E-2 Treaty Investors and Employees
Often utilized as an entrepreneur visa, certain countries have a treaty with the United States which creates qualification for this temporary nonimmigrant visa for investors, managers, executives, and essential skills employees of a U.S. investment enterprise that shares their nationality.
A specific investment threshold is not defined, except that the investment:
- Must be substantial, proportional to the type of business. The investment must be “at risk,” which generally means that the investment must be held in escrow pending visa issuance (common for franchise investments), incurred to the point where the business is ready to operate (for startups), or equivalent to the fair market value for purchases of existing businesses. Business immigration attorneys generally recommend a minimum investment of $100,000, which may include the necessary expenditures and a significant amount of funds remaining in the U.S. business bank account to cover a significant burn rate during the startup phase.
- Must be from a lawful source of funds
- Must not be marginal, which means that the business must support more than just the E-2 visa holders. This is commonly shown through the hiring of U.S. workers.
The sponsoring business must be owned at least 50% by citizens of the treaty country who are not also U.S. citizens or permanent residents. For example, it’s not uncommon for a U.S. citizen to partner 50/50 with a treaty national to facilitate this immigration strategy for the treaty national and managers, executives, and essential skills employees who all share the same nationality.
More information about the requirements may be found in the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM 402.9.
Once the above requirements are met, the E-2 visa application may be filed directly with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad with jurisdiction over the applicant’s citizenship or residence.
Can My Spouse Work?
Spouses of E-2 visa holders have free market work authorization in the United States “incident to status,” which means that they can start working upon arrival without having to apply for an employment authorization document or work permit.
Green Card Pathway?
E-2 visa holders who wish to pursue permanent residency often do so under the EB-1C Multinational Manager/Executive or EB-5 Immigrant Investor “green card” categories. E-2 employees who do not have ownership in the business may also qualify for a PERM Labor Certification based immigrant petition under EB-2 or EB-3 categories.
The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.