Here are the top E-2 visa questions and answers:
1. Does an E-2 visa lead to a green card?
No. An E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa and does NOT lead to a green card. While it does not lead to a green card, it is often approved for a 5-year period and, as long as the business is still in operation, you can renew the visa indefinitely. If you qualify for another green card category (e.g. EB-5) you should consult an immigration attorney to explore the best way to apply for that green card. This can be a tricky area as the requirement that the E-2 visa holder intend to depart upon expiration of the E-2 visa makes applying for a green card difficult.
2. Do I have to hire U.S. employees in order to get an E-2 visa?
There is no required number of U.S. workers that have to be hired to work in the business. However, usually the business should employ at least some employees in the U.S. if doing so is reasonably necessary for the business to operate. If no workers are hired, the investment may be considered as a business that is set up only to support the E-2 applicant and his/her family. (The legal term for this is “marginal” and a “marginal” business is not permitted for the E-2 visa). You do not have to hire workers immediately, but your 5-year business plan should detail exactly when you plan to hire the employees.
3. Is an E-2 visa the visa where I have to invest 1 million dollars ($1,000,000) and hire 10 employees?
No. The E-2 visa is often confused with an EB-5 visa. The EB-5 visa is a completely different immigrant (green card) visa. You can read more about the EB-5 visa by clicking here. In contrast to an EB-5 visa, an E-2 visa does not require a specific amount of investment and does not have a specific number of employees that you have to hire.
4. Can I get an E-2 visa with a low amount of investment? Is there a minimum amount of an investment?
There is no required investment dollar amount. A common myth is that a minimum of $100,000 is the required amount, but Scott Legal, P.C. has obtained approval for investments with as little as $15,000 spent and $35,000 in a bank account as working capital. If your business is a service business (e.g. a consulting business), the investment that is required will be much lower than if your business is a capital-intensive business (e.g. a car manufacturing plant).
5. Can I borrow money to start the business?
Yes. Unlike the EB-5 visa, borrowing money is fine for this visa as long as the business is not overly leveraged.
6. Is there a particular type of business that I have to start or buy?
No. Any for-profit, active business type is fine (e.g. drug store, law firm, consulting agency, car dealership, hair salon, etc.).
7. Do I have to make a business plan to get an E-2 visa?
Yes. A 5-year business plan is required, and the business plan is a key element that immigration officials consider when they review your visa petition. To find out more about how to make an effective business plan, click here.
8. Does an investment in real estate qualify for an E-2 visa? Can I buy a home and get an E-2 visa?
No. The E-2 visa can be obtained by either purchasing an existing business or creating a new business in the United States, but the business must be an “active” business. This excludes passive investments like real estate or owning stock. Your business must also make money and, as such, not-for-profit enterprises are excluded.
9. Can I bring my family and can they work in the U.S.?
Your husband or wife can get an E-2 visa and are eligible to apply for an “Employment Authorization Document” (referred to as an EAD) to work in the United States after obtaining E-2 status. Your spouse can work in any field — this is a significant advantage of an E-2 visa since many other non-immigrant visas (such as the TN visa or H-1B visa) do not allow the spouse to work in the U.S. Find out more about considerations with spousal E-2 visas by clicking here.
10. Which countries are eligible to get an E-2 visa?
The E-2 visa is only available to people from countries that the U.S. has a Treaty with. Many Western countries are on the list but there are also countries from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East on the list. Israel was just recently added to the list. A complete list of the countries on the list can be found here.
11. How long does it take to get an E-2 visa?
An E-2 visa is a very document-intensive petition. In addition to a number of government forms, the visa requires the submission of a binder full of documentation that is often quite lengthy. Once the documentation is prepared, the processing time depends on the processing time at the consulate that is located in the applicant’s country. This could range from 3 weeks to 3 months (or longer).
12. How much does it cost?
Legal fees for an E-2 visa will generally be $5,000 for most visas. Filing fees usually will not exceed $500.
13. Do I need a lawyer?
Yes. Like most immigration law, the E-2 visa regulations are complicated and you must demonstrate to immigration officials that you have met all of the legal elements. In addition, the documentation requirements for an E-2 visa are quite extensive and a legal brief must be written linking all of the elements of the statute to your case.
Click here to see additional E-2 questions and answers.
See our E-2 brochure by clicking here.