legal permanent residency. Your current passport must be from one of these treaty countries. However, you do not have to be currently residing in a treaty country as long as your citizenship from a treaty country.
For example, if Mr. Cousteau is a citizen of France but has been living in China for the last eight years, he still fulfills the E-2 visa requirements and can apply.
Additional information regarding individual countries is available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
The Investment Must Be Substantial
It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise. The percentage of investment for a low-cost business enterprise must be higher than the percentage of investment in a high-cost enterprise. While some investments of less than $100,000 are approved, it’s safe to say that the investment capital and reserves should total no less than $100,000.
Some evidence you can use to prove that the investment is substantial is corresponding personal and/or business bank statements, an itemized list of goods and materials purchased for the start-up, and corresponding financial accounting documentation. It’s also wise to put together a business plan that illustrates your projected success.
The Investor Must Place the Funds at Risk
“At risk” means that the investor is to be irrevocably committed. If you’re able to walk away from the investment without losing anything, you likely do not qualify. The applicant must have already spent the money towards the startup, purchase of a U.S. business, or enterprise. Loans secured with the assets of the investment enterprise are not allowed. The investment must be at risk of being lost due to the business or enterprise being unsuccessful.
To be safe, you may put the investment amount in an escrow account and have it transferred if your E-2 visa application is granted.
If you are purchasing an existing business, you should know all there is to know about the business and its counterparts. Learn all the components of the business and come to an educated conclusion of how well they are doing presently and how successful the business is projected to be. An escrow account is even more important for those buying an existing business. In this case, you and the seller of the business will agree on the terms and conditions of the business purchase and how to later transfer the money after reaching a conclusion.
The Investment Must Be a Real Operating Enterprise
A real operating enterprise means that the enterprise must be offering a tangible good or service. Examples of these enterprises are restaurants, retail stores, medical offices, etc. Speculative or idle investment such as real estate investments, undeveloped land, or stocks held by an investor who has no intent to direct the enterprise does not qualify. Similarly, uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security are not considered an investment.
The Investment May Not Be Marginal
A marginal enterprise will not project enough return on investment to make a significant economic contribution. The enterprise must generate significantly more income than just to provide a living to the investor and family, or it must have a significant economic impact in the U.S.
The Investor Must Be Coming to the U.S. to Develop and Direct the Enterprise.
If the applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity. Ordinary skilled and unskilled workers do not qualify. The government will not grant you an E-2 visa if they don’t believe you play an important role in the enterprise.
You must show that you will develop and direct the investment enterprise by demonstrating ownership of at least 50 percent of the enterprise, or by possessing operational control through a managerial position or other corporate devices.