E2 Visa Case Study: How 2 of Our Clients Got Approved
In this article, we are going to share two stories with you about how two of our clients successfully obtained their E2 investor visa. Each client obtained their E2 visa in different ways, so it is helpful to look at both cases to understand two different paths that resulted in successful outcomes.
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E2 Investor Visa Primer
Before discussing the two case studies, let us do a quick overview of the E2 visa to explain how the E2 visa works.
The E2 visa is an investment-based, nonimmigrant visa. This visa allows somebody to invest in a U.S. business (by either starting a new business or purchasing an existing business), and based on that investment, the person can obtain the legal status to live in the U.S. and operate their business.
There are a lot of benefits to the E2 visa. For example, the E2 visa can be extended over and over again without limit, provided that the E2 requirements continue to be met. In addition, an E2 visa holders spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old can get their own E2 visas to come to the United States. Moreover, an E2 visa holder’s spouse can apply for work authorization to work in the United States, and the children can attend school in the United States.
The general requirements for an E2 are as follows. First, the investor has to invest a substantial amount of capital in the United States business. The E2 visa regulations do not exactly specify what specific dollar amount is required to qualify as a substantial investment, but we typically recommend at least $100,000 or more. That said, there are cases in which investments for less than $100,000 can also get approved, as we discuss in one of the case studies below.
Second, the E2 visa applicant must be from a country that has an E2 treaty with the U.S. There are many countries that have E2 treaties with the United States, including Pakistan, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, and the list goes on. However, there are some major countries that do not have an E2 treaty including India and China. So, you want to make sure that you are from a country that has an E2 treaty with the United States.
Third, when you invest the funds in the business, the investment must be put “at risk.” That means that the funds must be meaningfully committed in some way. The investment cannot simply be sitting in the business's operating account. The business that is getting the investment must be an active, for-profit business. It cannot be a passive business or a non-profit business.
Fourth, the money that you use to invest into the business must come from a lawful source. The funds cannot be obtained through some sort of illegal activity. Accordingly, it must be documented that the funds were derived from a lawful source, such as lawful employment earnings or proceeds from the sale of a property.
Fifth, the E2 investor must be coming to the United States to Direct and Develop the E2 business.
Sixth, the E2 investor must have the intent to depart the US once their E2 status ends.
With that overview of the E2 visa in mind, let us take a look at the two case studies.
Case Study 1: Starting a Business From Scratch, and Obtaining E2 Status
The first client we will discuss is a client from Pakistan. He was actually in the United States on a visitor visa. While he was in the United States visiting, he decided that he wanted to operate a business in the US. So, after doing some research, he came to learn about the E2 visa. That led him to begin thinking about the kind of business he could start in the U.S. He eventually decided that he wanted to start a cell phone repair business.
Our client was fortunate enough to have an uncle in the United States who was a lawful permanent resident. His uncle helped him a lot with this process, actually gifting him a substantial amount of the funds that he would then use to invest in his E2 business. Our client received the remaining funds he needed for his E2 investment from his mother, also in the form of a gift.
Now that our client knew what he wanted to do, and had the funds to do it, his next step (with the help of his uncle) was to legally create his business. He registered an LLC (limited liability company) in the United States. After registering the business entity, he obtained an EIN number from the IRS, which is a special number that is needed to open a bank account for the business. Then, he opened a business bank account and transferred his investment funds into that business operating account.
At that point, it was time for our client to get an E2 visa business plan that lays out exactly what type of business the client is planning on running. In other words, the plan needs to explain details like what he plans to do, where the business is located, what his marketing strategy is, what staffing requirements are going to be needed, how much capital is going to be needed to operate the business, where the funds are going to be spent towards his business, and projections for how the business is going to do in year one, year two, year three, and so on. Indeed, what is needed is a very detailed business plan.
Once the detailed business plan was created, our client began to spend his investment funds to build up the business as specified in the business plan. Specifically, he developed a website; he leased a storefront; he bought a cash register; he paid for marketing his business; he began to buy the different fixtures for the store; he bought the supplies, materials, and equipment he would need to successfully operate his business; and he got his business to the point that it was ready to operate. Throughout that process of spending the funds to get his business to the point where it was nearly operational, he spent close to $100,000.
Now that our client was ready to provide services to customers, it was time for us to prepare his case and file it with USCIS. An important point to remember is that our client was now in the United States as a visitor, and he did not want to leave the U.S. during the E2 visa application process. Indeed, with his business set up, he did not want to have to go back to Pakistan to do a visa interview, and he wanted to know if there were any other options that would allow him to complete the process while inside the United States.
