E2 Visa Tips: How to Start Your Business Prior to E2 Visa Approval
The E2 investor visa is a powerful nonimmigrant option which allows one to live and operate their own business in the United States. However, an essential prerequisite of the visa requires that the business must either already be operational or on the verge of being operational. This evidentiary part of the visa is known as the ‘real and operating’ provision. This can be a daunting hurdle for many aspiring entrepreneurs. In this blog post, we will explore various strategies for fulfilling this requirement and getting your business ‘show ready’ for the E2 visa submission.
Operational Requirement of the E2 Investor Visa
The E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that is based on investment. A key part of the process involves making a substantial investment in a U.S. business, which in turn grants authorization to live in the United States and operate the enterprise. The crucial requirement is that the business must either be operational or on the brink of being operational. Starting a business from scratch and applying for the E2 visa at the initial stages may not be feasible. So, how can a prospective entrepreneur investor fulfill this requirement? Let’s explore three options.
Option 1: Setting up the Business Independently
Regardless of whether someone is inside or outside the United States, they are allowed to own a business in the U.S. without work authorization. Even if not physically present in the U.S., an interested applicant can register their company, open a U.S. business bank account (if the U.S. bank permits it from abroad), create a business plan, and make typical business preparations. These preliminary steps can be taken without engaging in unauthorized work. In fact, the B1 visitor for business visa sanctions such activities along with others, like negotiating contracts, and examining real estate, etc. Keep in mind that although opening a U.S. bank account from abroad is possible, it may come with steep international bank transfer fees and is why many investors elect to open a business account while in the U.S.
Option 2: Partnering with a U.S. Citizen or Green Card Holder
Another viable option to starting a business in the U.S. is to form a strategic partnership with a U.S. citizen, green card holder, or a work-authorized individual within the United States. By partnering with someone who can legally work in the U.S., they can handle the operational aspects of the business. During the E2 visa application process, the main E2 investor can play a passive role, allowing the U.S.-based partner to manage and operate the business actively. Once the E2 visa is approved, the main investor can and will be required to take an active role in the company’s operations. Keep in mind that in partnership scenarios, the E2 applicant investor should always own at least 50% of the business.
Option 3: Purchasing an Existing Business
Purchasing an existing business can be an attractive alternative to starting a new venture. Buying an established business overcomes many logistical hurdles and accelerates the operational phase. Instead of going through the step-by-step process of setting up a new business, acquiring an existing one through a single transaction can qualify an applicant for the E2 visa. Additionally, when purchasing an existing business, an escrow arrangement can be used to safeguard the investment. An escrow account can hold the funds until the visa is approved, ensuring that the applicant is not left with an inoperable business or loss of significant funds if faced with a visa denial.
Fulfilling the operational requirement for the E2 investor visa is crucial for anyone looking to live and operate a business in the United States. In this blog post, we explored three options to meet this requirement: setting up the business independently, partnering with someone who has work authorization in the U.S., or purchasing an existing business. Each option has its advantages and considerations. It’s important to consult with an immigration lawyer to determine the best approach based on your specific circumstances. Successfully navigating the requirements of the E2 visa and pursuing an entrepreneurial dream is possible with the right strategy!
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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.