If you are an investor or an employee of an investor, then you may qualify for an E-2 visa to enter the United States. The E-2 visa is one of two visas for treaty traders and investors:
- E-1 visa for treaty traders
- E-2 visa for treaty investors
Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about how the E-2 treaty investor visa works and whether or not you qualify for the E-2 visa.
How Does the E-2 Visa Work?
The E-2 visa is for individual investors or employees of investing companies. You must be a citizen of a country that has signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Or, you must be an employee of a company that is based in a country that has a trade treaty with the United States.
If you meet the qualifications and are visiting the United States to engage in investment-related activities, then you may qualify for an E-2 visa.
You would not qualify for the E-2 visa if you are visiting the United States to invest a nominal amount in a company – say, $100 in a coffee shop down the road from your hotel. Instead, you only qualify for an E-2 visa if you are making a “substantial” investment. There’s no specific dollar amount required for the E-2 visa. However, those who qualify for the E-2 visa are typically investing at least $100,000 (although smaller investments sometimes qualify).
Additionally, the investment must be designed to benefit the United States economy – say, by creating 3 or 4 jobs.
There are no specific requirements governing which industries qualify for the E-2 visa. The only requirement is that the industry must be a legal industry in the United States.
Some people qualify for an E-2 visa if they are visiting the United States to open their own business. If you plan to open your own business in the United States, make a substantial investment, and hire American workers, then you may qualify for an E-2 visa.
Unlike certain other visas, there is no limit on the number of E-2 visas awarded each year. Anyone who qualifies for the E-2 visa will be granted a visa.
If you want to make an investment in the United States without qualifying for the E-2 visa, then you may want to consider the EB-5 immigrant visa. The EB-5 visa requires you to invest $500,000 or more in the United States while generating employment opportunities for at least 10 people. The EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa that allows you to remain in the United States, while the E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa for temporary visits to the United States.
Which Countries Qualify for the E-2 Visa?
In order to qualify for an E-2 visa, you need to be a citizen of a country that has signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. If you are not a citizen of one of these countries, then you need to be an employee of a company that is based in a country that has signed a treaty with the United States.
Most countries in the world are permitted to engage in trade with the United States. You can view the full list of countries here.
Certain countries are excluded from the list, including Iran, North Korea, and Cuba.
E-2 Visa Requirements
The E-2 visa has a number of specific requirements, including all of the following:
- If you are applying for an E-2 visa as an individual investor, then you must be a citizen of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States (see the list above)
- If you applying for an E-2 visa as an employee of a company, then the company must be owned at least 50% by citizens from a country that has signed a treaty with the United States
- Not all employees qualify for an E-2 visa; the employee must be a citizen of a treaty country while also serving in a supervisory, managerial, or executive position; or, the employee must have specialized knowledge that cannot be performed by anyone else in the company
- The investor must intend to invest a “substantial” amount in the United States; there’s no specific dollar amount required for the E-2 visa, but investment amounts typically start at $100,000 (although smaller investments can often qualify as well)
- The investment must be designed to benefit the United States in some way; the investor cannot make an investment purely to provide profit for family or themselves
- The investor must make the investment with the goal of developing the business further
- The investor must place funds in a bank account until the visa is approved
- The investor must intend to return to his or her home country upon completion of the investment project
If you meet the above qualifications, then you may wish to apply for an E-2 visa. Like other visas for the United States, you will need to complete the application process. We’ve explained the E-2 visa application process below.
How to Apply for the E-2 Visa
Step 1) File Petition to USCIS (If Within the United States): If applying from within the United States (say, if you’re working for a company or have already legally entered the United States), then you will need to file form I-129, Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The form must list your citizenship, the investment you wish to make, and your intent to return to your home country. If approved, USCIS will give you form I-797.
Step 2) File Form DS-160 (If Outside the United States): If applying from outside the United States, or if an American company has filed a petition on your behalf while you’re outside the country, then you will need to file form DS-160. This form is the standard non-immigrant visa application for temporary entry to the United States. Answer all relevant questions on the form. You can find form DS-160 on the website of your local U.S. embassy or consulate.
