If you have invested or are in the process of investing in an enterprise in the United States, and you want to enter the country to develop and direct the enterprise, you may be eligible for an investor visa or visa for entrepreneurs, also known as a treaty investor visa or an E-2 visa. There are several eligibility requirements pertaining to the investor, the enterprise, and the investment itself. The eligibility and application requirements are detailed below.
To qualify for an E-2 visa, you must be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. Currently, this applies to about 80 countries; the current list can be found here: U.S. Department of State’s Treaty Countries. If the investment is coming from a partnership or corporate entity, the business and at least 50 percent of its owners must have the nationality of the treaty country.
Further, you must be planning to come to the United States solely to focus on developing or directing the investment enterprise. This fact can be established by showing that you will own at least 50 percent of the enterprise or that you will have operational control, such as if you will have a managerial role with the company.
If you are the employee of a treaty investor, you may qualify for an E-2 visa if you are of the same nationality as the principal employer, meet the definition of “employee,” and will have an executive, supervisory, or otherwise essential role with the enterprise.
The Investment and the Enterprise
The investment itself must be “substantial,” which is not clearly defined in terms of a minimum dollar amount. But it is defined in various other terms, including that it must create a significant economic impact in the United States or generate significantly more income than what would be needed to provide a living for you and your family. Your investment must also be substantial in relation to what it would cost to either purchase or establish the enterprise in question; the lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher, proportionately, the investment must be to be considered substantial. Further, the investment must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise, and the funds or other assets must be fully and irrevocably committed. As the investor, you must demonstrate that the assets you are investing were not obtained from criminal activity, whether directly or indirectly.
The beneficiary of the investment must be a real operating enterprise, whether an active commercial or entrepreneurial venture, that produces goods or services for profit and meets all requirements to operate legally in its jurisdiction.
Applying from Outside the U.S.
If you are outside the United States, you should apply for your E-2 visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. Apply online using Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, along with supporting documents, and pay the fee. If you are an executive, manager, or another essential employee of the treaty investor, you or your employer must also complete Form DS-156E, Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/ Investor Application.
Most applicants will be required to schedule an interview with the Consulate or Embassy. Wait times for appointments vary by location and, due to the global pandemic, many locations are currently offering appointments on an emergency basis only. If you must travel for an urgent business reason, you may be able to qualify for an expedited interview date.
Applying from Inside the U.S.
If you are already in the United States under a different nonimmigrant status, you may file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker to request a change of status to E-2 classification. If you are a treaty investor’s employee, Form I-129 must be completed on your behalf by your qualifying employer.
Period of Stay
An E-2 visa may be granted for a maximum initial stay of two years, after which you can apply for extensions in increments of up to two years each.
Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may also apply for E-2 status as your dependents. If approved, your family members will generally be granted a stay that is equal in duration to yours.
If you would like to speak to an investor visa lawyer, contact Bolour/Carl Immigration Group at 323-857-0034 or [email protected].