E-2 Visa FAQ – Can I Start a Consulting Business with Little Overhead

The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa used by foreign nationals from E-2 treaty countries to open a business in the United States. The flexibility of the visa makes it a reliable immigration strategy for any kind of business – from entrepreneurs, to restauranteurs, to franchisees, to multinational companies looking to set up shop in the U.S. While it is a flexible visa, the E-2 visa carries strict requirements -a petitioner must show they are committed to starting a business in the United States by making a substantial investment in its creation and showing plans for growth and development.

Can you use an E-2 visa to start a consulting business?

One of the most common questions we receive is whether an individual can open a consultancy on an E-2 visa. If your consultancy business requires office space and employees, the answer is, unequivocally – yes. If you are looking to start a consultancy because of the low overhead to get started, an E-2 visa petition will present formidable barriers. Successful E-2 visas can look very different from case to case, but they all meet the following requirements:

E-2 visas require proof of substantial investment.

While there is no hard and fast number, generally, an E-2 visa petitioner should invest at least $50,000 into starting their business in the United States.  This includes costs associated with starting the business – renting office space, building a website, hiring employees – and the working capital required to make sure the business can remain financially solvent – which must be accessible in a business bank account.

E-2 visas require detailed business plans.

E-2 visas are granted to foreign investors who want to contribute and grow the U.S. economy. As a consultant, you might have special knowledge or experience that is in demand and might have contacts who are ready to hire you on day one. That should be easy to discern in a well-developed business plan, that showcases how you plan to make money, grow your business, and ideally, hire U.S. workers.

The E-2 visa petition is one of the LAST steps of the process.

You might want to know you have been approved before you make the investment in starting a business in the United States – unfortunately, that is not how the process works. You should not start the E-2 petition process until you have made substantial strides toward opening your business. It might feel like you have a lot on the line, but showing a financial commitment to your business shows the person processing your petition that you are invested in your success, and serious about your petition.

Starting a business is a daunting task for any entrepreneur, made even more complicated by the limitations of U.S. immigration system. But federal immigration laws consistently carve paths for those who want to invest in the United States. I would be happy to help you find out if your business could qualify.