While most work visas require “sponsorship” by U.S. businesses or institutions, the E Visa category allows foreign-born investors and entrepreneurs to live and work in the United States for as long as they conduct business in the U.S.
E-1 and E-2 visas are granted to citizens of E Visa Treaty Countries. The E-1 visa allows an investor – who must be a citizen of the treaty country – to conduct substantial trade between the U.S. and the treaty country. The E-2 visa is a far more common visa, and allows a foreign investor from a treaty country start or purchase a business in the United States, and to live and work in the U.S. as long as their business is in operation.
E-2 Visa Requirements
There are seven main requirements for getting an E-2 Principal Investor visa:
Treaty Country: The applicant must be a citizen of a country that has a relevant treaty with the United States.
Ownership: The applicant must own at least 50% of the US business.
Develop and Direct: The applicant must develop and direct the business.
Substantial Investment: The applicant must have made a substantial investment in the US business before E-2 visa application (and show evidence of that investment before applying for the visa). There’s no legal minimum, but the applicant must be putting his capital or assets at risk, and the amount must be substantial relative to the type of business. Usually for small businesses and start-ups the amount invested (spent on the E-2 business) by the principal investor should be around $100,000. You will need to provide:
- A detailed breakdown, or spreadsheet, of all funds invested into the U.S. venture;
- Evidence of your investment. For example: Signed, dated, valid lease for business premises, including evidence of payments; Evidence of equipment and/or inventory purchases; Evidence of intellectual property or other intangibles invested; and Evidence of any other funds spent to acquire and set up the business;
- If you are buying an existing business, you will have to provide a signed, dated, valid purchase agreement; and, if applicable, a binding escrow agreement, signed by both parties, that explicitly confirms how the funds will be distributed if the visa is issued, what happens when it not issued, and is signed and dated by all parties;
- If you are purchasing a franchise, you will have to provide a signed and dated franchise agreement, a copy of your franchise disclosure document and evidence of payment of the franchise fee.
- Evidence of how the funds invested into the U.S. venture were acquired in the form of documentation of the original source of the funds (sale of property, inheritance, loans, gift, earnings, sale of business, etc.) and evidence that he funds have been moved to the United States.
Real and Operating: The US company must be actively engaged in commercial, for profit activities and meet the applicable legal requirements for doing business in its state or region. FordMurray works with business attorneys to help provide seamless representation during the planning and licensure of your business.
Marginality: The US business must be more than just a marginal enterprise. The new business cannot be merely a means to support the investor. The underlying goal of the treaty investor visa is to create jobs for US workers.
Intent to Depart: The applicant must intend to leave the US when his or her business in the US is completed, although the person is not required to maintain a foreign residence abroad.
Can You Get a Green Card with an E Visa?
While the E Visa is a flexible visa for starting a business or purchasing an existing business, the E Visa does not provide a direct pathway for permanent resident status in the United States. However, an E visa can be renewed in perpetuity for as long as the business is real and operating.
Learn More about the E Visa
FordMurray Senior Counsel Aga Asbury specialized in E Visas and offers free consultations to qualifying candidates. We have a comprehensive selection of articles in the FordMurray blog, including:
- Treaty Countries for E Visas
- The 5 Best Businesses for E-2 Visa Investment
- What is a Substantial Investment for E-2 Visas?
- Applying for an E-Visa? A Legal Primer on Business Entities and Business Start-up in the U.S.
- 3 Red Flags to Avoid in Your Investor Visa Petition
- Can You Use an E-2 Visa to Open a Franchise in the U.S.?
- How to Hire Foreign Workers on an E Visa
- Opening a Business in the United States? Comparing the L Visa and E Visa Categories.
- What are the differences between the EB-5 and E-2 investor visa programs?
FordMurray has worked with entrepreneurs from all over the world open a business in the United States. Read about one of them here. Our flat-fee legal services for initial petitions start at $4,500. With flat-fee billing, you can plan ahead and have peace of mind that there will be no surprise or unexpected costs. We would love to help you realize your dream – contact us today.