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E-2 Investor Visa: Who Qualifies?


The oldest visa program in the United States, the E-2 investor visa, dates all the way back to the end of the War of 1812. Although the details have changed over the years, the visa is still the same at its core.

It allows a foreign national from one of a pre-approved list of countries to live and work in the United States while developing his or her business.

Qualifications are stringent and the application process can be lengthy, but learning as much as you can before applying can help to ease any stress during the process.


Countries Eligible for the E-2 Visa

To be eligible to apply for an E-2 visa, the applicant must be from one of the countries who have signed a treaty of friendship with the United States. In total, there are more than 80 different countries who are part of the program. Some of the more common ones include Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.


Qualifying for an E-2 Visa

Besides being a citizen of one of the supported countries, an applicant must meet several other requirements to qualify for the E-2 visa process.

Most importantly, he or she must have already invested or be in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a United States enterprise. This must also be his or her only reason for seeking entry into the country and must be established by proving ownership of at least 50% of the business.

The term "substantial" is relevant when it comes to how much capital the applicant must invest. It must relate to the cost of either purchasing an already-established company or establishing a new one and also depends on the industry.

Someone investing in a high-end technology company will likely be expected to provide more capital than someone investing in a restaurant chain, for example.

The investor can also hire foreign national management employees for the U.S. business who will also receive an E-2 visa, so long as those employees are from the same country as the investor. Those management employees need not make an investment.


Documents Required for an E-2 Visa

For an application to be processed without delay and be approved, the investor must have his or her financial documents at the ready. These include:

  • Nonimmigrant Treaty Investor Application (DS-156E)
  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) 
  • A 2-inch-by-2-inch Photograph
  • Valid Passport (validity date must be at least six months in the future)
  • Registration for a United States Business
  • Credible Business Plan
  • Proof of Income Source
  • Proof of Wire Transfer(s)
  • Proof of Intent to Return to Origin Country

In addition to the many documents, the applicant must also agree to attend an interview at the embassy's consular section.


Terms and Conditions of the E-2 Visa

Upon approval, the applicant must meet requirements while living in the United States to ensure he or she can stay. The primary condition is that he or she can only work on the activity or business for which the approval occurred.

However, working for a company's subsidiaries as long as there is an established relationship between the organizations, the terms of employment have not otherwise changed, and the job requires specific skills the applicant has.

In some instances, the applicant can bring his or her immediate family members. Immediate family is defined as spouses or unmarried children who are younger than 21 years old. Family members must apply and be approved for an E-2 nonimmigrant visa as a dependent. The E-2 visa is normally granted for a period of five years, although this is based on Department of State reciprocity tables.

However, upon entry, the E-2 applicant and his or her immediate family can usually remain in the U.S. for a period of two years. An applicant can apply for extensions of the E-2 visa indefinitely, so long as the business in which the applicant invested is still operating.


Navigating the Application Process

The E-2 nonimmigrant visa is an excellent way for foreign nationals to earn a living, invest in businesses, and grow their potential in the United States. However, the application process can feel quite overwhelming when attempted alone.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Santiago J. Padilla have assisted hundreds of immigrant hopefuls in the last 20 years. Contact us today or call us to schedule a consultation 800-483-7197, so we can help you with your application process!

Image Credit: Getty Images/Pattanaphong Khuankaew  

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