We told him about something called a “change of status.” A “change of status” in immigration law is when you go from one nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant status while remaining in the United States. Our client decided that the change of status process was something that he wanted to do.
Note that immigration “status” is not a visa. Status and visa are two totally different things. A visa is an entry document that allows somebody to enter the United States pursuant to the terms of that visa. Status is different. Status tells you what you're authorized to do in the United States and how long you're authorized to be in the United States. If you leave the United States, then you can forfeit your status. So, it is important to keep that status vs. visa distinction in mind.
In order to prepare the client’s change of status, we compiled all the important documents of his case, including his business plan; his bank statements; evidence of the transfer of the funds from his personal accounts to the business operating accounts; evidence of the funds leaving the business operating account, including receipts for all the different purchases he made towards his business; pictures of the outside and inside of his store; and purchase orders for the inventory that he purchased. We also included evidence of how his mother and his uncle obtained the funds they used to gift to our client, to make sure there was proof that the funds came from a lawful source.
With all that documentation, we put together the entire case and submitted it to USCIS. We are pleased to report that, after some processing time, the case was approved! Our client got his E2 status approved for a period of two years. Again, he obtained his E2 status. If our client decided to pursue an E2 visa, then we would have to prepare a separate application that would have to be filed with the U.S. consulate.
Some Important Takeaways
This case study shows that our client invested close to $100,000 in his business. It was money that was actually spent toward his business, and not just sitting in his operating account. Also, this case is an example of someone creating a startup business. Our client did not purchase an existing business. Rather, with the help of his uncle, he went out and built a business from scratch. Finally, this client did a change of status, but he did not pursue a visa. This allowed the whole process to be completed while our client remained in the U.S
One last point on this case study is that our client did not select premium processing for his case. But it is worth mentioning that doing the change of status to E2 is eligible for premium processing, which means that for an additional fee to USCIS the change of status application can be processed within 15 days.
Case Study 2: Purchasing a Business, Investing Less Than $100,000, and Still Obtaining an E2 Visa
For this next case study, our client lived in Denmark. He knew that he wanted to pursue an E2 visa. After doing some research, he found a business in the United States. The business was a non-emergency medical transportation company. It provided a transportation service for elderly people and other types of individuals who needed to attend their various medical appointments.
The owners of the business wanted to sell 50% of the business. So, our client purchased 50% of the shares of the business for $55,000. The question became, however, would $55,000 be enough of an investment to qualify for an E2 visa?
In creating the E2 application on behalf of our client, we dealt with a consulate who wanted to make sure that the $55,000 was going to be used productively by the business. Accordingly, our client obtained a business plan that clearly explained that the $55,000 was going to go toward purchasing additional vehicles, and vehicle insurance, for the business. That, of course, would signify an expansion and growth, i.e., a productive use, for the business.
Once the investment funds were transferred to the businesses operating account, the E2 business then used those funds to purchase additional vehicles and insurance, as specified by the business plan.
Now that the funds were spent, it was time to prepare the E2 visa application to send to the consulate. To do this, we drafted a detailed cover letter explaining the details of the case. Additionally, we included several documents including the business plan, tax returns and financial statements of the business, pictures of the business office and vehicles, payroll records, purchase agreements for the additional cars and the additional insurance coverage, pink slips for the cars, and various other documents.
Regarding the source of investment funds, our client got his investment funds from selling a property that he owned in Denmark. To prove that the funds came from a lawful source, we provided the purchase and sale agreement of the property, bank statements showing receipt of the investment funds, and some other documents were used as well.
Some months after submitting the E2 visa application, our client was able to schedule a visa interview at the consulate. Our client attended his visa interview at the consulate and his E2 visa was later approved!
Some Important Takeaways
As you can see from this case example, you do not need to purchase a full 100% of a business to qualify for an E2 visa. Owning 50% of the E2 business can also qualify for an E2 visa. Also, in this example, our client got his E2 visa approved based on making an investment of $55,000. While we recommend investing at least $100,000 for an E2 visa, investments for less than that can potentially result in an approval.
Our case studies above show that there are multiple different ways in which someone can qualify for an E2 visa.
As a general disclaimer, this discussion of the two case studies above is only meant to be general information about obtaining E2 status or an E2 visa. This is not a guarantee about how your particular case will turn out.
My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States. If you have any questions, feel free to request a free consultation by clicking this link.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.