If you’re considering starting a U.S.-based business, you could qualify for an E-2 treaty investor visa. This is a 2- to 5-year nonimmigrant visa, but there are no limits on the number of renewals. It allows the investor of significant capital in a U.S.- based business to live and work in the U.S. It also allows key employees of the enterprise to come to the U.S., along with the families of E-2 visa holders.

In order to qualify for an E-2 visa:

  • The person or an investing entity must be the citizen of or primarily based in a country with which the U.S. has a treaty for commerce and navigation.
  • You must make a substantial, committed and irrevocable investment in a business that is sufficient to ensure it will operate successfully.
  • The business must be a real operating enterprise, not a paper organization or speculative investment.
  • The business must be poised to generate significantly more income than just a living for your family, or it must make a significant economic impact on the U.S.
  • The person or investing entity must have control of the funds and must be taking a commercial risk with the business, meaning that some or all of the investment could be lost if the business fails.
  • The investment cannot be in the form of loans secured by the assets of the investment business.
  • You must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the business, as established either by 50% ownership or operational control of the business.
  • If you are not the principal investor, you must be an essential employee who will work in an executive or supervisory role or will provide a highly specialized skill.
  • You must show that you did not obtain the investment funds directly or indirectly from criminal activity.

What counts as a substantial amount of capital?

According to the USCIS, an E-2 treaty investor’s capital investment is considered substantial if:

  • It is substantial in relationship to the overall cost of purchasing an existing business or establishing a new one.
  • It is sufficient to ensure the investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the business.
  • It is of a magnitude to support the likelihood that the investor will develop and direct the business successfully. The lower the cost of the enterprise, the proportionally higher the investment must be.

Can I apply for an E-2 visa from within the U.S.?

Yes. If you are the principal investor and are already in the United States on a legal, nonimmigrant visa, you can simply file Form I-129 to change your visa status to the E-2 classification. If you are a key employee of a treaty enterprise, the employer should file Form I-129 on your behalf

Can I apply from outside the U.S.?

Yes. You will be working with a U.S. embassy or consulate, and you should consult the instructions on that agency’s website. The order of the application steps varies from place to place.

Your first step is generally to submit an online visa application by filing Form DS-160 and uploading a photo that complies with the State Department’s photograph requirements. Print out the confirmation form for Form DS-160 and bring it to the visa interview you will schedule as the next part of the process.

You will typically pay a non-refundable visa application fee, which is currently $205.

If you have questions about how to apply for an E-2 treaty investor visa, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people come to live and work in the U.S.