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 Investment||An 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. workers||U.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 Premises||Required 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 Eligibility||Only 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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