Which Investor Visa Should I Select? What are the Differences between E-2, L-1 and EB-5 visas?

By December 15, 2016November 5th, 2020E-2 Visa, EB-5 Visa, Immigration, Investor Visas, L-1 Visa

When an investor or foreign company wants to start operations in the United States they can select between three possible investor visas including an E-2 Visa, an L-1 Visa and an EB-5 visa.  The eligibility requirements for each of these visas differ and you can find out more about each visa below.

To find out more about the E-2 Visa click here.

To find out more about the L-1 Visa click here

To find out more about the EB-5 Visa click here.

The article examines some of the key general requirements of investor visas and compares and contrasts the treatment under the three visa types.

Comparison of E-2, L-1 & EB-5 Visas

Financial InvestmentAn investment is required and the actual dollar amount depends on the type of business.  In some cases the amount can be as low as $50,000 but those cases are rare and represent risky petitions. To find out more about E-2 visa investment amounts click here.An investment is not required as part of the law but a business does have to be set up and ready for operation.  The business should also be capitalized to show that it can operate but no specific investment amount is required.An investment amount is required and the amount is either $900,000 or $1,800,000 depending on where the business is located.  The lower investment amount is used if the business is located in a rural area or an area where the unemployment rate is 1.5 times the national average.
Hiring U.S. workersU.S. workers are not needed on day one but ultimately they are required.  Generally speaking, an E-2 business should have at least 3 full-time employees after a 3-5 year period and the actual amount would depend on the type of business.If the L-1 visa is based on a new office, the business plan should show a plan to hire U.S. workers in the first year.  A good number of U.S. workers by the end of year 1 is 5.  Employees are also needed if the petition is not a new office application and the amount depends on the type of business.10 Full-time U.S. workers must be hired within a 2 year period.
Office Space or Leased PremisesRequired in most cases. There may be a few rare exceptions where an application can be filed without a lease but a lease significantly strengthens an application.  To find out more about the lease requirement for an E-2 visa click here.Required for a new office and expected for other L-1 applications.Not required
How Long Does the Visa Last For?The time a visa is issued for depends on the country you are from and the time that a consular officer decides to issue the visa.  The range of time that a visa can be issued for is between 3 months and 5 years.  Find out more about how long a visa can be issued for by clicking here.A new office L visa can be issued for 1 year and other L visas are issued for either 2 or 3 years.An EB-5 visa is a green card.  The green card is initially issued for 2 years with the condition of hiring U.S. workers and then once it is shown that 10 full-time jobs have been created, the conditions are removed.
Country of Origin EligibilityOnly E-2 treaty country members can apply for this visa and there currently around 80 countries that are eligible. A full list of eligible countries can be found by clicking here.All countries are eligible.All countries are eligible but there is a longer wait for the green card for nationals from China
Does the Visa Lead to a Green Card?An E-2 visa does not “lead” to a green card but neither does any non-immigrant visa (eg. TN Visa, L-1 Visa, H-1B Visa, F-1 Visa).  That being said, you can apply for a green card in this category if you are eligible for one.  To find out more about whether an E-2 visa leads to a green card click here.An L-1 Visa does not lead to a green card but it is a dual intent visa. This means that if you have an L-1 visa, you can apply for a green card and still have the visa renewed and enter the U.S. without problems.An EB-5 visa is a green card.
Is a Business Plan Required for an Investor Visa?A business plan is required for an E-2 business if the business is a start-up or an established business that is performing poorly.  A business plan is still a good idea when you purchase a business that is performing well to show your plans for the future.  To find out more about the E-2 business plan requirements click here.A business plan is required for a new office L-1 Visa and recommended for other L-1 visas.A business plan is required and must comply with “Matter of Ho” EB-5 business plan requirements.  To find out more about the E-B-5 business plan requirements click here.


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