The Top 5 E2 Visa Requirements Every Applicant Should Know
For millions of people around the world, obtaining the documentation required to live in the US legally is a dream come true. The visa that gets you into the US the fastest is the E2 visa, a special class of visa given to foreign investors. In this article, we will go into detail on the E2 visa requirements and share our tried and proven strategies to transform your application into a visa.
The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa given to individuals from treaty countries who have invested or are in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a US business. The term substantial amount is pretty vague and could mean any amount since no minimum has been specified. But from experience, we can tell you that you would need an investment of at least $100,000 for any chance of success.
Even if you have initiated the visa application process and may already be deep into it, it would still be advisable to find out if the E2 visa is the right visa for you, and whether you meet all the E-2 visa requirements. To make it easy, we have ranked the requirements by order of priority and listed them in the same way the USCIS would approach your application. We’ll be talking about things that may disqualify you, things that are outside your control, and things that you have control over.
Please note this E2 visa requirements list is oriented towards the business side of the visa rather than towards the legal side and is based on the experience of our company: Joorney Immigration Business Planning. It should not be taken as legal advice. The list was built from the combined experience of our company’s founder, who himself is a successful E2 visa applicant, and our staff, who have collectively written more than 760 immigration business plans.
Requirement #1: Make sure your country of origin has an E2 Treaty with the US
Before attempting to apply for an E2 visa, you should check your eligibility to find out whether you and your business qualifies or not. As mentioned earlier, you must be a citizen of a country that has an E2 investment treaty with the US to be eligible. As of this date, the US has a treaty with 80 countries.
The most notable countries that do not have the E2 Treaty with the US are:
Some countries, such as Israel, are currently pending the enforcement of their E2 Treaty, which should be active in 2015. The countries that DO have a Treaty can be found in the following link:
- If your country is not eligible, your best bet would be to find an alternative visa solution, such as the following:
- If your country is eligible: congratulations! Let’s take a look at the other E2 Visa Requirements you will need to fulfill.
- Experience Tips: If you have dual citizenship and one of them is E2 Visa eligible, you can use it to apply for the E2 Visa.
Requirement #2: Make a $100,000 investment in a US business before submitting your visa application
The E2 Visa Requirements guidelines published by the USCIS are vague about the investment required and refer only to the need for a substantial investment. While this may mean any amount you can afford, we propose an amount of $100,000, which falls at the lower end of the investments we see while writing business plans for our clients. We have seen some applications with investments as low as $70,000; however, these have a higher risk of being denied.
The questions we hear most often from our clients are:
- “What if I don’t have that kind of money?” or “What if that’s all I have?”: Unfortunately, USCIS is looking for an investment that will make a substantial impact on the US economy through job creation. We are only talking about the funds you’ll be putting into your business. If you don’t have funds available for this kind of investment, the E2 visa might not be the best visa option for you.
Recommendation: If you don’t have the funds, then your best bet would be to find an alternative visa solution such as:
- Other investor visas: L-1A visa, although this visa may require intensive capital investments as well.
- Work Visas such as H1B or O1
You can find attorneys who can guide you through our Attorney Recommendation Engine.
- “What exactly are my ‘Source of Funds?” – The funds need to be yours whether it’s a gift from a parent, a loan, a commercial loan or money you’ve earned from a job or company. You should be able to prove and trace the source of funds. Basically, USCIS wants to make sure that the money you are bringing to the US was earned through legitimate activities.
- “Do I really have to spend the money BEFORE I get my visa?” Yes – USCIS specifically states that the investment must be substantial and IRREVOCABLY COMMITTED.
This means that you have to prove that you are committed to your investment and that you are not doing it only to get the visa. Put yourself in their shoes. If you have already spent large amounts of money on your business before applying for the visa, it means you are probably going to do what it takes to make it work once you get the visa. The amount of money irrevocably committed is usually 50% of the capital you bring into the company. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to be smart about spending this 50%.
Here is a list of things you’ll need to provide USCIS to prove that your investment matches their E2 Visa Requirements:
Requirement #3: The business you are investing in needs to create jobs for Americans
Once you are ready to invest your funds, the question that comes to mind is: What kind of business should I create or buy?
Make Sure You Get A Business That Will Last – The first thing you should know is that the E2 Visa does not lead to a Green Card. It’s a visa that can be renewed indefinitely, ideally every 5 years as long as you are able to create the right number of jobs and that your business is profitable to sustain those jobs.
