E2 Visa: The First Steps To Take
If you are considering investing in a US business and want to apply for an E2 Visa, the following is a basic guide on the first steps to take.
1. Establish the basis of your eligibility.
The first step to take in obtaining an E2 Visa is to determine your eligibility. The E2 Visa is available only to nationals of a treaty country. The eligible treaty countries are:
Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea (South), Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia (See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fees/treaty.html for the most up to date list of countries.)
2. Consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.
If you’ve established that you are a national of one of the countries listed above, the next step is to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. You should take this step at the beginning of looking into an E2 Visa because you do not want to find out after investing time, money, and energy into the process that you do not meet all of the other requirements. Below is a general guide of the other requirements for an E2 Visa that an immigration attorney can walk you through:
- Applicants should have experience and education to run a business
- Applicants must invest substantial capital in the US business
- Applicants must have at least 50% ownership in the US business
- Applicants must put their investment “at-risk”
3. Set up your business, start a franchise, or purchase an existing business.
After speaking with an attorney and establishing that you can meet the general requirements for the E2 Visa, the next step is to decide what you will invest in. There are generally three avenues to invest: purchasing an existing business, investing in a franchise, or setting up your own business.
If you choose to buy an existing business, it is important to look at and analyze the viability of the business. To meet the requirements for an E2 Visa, the business should have the ability to sustain profits, and have the potential to expand, among other indicators of a successful and growing business. Investing in a franchise is another option for the E2 Visa. Embassies tend to be favorable to these investments because franchises usually have a long history of financial information, and they have marketing and training materials that can be supplied with the application. The third option for an E2 investment is to start your own business. To do this, you must obtain a FEIN (Federal Employment Identification Number) from the IRS and choose a form of business, such as an LLC, and register it.
4. Open Business Bank Account in the United States.
Now that you have either started or bought the business you will be investing in, the next step is to open a business bank account in the United States. You can form a company and open a bank account before an E2 Visa is approved. These actions are considered setting up the business, they are not considered unauthorized work. However, you cannot work for the business until the E2 is approved and work authorization has been granted. You must have a business bank account for the next steps and to be eligible for the E2 Visa.
5. Transfer your investment funds into the Business Bank Account.
Once you have opened your US business bank account, you must transfer your investment funds into the account. The E2 Visa requires that you make a substantial investment in the US business. This is a subjective term, and substantial investment will differ depending on the type of business it is, among other factors that an immigration attorney can walk you through. However, it is generally a good idea to have at least $100,000 for the investment.
6. Spend the Investment Funds.
The next step is to spend the investment funds. To qualify for an E2 Visa, the investment funds must be put “at-risk.” Simply putting the investment funds into the business bank account is not considered putting the funds “at-risk.” The funds must be spent for the business, such as purchasing equipment and supplies, leasing an office space, paying for marketing expenses, and any other business expenses and needs. By spending the funds, they will be considered “at-risk.” If you are purchasing an existing business or investing in a franchise, the investment funds will be considered “at-risk” if they are put in a bank account with an escrow agreement that is contingent on approval of the E2 Visa. It’s important to note that an escrow agreement cannot be used if you are starting your own business.
7. Apply For The E2 Visa.
There are two avenues to apply for the E2 Visa once the business is set up and the investment funds are put “at-risk.” If an applicant is already in the United State on a valid nonimmigrant visa, they can change their status with USCIS to E2 status. Changing status is eligible for premium processing, which will process the change of status as quickly as 15 calendar days, and there is no interview. In the alternative, an applicant can apply for the E2 Visa via visa processing, which requires submitting the DS-160 with the Department of State and will require an interview at the consulate or embassy. After a successful interview, the E2 Visa will be issued, and you can enter the US and run the investment business.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
President of Ashoori Law
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.