Step 3) Pay the Application Fee: The application fee for the E-2 visa is $205. Additional fees may be required, including visa issuance fees or reciprocity fees. However, $205 is the standard fee for an E-2 visa application.
Step 4) Schedule Embassy Interview: All E-2 visa applicants between ages 14 and 79 will need to attend an in-person interview at a nearby U.S. embassy or consulate. There are limited exceptions to this requirement.
Step 5) Gather Required Documents: During your U.S. embassy interview, you may be required to provide certain documents – say, documents proving your intent to return home and your intent to invest in the United States. Submitted documents can include all of the following:
- A valid passport that expires more than 6 months after your intended date of departure from the United States
- Confirmation pages for Form DS-160, E-2 visa application fee payments, and embassy interview
- Form DS-156E, which is required for non-immigrant treaty traders and investors wishing to enter the United States on an E-2 visa while working for an employer
- Proof that you intend to return to your home country, including proof of family living in your home country, proof of a job offer in your home country, or proof that you own or lease a property in your home country
- Details of your investment in the United States, including:
- The amount of investment
- Details of the investment, including how the money will be used
- Explanation of what the investment is expected to achieve, including how many jobs it may create for Americans
- Personal or business bank account statements proving you have sufficient capital
- Business plan
- Proof that you are investing in a legitimate, legal business in the United States, including:
- Business licenses
- Financial statements
- Office lease agreements or other business property documents
- Tax returns
- Business plan
- Organizational chart
- Names and contact information of employees or business owners
Step 6) Attend your Interview: Once you have gathered all of the information above, you can attend your interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The interviewer will verify the information on your application. Then, your E-2 visa will be approved or denied.
How Long Does It Take to Process an E-2 Visa?
Typically, it takes approximately 3 to 6 weeks to process an E-2 visa, although processing times can vary widely depending on the workload of your local U.S. embassy.
How Long Does My E-2 Visa Last?
If your E-2 visa application is accepted, then the E-2 visa will be granted for an initial two year period. You have two years to complete the investment. You can leave and enter the United States multiple times during this period.
If you re-enter the United States close to your visa expiry date, then your E-2 visa may be automatically renewed for another two years. You can go through the E-2 visa re-application process at the port of entry. Alternatively, you can file form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Status, to USCIS. If your extension is approved, your E-2 visa will be valid for another two years.
Can I Change My Status or Apply for a Green Card with an E-2 Visa?
The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to temporarily visit the United States to make a substantial investment. Typically, the E-2 visa is not a pathway towards permanent residence in the United States (i.e. green card status).
However, there are some ways that an E-2 visa holder can change his or her status or apply for a green card. If you are investing more than $500,000 in the United States and creating jobs, then you may qualify for the EB-5 immigrant visa. This allows you to receive a green card in exchange for making a substantial investment in the United States.
Alternatively, you can receive a petition from your employer or family in the United States. An employer may sponsor you for an H-1B visa, for example, in which case you can remain in the United States for a long period of time while working for a company.
Can I Bring Dependents to the United States Under My E-2 Visa?
E-2 visa holders are permitted to bring certain dependents to the United States, including:
- Your lawful spouse
- Your unmarried children under 21 years of age
If you wish to bring either of these two parties to the United States, then you will need to apply for an E-2 dependency visa. There is no separate visa category for E-2 visa dependents, it’s bundled under the E-2 visa.
You can apply for your E-2 dependents visa at the same time as you apply for your E-2 visa. Or, your dependents can apply for the visa later on.
The spouse of an E-2 visa holder is permitted to work in the United States. Your spouse will need to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing form I-765 to USCIS. Once this EAD is approved, the spouse can work at any job in the United States.
All E-2 visa dependents are permitted to study in the United States.
By following the guide above, you can enter the United States on an E-2 visa for treaty investors.