An E-2 visa is a great option for entrepreneurs who want to start and run a business in the United States. You can read more about the specific E-2 requirements here. One common myth about the E-2 visa is that the company must have already hired employees prior to the E-2 investor getting the visa. It can be extremely helpful to the application if the investor has hired employees, however, there is no requirement that the company already have employees prior to the E-2 Investor getting the visa.
While the company does not need to have employees at the time the E-2 investor first applies, the E-2 application must demonstrate that the investment is not marginal, meaning the investor must show that the company has or will have the capacity to support more than just the investor and his or her family and make a significant economic contribution. This means that the investor needs to demonstrate that the company will generate enough income to hire employees over a 5-year period. For startup companies, this translates into providing a comprehensive business plan with a detailed personnel table and 5 years of financial projections that demonstrate the company will generate enough income to hire employees over the 5-year period.
More information about the requirements for an E-2 compliant business plan can be found here.
Do I have to Hire Employees prior to renewing the E-2 visa?
When you first apply for an E-2 visa, it is fine if your company does not have any employees. Many of our clients do not hire any employees in year 1 and for a small number even year 2 of operations. However, by the time you plan to renew your E-2 visa you should ideally have hired the number of employees you planned to hire in your business plan. For E-2 investors who have five-year E-2 visas it is very important that the company have employees by the time the investor submits an application to renew. If the investor is in the position of renewing the visa at the one or two-year mark, it makes the application much stronger to show that the company has hired employees, but as long as the company is on track based on its projections, the application could be approved without the company having employees.
How Many Employees do I Have to Hire?
There is no magic number, but after the first year generally the company should seek to hire the number of employees that makes sense for the business. For some businesses three full-time employees may be sufficient, while other companies will need significantly more employees to run the operation. Companies may also choose to have some independent contractors as staff, although full-time W-2 employees make for a much stronger application.
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