There’s an economics concept from 18th-century economist Jean-Baptiste Say called Say’s Law. This idea suggests that production is the engine of an economy. The United States E2 visa is tied to this principle. The U.S. wants to encourage business in the country and makes it easier for those wishing to run a business to come here and do so. The idea is that the country will thrive if there are more people attempting to run and grow businesses within U.S. borders. It’s generally one of the least controversial immigration programs because it’s not seen as a threat to Americans seeking jobs. Instead, it could even create jobs for Americans. Applying for an E2 visa can be a great way to get yourself, your family, and your business into the United States.
E2 visas are a critical component of the United States’ business immigration strategy. An E2 visa allows entrepreneurs and investors to have the chance to live and work in the U.S. through their business ties. Those who are going to either start a business in the U.S., operate their current business in the U.S., or invest in and work for a U.S. business may be eligible for an E2 visa.
It can typically take a few months to get an E2 visa approved, although delays may prolong the process. However, once approved, an E2 visa has the potential to last for up to five years. During this time, most E2 visa holders are free to travel in and out of the U.S., which can be especially important if their business is operating in multiple countries. An E2 visa can be renewed an unlimited number of times. However, at each renewal, the business must be shown to continue to meet all qualifications. Additionally, you can also include your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 on your E2 visa. If approved, they will also have E2 status. While in the United States, your children will be permitted to attend school but not work. Your spouse, however, will be eligible to apply for a work permit.
E2 visas are a product of agreements that the United States has made with a variety of different countries. While people from many countries are eligible for E2 visas, it’s worth noting that there is no E2 treaty with some major countries like China, Russia, India, and Brazil. It’s also important to note that E2 visas are non-immigration visas. This means that an E2 visa is not a pathway to citizenship. However, E2 visa holders may become available for an adjustment of status to get onto the path to citizenship.
As with all forms of immigration, there are certain qualifications that must be met to receive an E2 visa. Of course, there is always the concern of fraud in immigration, so you can expect each of the qualifications of an E2 visa to be scrutinized closely. That is why it’s essential that you have a thorough and well-constructed application, supporting each of the qualifications. One of the main ways that we at Passage Immigration Law can help with an E2 visa is by assisting you in gathering together and organizing documentation that supports each requirement. We can ensure that your application is thorough and in good order before you submit it. The requirements for an E2 visa are:
- Nationality – E2 visas are limited to those whose nationality is from a country that has an E2 treaty with the United States. In most cases, nationality is determined by your citizenship. There are, though, cases where this may be unclear. In these situations, it will depend upon the exact agreement that exists with your home country. If the investment is being made by the business rather than the individual, at least 50% of the business must be owned by nationals of a country with an E2 treaty with the U.S.
- Substantial Investment – This can be one of the most subjective portions of an E2 application evaluation. Although the treaties describe that a substantial investment is necessary for approval, there’s no strict definition as to what is to be considered “substantial.” While there is a proportionality test that compares the total value of the business with the amount of money that is invested by the applicant, there is no precise rate that would be considered substantial. Generally, $100,000 is a threshold that will be considered substantial. Still, investments for much less have qualified, while investments for much more have been rejected, depending on the circumstances. Usually, though, the greater the investment, the more likely the approval.
- Lawful Source of Investment – The funds that you use to make your investment into the E2 business must be lawfully gained. This could be an inheritance, earnings from employment or other investments, a gift, a sale of property, or even a loan as long as it is not secured by the assets of the E2 business. It’s critical that you have documentation showing how the money that you will invest was acquired.
- Irrevocable Committed and At-Risk Investment – The immigration officials considering your application will want to ensure that your investment in the business is a legitimate one. For an investment to be irrevocable, it means that you aren’t able to pull the investment back. At the time of your application for an E2 visa, the funds must be either invested in the business already or in the process of being invested. An escrow account that is conditional upon the E2 visa could be used to satisfy this requirement. For the investment to be considered “at-risk” means that you could lose the investment. For instance, if the business fails, you will not get the funds back. These conditions ensure that it is a true, legitimate investment in the business.
- Entering to Direct and Develop Business – As important as the investment in the business is the control that you have of the business. Passive investment will not qualify for an E2 visa. You need to be able to prove that you will be running and managing the business. This can be shown by demonstrating that you own at least 50% of the business. If you don’t own 50% of the business, it is still possible to demonstrate that you have operational control and decision-making in the business. You must be able to show that the business is, essentially, a ship that you are captaining.
- Active, For-Profit Business – An E2 visa is specifically for commercial activities. This means that charities don’t qualify. Neither do various forms of passive investment, such as equity investments or real estate investments.
- Not a Marginal Enterprise – The purpose of the E2 visa system is to stimulate economic growth in the United States. This means that there is an expectation that the business will grow and, ideally, provide jobs within the economy. It cannot be a marginal business, which is one that will never produce more than a living for the business owner and their family. This requirement does not mean that the business must presently be earning more than that marginal amount, although that tends to be better for the application process. What must be shown is that the business could produce more than that in the future. However, employing, or showing that you plan to employ, multiple workers is the ideal way to satisfy this requirement.
- Intent to Depart – An E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, but it does not carry the same level of intent-to-depart requirements as other non-immigrant visas. In most cases, you will need to show that you maintain strong ties to your home country through a career or residence to qualify for a non-immigrant visa. However, for an E2 visa, it’s understood that if the business is successful, it is unlikely that you will leave but will rather attempt to renew the visa. Therefore, all that is required for an E2 is a signed document saying that you will leave when your E2 status terminates.
We Can Help You Seek an E2 Visa
An E2 visa can be a great option for those looking to start a company or expand a prior business into the United States. Immigration law is generally very welcoming to people who wish to come to the country and contribute to growing the economy. Unfortunately, though, an E2 visa can sometimes be a target for fraud, where people attempt to buy their way into the country without really running a functional, contributing business enterprise. This means that the officials who are responsible for approving E2 visas will approach applications with caution.
It’s critical that you have a thorough, understandable application. You will need a clear, concise plan for your business operations in the United States. If you want your strongest chance at a successful application, don’t leave these things up to chance. At Passage Immigration Law, we have experience with understanding what immigration officials are looking for and what makes for a quality application. We can help you put together an application worthy of being granted E2 status. Contact us today so we can discuss your business plans in the United States.