What is the E-2 Visa?
The E-2 visa allows certain individuals who participate in investment in a United States business and who are citizens of countries with which the United States has a standing applicable treaty of commerce and navigation to live temporarily in the United States. The E-2 visa is available to treaty investors who invest a substantial amount of money and direct the operations of an enterprise they have invested in or are actively investing in. Certain employees of an E-2 visa holder or of a qualifying organization may also receive an E-2 visa.
Who is Eligible for an E-2 Visa?
To qualify for an E-2 visa, an individual must:
- Be a treaty trader;
- Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation;
- Be in the process of investing, or have already invested, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States;
- Be seeking to enter the United States for the sole purpose of developing and directing the investment enterprise.
- This is shown by having at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.
What Qualifies as Investment Under the E-2 visa?
Investment is defined as the treaty investor’s placing of a substantial amount of capital, including funds and/or other assets, at risk in a bona fide enterprise with the goal of producing profit. The investment must be subject to partial or total loss if the investment fails and the treaty investor must show that the funds have not been achieved from criminal activity, either directly or indirectly. The investment cannot be speculative or idle — it must be in a real operating enterprise.
A substantial amount of capital means:
- Substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one;
- Sufficient to establish the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the success of the enterprise;
- A magnitude that supports the likelihood that the treaty investor will be successful in developing and directing the enterprise.
- For lower-cost enterprises, the investment must be proportionately higher to be considered substantial.
A bona fide enterprise refers to a real, active, and operational commercial or entrepreneurial endeavor that produces goods or services for profit and is legally operative in its jurisdiction.
An investment enterprise deemed “marginal” does not qualify as bona fide under the E-2 visa. An investment enterprise is marginal if it does not have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the treaty investor and his or her family.
Who is Eligible to Be an Employee of an E-2 Visa Holder?
Certain employees of the E-2 treaty trader may receive a visa as well. The employee may be employed by an individual treaty trader or an enterprise or organization.
Requirements for Individual Treaty Traders and Enterprises
In order to qualify, the employee must:
- Meet the definition of employee under the relevant law;
- Be the same nationality of the principal alien employer who also has nationality of the treaty country;
- Engage in supervisory or executive duties or have special qualifications that make the employee’s services essential;
- Supervisory duties include those that provide the employee ultimate control and responsibility for the business’ operation or a major component of it;
- Special qualifications depend on the circumstances; however, they are generally the skills which make the employee’s services essential but must be more than knowledge of a foreign language or culture.
Requirements for Enterprises Only
The enterprise or organization must have at least 50% ownership by persons who are in the United States and who have the same nationality as the treaty country. These owners must also have nonimmigrant treaty status themselves, or would qualify for this status if they sought admission to the United States.
What Countries Qualify Under the E-2 Visa?
The United States has treaties with numerous countries under which foreign citizens may come to the United States under an E-2 visa.
E-2 eligible countries include:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- China (Taiwan)
- Congo (Brazzaville)
- Congo (Kinshasa)
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- Slovak Republic
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad & Tobago
- United Kingdom
What is the Process to Obtain an E-2 Visa?
The application process for obtaining an E-2 visa is generally straightforward; however, some distinctions may exist depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant submits his or her petition.
Step One: Generally, the applicant must:
- Submit form DS-160 online along with a photo of the applicant that conforms to the photo requirements to the United States Department of State;
- Register with the online Yatri system and pay applicable visa fees for the applicant and his or her family members;
- The E visa application should be emailed to the applicable U.S. Embassy or Consulate with all required documentation included;
- After the application has been reviewed, the applicant will be prompted to schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country.
Step Two: Attend Visa Interview at Consulate or Embassy
After an applicant has submitted the above documentation and paid all necessary fees, he or she along with any employees, must attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them.
Prior to the interview, the applicants should compile the following documentation to bring with them to the interview:
- Receipt showing payment of the non-refundable application fees;
- Completed form DS-156E for both employer and employee applicants;
- Form G-28 for applicant’s represented by an attorney;
- Form DS-160 barcode confirmation pages for principal E visa applicant and family members;
- Additional documentation as required by the Consulate or Embassy.
- Marriage certificate or children’s birth certificates for principal applicants accompanied by family members;
- Principal applicant’s resume or curriculum vitae;
- If applicant is an employee and not the business owner, a job letter from the company should be included and should describe:
- The business;
- The job the applicant will do and his or her qualifications for the job;
- Signed statement from applicant vowing to leave the United States upon termination of E visa status;
- Copies of any changes or extensions of status granted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via form I-797.
Ownership Verification Information:
- Evidence that nationals own at least 50% of the business:
- Articles of incorporation or organization for a United States business;
- Share certificates and/or operating agreements to verify ownership;
- For firms with several owners or subsidiaries:
- Organization chart showing full ownership structure of company;
- Legal proof of ownership within structure;
- Color photocopies of passports of each unit holder of the parent company and the percentage of ownership;
- For firms publicly traded with many shareholders, where none own more than 50%:
- A written declaration authorized by a corporate official that states the stock exchanges on which the firm has traded;
- A copy of recently issued trading information reflecting the nationality of the stock’s owners;
- A chart of ownership of the enterprise and certificate of registration from the state or province in which the company is incorporated, if incorporated outside the United States.
- Detailed cover letter describing how the enterprise and visa applicant qualify for the E-2 visa, including evidence tracing and identifying traded goods and the quantity traded with the United States.
How Long Can an E-2 Visa Holder Stay in the United States?
An E-2 visa holder and his or her eligible employees may live in the United States for an initial stay of up to two years. Extensions may be obtained after the initial two year stay in increments of two years and there is no limit on the amount of extensions granted.
How Much Does it Cost to Obtain an E-2 Visa?
The application fee for an E-2 visa is $205. An issuance fee may also need to be paid one the applicant’s visa is approved, depending on the applicant’s nationality.