So the strategy and underlying requirements here are not to simply invest a minimum of $100,000 and spend 50% of it, but to make sure that the business itself meets the E2 Visa Requirements.
Your checklist should answer the following basic questions:
- Will your business sustain at least 5 employees before Year 5?
- Will it generate enough money so that you can pay yourself a salary to address your everyday needs (rent, food, and transport)?
- Will your business grow over the next 5 years? Will it generate profits as per industry standards?
A great way to prove your intent to hire employees is to already have job postings online or to already have hired a green card holder or a US citizen as an administrative assistant or to fill whichever role your business needs most during its startup phase.
These answers are usually presented in a USCIS custom-tailored E2 Visa Business Plan.
Requirement #4: The BEST and WORST practices for spending your investment
Since the purpose of the E2 visa is to create employment in the USA, the USCIS wants to make sure that the business in which you are investing is credible. Importantly, they also want to see that the funds are being spent and that they are being spent on items, such as rent, marketing, and payroll.
The BEST PRACTICES we have witnessed on spending your investment are the following:
- Have a location with an official lease: A good way to show that you are committed to your investment is to have a proper office address. A 1-year lease, with the option to renew for 5 additional terms, and paying 1 year or 6 months of your lease in advance, will show a desire for a long-term presence. Having a nice location and spending on equipment, furniture and decoration always help with the credibility of the business.
- Spend some marketing dollars: Creating a website, a nice logo, merchandising, advertising, collateral, and marketing your presence online through SEO and SEM are great dollars invested because they can justify your sales projections and the success of your business. One great way to spend the required money is to commit 6 months of your marketing budget in advance, which shows ambition and dedication to the success of the business
- Diversify Your Expenses – Diversified expenses show that you are building your business in a healthy way. A business needs to have an official location, equipment, IT equipment, furniture, and inventory. If you are going to sell products, spending money on branding, marketing, administrative expenses, legal expenses, and consulting expenses, such as a market study and business plan, shows that you have done your homework properly.
The WORST PRACTICES we have witnessed on spending your investment are the following:
- Spending all your money on one item: Some E2 Visa applicants absolutely want to minimize their risk of losing their money, so they allocate their investment into things they’ll be able to sell if they fail to get their visas, such as only inventory or only commercial lease costs.
- Including Travel Expenses and Personal Costs in your application: It is very tempting to include hotel costs and flight tickets, but these are not costs that are irrevocably committed to your business. They are usually seen as questionable by USCIS.
- Leaving your $100,000 investment parked in a US company bank account: Having money in a bank account does not prove that the money is committed to anything. It usually leads to a negative response from USCIS.
- Investing in Real Estate Properties thinking this can be your investment: The E2 investment needs to be ACTIVE and investing in Real Estate is not considered an active investment. However, if you decide to start a property management firm that invests in and resells assets, and will handle more than just your own properties, then you can then assign the value of your assets to your E2 investment.
- Using your home as your office: For E2 visa purposes, using your home as your office is a big red flag for immigration, indicating that you are not taking your business seriously and not secure in your business model enough to invest in an office space.
Requirement #5: Your E2 visa business plan needs to be a well-prepared LEGAL document
After your investment, the most important thing for the success of your E2 visa application is your business plan. Your E2 visa business plan should follow USCIS E2 visa requirements and guidelines. Since USCIS expects it to be very well written and in a unique format, it is best to have it prepared by an expert.
A professionally written business plan increases your chance of success by 30% – 50%. It also reduces the number of questions asked by up to 50%, streamlining the process and making it 40% faster.
An E2 Visa Business Plan should include:
- Company description (Click here to read How to Write a Great Company Description in a Business Plan)
- Products and Services description
- Industry Analysis
- Market and Competition Analysis
- Personnel Plan
- 5 years Financial Projections (Click here to read How to Create 5 Years Financial Projections for Your Business Plan)
An E2 Visa Business Plan should be 25-35 pages on average. It is recommended to write it in a legal style but with accessible business terms. The average writing time by an applicant is 40-45 hours, including revisions and the back and forth with the attorney. The average writing time by a professional business plan service is 15 hours including revisions, which is almost three times faster than if you do it yourself.
An expertly written E2 Visa Business Plan means:
- More flexibility so you can take care of the other aspects of your business and visa application
- Better quality because the writing style is customized for immigration and reviewed by US writing experts.
- Faster delivery so that you can get your visa appointment quickly.
Whether you want to hire us with the writing or you want to do it yourself, here is what a good business plan should look like (link), and if you need more information, please refer to our Guide on How to Write an E2 Visa Business Plan.