By George Lake
The United States has long been a land of opportunity, attracting individuals from around the world with its promise of prosperity and success. For those seeking to invest in and manage a business in the U.S., the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa offers a unique and appealing avenue to realize their American dream. This article is of particular interest to entrepreneurs or investors from countries such as Australia, Ireland, New Zealand or the United Kingdom.
What is the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa?
The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to enter and work in the United States based on their substantial investment in a U.S. business. It is a visa category under the U.S. immigration system designed to promote international trade and commerce by encouraging foreign nationals to invest in and manage enterprises on American soil.
To be eligible for an E-2 visa, applicants must be citizens of a country that has a bilateral treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. The list of eligible countries can change over time, so it is essential to verify eligibility with the U.S. Department of State before proceeding with the application process. This list can be found on the Department of State’s website here: Treaty Countries (state.gov)
How to Get an E-2 Visa
Obtaining an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa involves several steps. Each Treaty Country’s Embassy has particular idiosyncrasies and timelines but broadly speaking the steps are as follows:
1. Investing in a U.S. Business: To qualify for an E-2 visa, you must make a substantial investment in a U.S. business. This investment can include buying an existing business, making a substantial investment in an existing business, buying a franchise or starting a business from scratch. The specific investment amount required varies depending on the nature of the business and other factors. Generally, the investment should be sufficient to ensure the success of the enterprise. Note – it is possible to use loans to pay for the investment so long as the loans are in the name of someone or a company with the same nationality as the primary investor.
2. Ownership and Control: As the applicant, you must demonstrate that you own and control at least 50% of the U.S. business. Should this not be the case then at least 50% of the ownership of the business should be in the hands of someone or a company which shares the same nationality as you. You should have the ability to direct and manage the enterprise on a day-to-day basis. Note – you only need the ability to direct and manage the enterprise, as a primary investor it is not required that you do so.
3. Applying for the Visa: Once you have made the necessary investment, you can apply for the E-2 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. The application process typically involves submitting various forms, supporting documents, and paying the required fees.
4. Interview: After submitting your application, you may be required to attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. During the interview, you will have the opportunity to explain your investment plans and intentions.
5. Visa Approval: If your application is approved, you will receive an E-2 visa stamp in your passport, allowing you to enter the United States. The visa is typically granted for a renewable period of up to five years.
6. Operating the Business: Once in the United States, It is expected that your business continues to grow and support jobs. Your visa status is contingent on the ongoing viability and success of the enterprise.
Benefits of the E-2 Visa
The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa offers numerous benefits to foreign investors and entrepreneurs:
- Flexibility: E-2 visa holders have the flexibility to invest in a wide range of businesses, including startups, existing companies, and franchises. This flexibility allows for diverse investment opportunities in various industries.
- Family Inclusion: E-2 visa holders can include their immediate family members (spouse and children under 21) as dependents on their visa application. Dependents are also granted permission to live and work in the United States for the duration of the visa.
- No Quota or Lottery: Unlike some other visa categories, the E-2 visa does not have a quota or lottery system. As long as applicants meet the eligibility criteria and invest substantially in a qualifying business, they have a good chance of obtaining the visa.
- Renewable: E-2 visas can be renewed indefinitely, provided that the business remains viable and the investment continues to meet the required criteria. This offers long-term opportunities for investors to establish and expand their enterprises in the U.S.
- Path to Permanent Residency: While the E-2 visa itself is a non-immigrant visa, it can serve as a stepping stone to permanent residency for investors who wish to pursue that option. By demonstrating a significant and sustained investment, E-2 visa holders may be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, such as an EB-5 investor visa.
- Education: E-2 visa holders and their dependents have access to educational opportunities in the United States. This includes enrolling in schools, colleges, and universities, making it an attractive option for families seeking quality education for their children.
- Access to the U.S. Market: Investing in the U.S. provides foreign investors with access to one of the largest and most dynamic markets in the world. This can lead to increased business opportunities and potential for growth.
- Stability: The United States offers political and economic stability, which can be particularly appealing to investors seeking a secure environment for their business operations.
Challenges and Considerations
While the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa offers numerous benefits, potential applicants should also consider some of the challenges and factors to keep in mind:
Treaty Country Requirement: To be eligible for an E-2 visa, you must come from a treaty country. If your home country is not on the list, you will need to explore other visa options.
Substantial Investment: The requirement for a “substantial” investment can vary, and it must be enough to ensure the success of the business. The exact amount can differ depending on factors like the industry and location of the business.
Business Viability: The success of your business is critical for maintaining your E-2 visa status. If your business fails, it could jeopardize your immigration status in the United States.
Non-Immigrant Status: The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, meaning it does not offer a direct path to permanent residency or citizenship. Investors seeking permanent residency may need to explore other immigration options. It may be possible to switch to a Green Card while in the United States. Speak with an experienced immigration attorney to develop a successful strategy.
The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa provides a unique and attractive avenue for foreign nationals seeking to invest in and manage businesses in the United States. With its flexibility, family inclusion, and potential for long-term growth, the E-2 visa has helped many entrepreneurs and investors achieve their American dreams. However, it is essential to carefully consider the eligibility requirements, investment criteria, and potential challenges before embarking on the E-2 visa journey. With the right planning and commitment, the E-2 visa can be a stepping stone to a prosperous future in the United States.