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If Your E-2 Business Changed During COVID, Your E-2 Visa Renewal May Still Be OK. Here’s Why.

Business Immigration | E-2 Visa Renewals| COVID
Paul-Monson-BlogImage

Paul Monson

Director & Partner of Joorney Business Plans

It seems as if the pandemic has affected every part of our lives. Even something as simple as grocery shopping took a hit. Remember when we couldn’t find butter and toilet paper?

Life here in the US is slowly feeling more “normal” — more vaccinations, fewer masks, less physical distance between us and our friends, family and colleagues — but we’re not yet fully back to business as usual.

Because of this, many E-2 businesses with E-2 visa renewals coming up right now are feeling understandably anxious. Because of COVID-19, these businesses have not performed as expected, which means they didn’t meet the financial or hiring projections they originally expected, had to pivot or change their business model, or otherwise fell short of the goals outlined in their last E-2 visa application. As you can imagine, many E-2 visa entrepreneurs are worried that their visas might not get renewed.

Sure, COVID-19 has battered the US economy, and if you’re a business owner, sure your business might not have achieved all the goals you set in the past year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your E-2 visa is in jeopardy!

While we can’t provide legal advice when it comes to E-2 visas (you should always speak to your immigration attorney if you have legal questions about your visa), we are expects at E-2 visa business plans, and so from a business perspective, here’s what we think COVID-19 can mean for E-2 visa renewals, why it may not be as bad as many think, and how you should approach your E-2 visa renewals in the time of COVID-19.

What is the E-2 Visa and how do you renew it?

Entrepreneurs and investors have a special path into the US — the E-2 visa. Also known as the investor visa, the E-2 visa is one of the quickest routes into the US with an average processing time of two weeks to four months.

The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa given to individuals from treaty countries who have invested or are in the process of investing in a US business. Unlike other employment-based visas, the E-2 visa does not require a job offer or a sponsoring employer.

Sounds fast and easy, right? Well, there are some serious restrictions on the E-2 visa.

First, and most importantly, the E-2 visa is only awarded to people from countries that have an E-2 treaty with the US. Second, you must either buy an existing American business or start an entirely new business in the US. Lastly, you’ll need to make a substantial investment — most investments average at least $100,000, though it’s possible to get an E-2 visa with less — and you must be able to prove that the money can be considered necessary in order to start such a business.

Additionally, E-2 visa applicants must prove that their funds are “irrevocably committed.” This proof can take the form of a signed contract for the purchased business, property lease, inventory orders, or the like.

Planning the visa renewal in advance is the key for success, and as soon as you start doing business, you should really start to plan for the renewal right away. The initial E-2 visa validity depends on your country of origin, and can be issued for a period of up to five years with the possibility of renewal as long as you maintain the necessary qualifications.

When it comes time to renew your E-2 visa, the adjudicator will examine documentation that tracks the performance of your business and compare it to the projections you laid out in the initial application. Typically, the goal is to show that your business generated income, created job opportunities, and met or exceeded expectations.

Unfortunately, reaching these goals can be difficult during tough economic times, especially a pandemic. But with COVID-19, things may be different.

Here’s how.

How COVID-19 affected E-2 visa businesses

Clearly COVID-19 has impacted a lot of businesses and industries. Business owners around the world have had to pivot, make drastic changes, layoff employees, slow growth, and close locations. Overall, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on the economy.

But there’s a silver lining here from an E-2 visa perspective. Because COVID-19 touched almost every industry, explaining why an E-2 business didn’t perform exactly as promised in the original application actually may not be that difficult.

Normally, if a specific industry went through some kind of downturn, E-2 applicants would have to provide detailed and nuanced evidence and proof of what happened to that industry, why it happened, and how it impacted business.

For example, let’s say an E-2 business owner runs a lawn-mowing business in Phoenix, Arizona, but the state experienced an unprecedented drought, which led to less fewer people watering their grass and more grass drying up, which, of course, led to less business. Assuming immigration officers aren’t aware of local weather patterns and resultant business impacts, the E-2 applicant in this case would likely have to prepare paperwork, documentation, and so on to show why they didn’t do as well as they originally expected.

COVID-19 has been different. COVID-19 impacted every corner of the world and every industry, and so making the case that the pandemic had an impact on a particular E-2 business may, from that perspective, a bit easier.

But the business still has to be viable to get an E-2 renewal, right? Well here are some thoughts on how to demonstrate that an E-2 visa business is viable despite, from a business perspective, in light of COVID-19.

Covid-era E-2 visa renewals need to get creative from a business perspective

During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses that have survived — or even thrived in some instances — had to get creative. Your E-2 visa renewal should showcase that creativity that ensured your business’ survival. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did you add new products or services in response to the pandemic?
  • Have you attracted new clients in a different way?
  • Maybe your business was forced to initially layoff or furlough employees, but you can describe the path you took to rehire these employees.
  • Did your business add an e-commerce aspect to a historically brick-and-mortar model in order to expand your reach?

The idea here is to think about what you did to get through COVID and how that can be seen as an asset to the long-term viability of your business.

So for example if a small restaurant had originally planned to hire three cooks and four waitstaff but, because of COVID, had to close their dining room, that might seem like a failed E-2 business. But since takeout and delivery really skyrocketed during COVID, maybe that restaurant hired just one cook but then had seven people running delivery. Maybe they invested in digital marketing more than they expected to get patrons to order from them, which actually elevated their brand even more than originally planned.

If these types of strategic pivots that businesses made during the pandemic are included in the business’s E-2 visa renewal documentation, it can show that despite not reaching their original goals, they have morphed their business to grow into a new, additional direction that is, at the end of the day, still creating jobs and good for the US economy.

Ultimately, business owners had to get scrappy and creative to get through the pandemic. These strategies demonstrate strength, and can help make E-2 visa renewal applications stronger during these tough times.

Joorney can help you navigate the E-2 visa renewal process

When it comes to the actual E-2 visa application, it’s always best to work with a licensed immigration attorney. And when it comes to your business plan and supporting documentation, leave that to Joorney.

Joorney is one of the leading business plan writing companies in the United States, with a focus on immigration business plans. Our team of experienced consultants, project managers, and writers are here to help you – or your clients – produce convincing, succinct documents that give your business or investor immigration case an edge. We’ve written over 5,000 business plans for immigration and commercial purposes. In other words, we know a thing or two.

Every business plan is unique – and potentially complicated — and an expertly written business plan is a key component in your success, whether for a more routine E-2 visa application or an RFE response riddled with nuances and unprecedented challenges related to COVID-19 or anything else.

Interested in learning more about how Joorney can help you with your investor or business visa application? Contact us today!

Disclaimer: Joorney is a business plan and document preparation firm focused on immigration – we are not a law firm. This article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should consult a licensed immigration professional to address questions about your specific immigration case or eligibility under the E-2 or any other business immigration program.

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