An E-2 visa is a great option for an entrepreneur that wants to buy or start a business in the U.S. In order to apply for this visa, you must be a national from a Treaty country, invest money in the U.S., and hire U.S. workers. You can find out more about an E-2 visa by clicking here.
Scott Legal, P.C. has processed hundreds of E-2 visas and we have compiled the top 10 questions that have consistently come up over the last year. All of these E-2 visa questions are regularly asked and are in no particular order.
- What ownership percentage is required for an E-2 visa? Do I have to own 50% or 51% of a company for an E-2 visa? Is 50% ownership sufficient for an E-2 visa?
An investor must own 50% of the E-2 entity and 50% ownership is sufficient for an E-2 visa. There is a common misconception that one must own 51% of a company in order to be eligible for an E-2 visa, but the regulations are clear that 50% ownership is sufficient.
- How long is an E-2 visa issued for? Why is my I-94 only stamped for 2 years when I have a 5-year E-2 visa? What does reciprocity mean? My visa was only issued for 3 months, how is that possible?
The maximum duration of an E-2 visa depends on the citizenship of the applicant and ranges from 3 months to 5 years. Other factors that impact the duration of an E-2 visa include the overall strength of the case, the consulate that the applicant applies at, and the examiner that the applicant gets. The visa can be renewed indefinitely if certain criteria have been met. You can find out more about renewing an E-2 visa by clicking here. Even though some E-2 visas are issued for 3 months, when the applicant enters the U.S., they are given 2 years in E-2 visa status. When they leave the U.S. though, they must apply for a new E-2 visa to reenter. You can find out more about how long an E-2 visa can be issued for by clicking here.
- What impact has the Trump administration had on E-2 visas? Will Trump impact my E-2 Visa?
We have seen increased scrutiny under the Trump administration across all immigration areas and this includes E-2 visas. While we have not seen an increase in the number of denials, adjudications are tougher and we tend to push clients to strengthen their cases by increasing the investment amount or showing concrete proof of hiring U.S. workers. You can find out more about the Trump impact on immigration by clicking here.
- Do I have to Invest before I get the E-2 visa? What if I spend money and don’t get the E-2 visa? Do the funds have to be spent or committed before I apply for an E-2 visa? Can I deposit funds in a bank account and get an E-2 visa?
While there is no guarantee that one will get the E-2 visa, funds must be spent prior to applying. As such, if you are buying a business, you must transfer the funds to escrow or the seller before the E-2 visa application has been submitted. This is often a difficult thing for many, but the government will not issue an E-2 visa based on an intent to invest. The investment must have already occurred. You can find out more about this requirement by clicking here.
- I want to buy an E-2 business, what should I look for? How many employees are needed if I buy an E-2 business?
Many of our clients obtain E-2 visas by buying existing businesses and often ask us to provide criteria for the ideal E-2 business to buy. While distressed businesses can work, they require extensive explanation and documentation to show that the business will be viable and will ultimately hire U.S. workers. When searching for a business, you should focus on businesses that have 3 or more employees (full-time equivalents) and tax returns that show that the business is well positioned (earning money). Many sellers will indicate that the business is a “cash” business or that they take many expenses to reduce taxable income but these businesses may not be E-2 visa eligible as an examiner will only be interested in what you can prove.
You can find out more about buying an E-2 visa business by clicking here.
- Can I include Intellectual Property as part of my E-2 investment?
Yes. The key here is that you can objectively value the intellectual property. You can find out more about IP for an E-2 visa by clicking here.
- I have a service business; how much must I spend? Can I get an E-2 visa with a low investment? Can I invest $50,000 for an E-2 visa?
Even though a service business does not require much to get started, you must spend a substantial amount to get an E-2 visa. While investments of $50,000 are possible, they are very difficult cases to get approved. Most E-2 visas have investments that exceed $100,000 (eg. $50,000 spent and $50,000 in a business bank account). While obtaining an E-2 visa with a lesser amount is possible, the E-2 visa case should have other significant strengths if the investment amount is below $100,000. You can find out more about the E-2 visa investment amount by clicking here.
- Should I apply in the U.S. or at a Consulate? Should I do a change of status or file at the Consulate? Where should I apply for my E-2 visa?
A visa can only be issued at a U.S. Consulate outside of the U.S. and typically this is the better option for an E-2 visa. There are rare circumstances where filing for a change of status may make sense. For example, processing an E-2 visa at some consulates can be very difficult given the country conditions and the general difficulty associated with getting visas in those countries or regions. In addition, in some cases, visas will only be issued for 3 months with one entry so a change of status may be beneficial. If you change to E-2 status in the U.S. and leave the U.S., you must apply for an E-2 visa abroad from scratch. Benefits of a change of status include: acceptance of a lower investment amount and more consistent adjudication. Applying at the Consulate permits one to leave and enter the U.S. for the duration of the visa and adjudications at some Consulates are quite straight forward. You can find out more about where to apply by clicking here.
- Does an E-2 visa lead to a Green Card?
The short answer is no. That being said, there are not any visas that lead to green cards. Instead, if you are eligible to apply for a green card, (e.g. EB-1, EB-2, NIW, Marriage, etc.) you can apply for one. You can certainly apply for a green card while on an E-2 visa but you must be eligible for one. A common green card category for people on an E-2 visa is an EB-5 investor visa. You can find out more about EB-5 by clicking here. You can find out more about the ability to apply for a green card while on an E-2 visa by clicking here.
- Should I apply for an E-2 visa or an L-1 Visa?
In some instances, an applicant may be eligible for both an E-2 visa and an L-1 visa. Generally speaking, the E-2 visa will be the preferred option but this depends on the facts and circumstances. The E-2 is usually the better option as it is normally easier to get approved and can normally be issued for a longer duration than the L-1. It is also easier to renew. You can find out more about deciding between an E-2 and L-1 visa by clicking here.
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