An E-2 visa is available to foreign nationals who wish to develop and direct the operations of a business in the United States. This visa is a great option for those who want to start a business. It allows you to legally work in the invested company and travel freely in and out of the United States. You may also be accompanied by your spouse and children under the age of 21.
There are two ways to apply for an E-2 visa: through a change of status while you are already in the U.S., or through a U.S. consulate overseas. The amount of time an E-2 visa can be granted for varies by country and depends on the agreement or reciprocity with the investor’s country. The maximum period for most countries is 5 years. However, upon entry on an E-2 visa, investors are allowed a maximum stay of two years. If granted a multiple entry visa, an investor can leave and should obtain an additional 2 years upon reentry if the visa is still valid. However, once the visa expires, if they decide to leave the U.S., they will have to apply at a consulate for a new visa to reenter.
If you’d like to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer about an E-2 visa, contact Ahmad & Associates today. We serve clients in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and around the world from our Northern Virginia headquarters.
How to Qualify for the E-2 Visa
To qualify for the E-2 visa, there are specific requirements as outlined below.
1. You Must Be a National of a Treaty Country
The E-2 Visa is only available to individuals from countries that have a treaty with the United States. A complete list of the countries on the list can be found on the U.S. State Department website.
2. You Must Have Invested or Be Actively in the Process of Investing
As the visa name indicates, an individual must be an investor or in the process of investing in a business in the United States. There are several key items that need to be shown in order to qualify as an investment:
Investor Has Legitimate Possession and Control of the Funds
The funds, or money, being invested into the business must be obtained in a lawful manner. That is, you as the investor must prove to the U.S. government that you either saved the money over a period of time, were given the money as a gift, or legitimately earned the money being invested. This can be shown in a variety of ways, including but not limited to disclosing your tax returns, bank statements, financial accounting, inheritance documents, and more. This can become problematic in certain countries if records are not readily available due to corruption issues.
Invested Funds are “At Risk” and Irrevocably Committed
The invested funds must be subject to risk of loss, meaning that you have something to lose and are truly invested in the business. This can include loans and credit card debt so long as the business assets are not used as collateral. If you’re able to walk away from the investment without losing anything, you do not qualify. You must show that you risk losing your investment should the business become unsuccessful.
You Must be Close to the Start of Business
Although you cannot do business until your visa is approved, you must show that the business is ready to begin. This is shown via a signed lease, a business bank account, a website, flyers, and purchases indicating the business is up and running. If you are obtaining an existing business, you should have access to all these documents.
3. Your Investment is Substantial and Cannot Be Marginal
The U.S. government does not have a predetermined amount that they consider substantial. You must show that the investment is sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the business. The percentage of investment for a low-cost business enterprise must be higher than the percentage of investment in a high-cost enterprise. Some evidence you can use to prove that the investment is substantial is corresponding personal or business bank statements, an itemized list of goods and materials purchased for the start-up, and corresponding financial accounting documentation.
Additionally, the business cannot be set up so that it provides a means of living just for yourself and your family. You can demonstrate that a business is not marginal by putting together a business plan that shows growth over a 5-year period, or by showing that you plan to hire employees in the future.
4. The Business is “Bona Fide”
A bona fide enterprise is defined as “a real, active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking which produces services or goods for profit.” Basically, is the business offering a good or service for profit? This can be shown through a variety of documents, including but not limited to tax returns, financial statements, payroll, business organizational chart, business licenses, bank statements, utility bills, contracts with vendors or customers, lease agreements, and more.
5. The Investor is in a Position to “Develop and Direct” the Business
You, as the investor, must be the one that is going to direct and run the business. Also, you must have the appropriate skill set that would make the business viable. You will need to show that you are in some sort of managerial or executive capacity, or you have had previous experience in a similar business or setting. This includes a showing that you own at least 50 percent of the enterprise, or possess operational control through a managerial position or other corporate devices.
Learn more by viewing our Frequently Asked Questions About E-2 Visas.
Speak with an Immigration Attorney About E-2 Visas
If you’re thinking of coming to the United States with an E-2 visa, contact Ahmad & Associates today to set up a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer. From offices in Northern Virginia, we represent clients in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and across the U.S. and the world. We offer consultations in Urdu, Arabic, French, Spanish, and Hindi, and can make interpreters available for many other languages.