An E-2 visa is the perfect visa option for an entrepreneur that wants to start a business in the United States. You can find the full set of E-2 visa requirements by clicking here.
One of the E-2 requirements is that the U.S. Company must have office or other leased space (for example, a warehouse) in the U.S. to accommodate employees and/or inventory. This question often arises: Can an E-2 Investor use a home office for an E-2 visa? The short answer is no. Instead, the government is looking for a valid commercial lease that will accommodate the employees that are necessary to run the business. Similarly, if the business has inventory that needs to be stored, the government would not be impressed with a residential garage as the storage location, but instead would require a commercial lease with a factory or warehouse.
If you are leasing office space, the lease does not have to be a closed door office but the lease should be for fixed and dedicated work stations and often the government wants to see photos of the office space. Immigration officials can be quite particular with this requirement. In one case, we submitted black and white photos of the office space to the government and they asked for color photos. In another case, the government asked for identification of each of the people in the picture that we submitted and their roles in the company. We have also received requests from the government to provide the square-footage of the office space. The government has also at times questioned leases if they were called licenses. Generally speaking virtual offices are not acceptable and this is the case even if your business is such that an office may not be practical or needed.
A lease does not have to be a defined term and can be month to month but a longer commitment provides more proof to the government that you are serious and have more funds at risk. You can also prepay your lease to increase your investment amount.
You should keep in mind that commercial lease means that the lessor is a business and the property being rented is zoned for commercial use. As such, obtaining a lease from a friend for renting a portion of their home is usually not acceptable. One of the key elements that consular officers use to determine whether an E-2 applicant is serious is the lease so this requirement should be taken seriously.
One exception to this general rule is if the business you have is mobile. For example, if your business was a food truck or an oxygen bar where you went from location to location offering services a commercial lease may not be required.
Ian E. Scott is a Harvard Law School Graduate, lawyer and author of Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing Your First Job. You can access the blog for this book by clicking here. Mr. Scott worked as a corporate litigator in the law firm Cleary Gottlieb and currently runs his own law firm Scott Legal, P.C. specializing in Immigration Law & New Business set-up.
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Ian E. Scott, Esq. is the Founder of Scott Legal, P.C. He can be reached at 212-223-2964 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Can I Just have the Intention to Start a Business and get an E-2 Visa? What Does Real and Operating Mean for an E-2 Visa?
- The Three Types of E-2 Visas
- E-2 Visa Processing and the E-2 Visa Interview