An E-2 visa is an investor visa that allows an entrepreneur to start a business, invest in a business or purchase a business in the United States. Once the E-2 visa requirements have been met, the investor can live and work in the United States and can remain in the U.S. as long as they continue to run the business and the business ultimately hires U.S. workers.
The full set of E-2 requirements can be accessed by clicking here.
The E-2 visa requirements are subject to interpretation and this often raises questions of how an immigration examiner will interpret a particular rule and in the age of the internet, there is a fair amount of incorrect information to be found. Time and time again, our firm receives similar questions where an applicant has heard about an E-2 “fact” from a friend, relative or another lawyer. Some of the key areas that are misunderstood stem from the following questions: Do I have to invest more than $100,000 for an E-2 visa? Do I need a Lease for an E-2 visa? How long is an E-2 Visa Issued for? Do I have to hire staff to get an E-2 Visa? Does one size fit all for an E-2 visa? In fact, though, there are many misconceptions or myths that clients often ask about and we have summarized the top 5 here.
E-2 Visa Myth 1: You have to invest over $100,000 to apply for an E-2 visa.
The regulations do not specify any specific investment amount that has to be invested in the U.S. and instead the amount is dependent on the type of business established, the consulate you apply at and the other factors in your case. You can find out more about how much of an investment is required by clicking here. Our law firm was founded on an E-2 visa where the investment was just over $50,000 and we have processed numerous other E-2 visas for investment amounts that were under $100,000. That being said, any investment under $100,000 is a low investment amount and certainly a very low investment amount of $50,000 will only work for certain applications at certain consulates. We are always surprised though at how many prospective clients call us and tell us that other lawyers will not look at their E-2 cases because of low investment amounts.
E-2 Visa Myth 2: A lease is not required for an E-2 visa or I can use a home office for an E-2 visa.
While the E-2 visa regulations do not specify that a lease is required, it is an expected part of an application. An E-2 visa lease does not have to be for a fixed term and does not have to be for a high dollar value but the signed lease shows the government that you are serious about starting an E-2 business. While there are rare instances where an applicant can get away without a lease we believe it is almost always an essential part of an E-2 visa application and we have not ever filed an E-2 visa application without one. Virtual offices should also be avoided for E-2 visas.
You can find out more about E-2 visa office space by clicking here.
E-2 Visa Myth 3: Hiring U.S. staff is not required for an E-2 visa.
The E-2 visa rules are clear that the business cannot be one that is used just to support the applicant and his/her family. As such, an E-2 visa applicant must ultimately hire U.S. workers. The U.S. workers do not have to be hired on day one or even the first year but a business should have a strong business plan to show that the business will ultimately hire U.S. workers. You should note that your family members do not count as U.S. workers even if they have work authorization in the U.S.
To find out more about the E-2 Visa requirement to hire U.S. workers click here.
E-2 Visa Myth 4: All E-2 visas are granted for 5 years.
The length of time that an E-2 visa is granted depends on the country you are from and the strength of your E-2 visa case. On the low end, for some countries the visa can be granted for 3 months (e.g. Iran, Egypt, Thailand) and the maximum amount of time the visa can be granted is 5 years (e.g. Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Pakistan). Even when the maximum visa issuance time is 5 years, the Consulate can issue the visa for less time. This happens when the Consulate wants the applicant to come back in a shorter time frame to show that the business is still viable and that they are on track to hire U.S. workers. Regardless of how long the visa is granted for, an applicant is granted 2 years in E-2 status every time they enter the country. (For example, if an applicant is granted a visa for 3 months, they are granted 2 years in E-2 status when they enter – find out more about the 2-year rule by clicking here).
To find out more about how long E-2 visas can be granted for click here.
E-2 Visa Myth 5: E-2 Visa applications are procedural exercises where one size fits all.
This is not correct. The success of failure of an E-2 visa application depends on the facts and circumstances of the case and all factors are taken in to account. As a threshold analysis, each of the E-2 visa requirements has to be addressed and at times a very strong part of the application (e.g. hiring U.S. workers) may help temper a weaker part of the application (e.g. investment amount). The key thing to take away here though is that an E-2 visa application should not be compiled to a minimum standard. Instead E-2 visa applications should be compiled to put forth the best application possible by tailoring the specific facts of your application to the E-2 requirements and providing as much documentation as possible to support the E-2 petition.
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