The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa for investors, entrepreneurs, and people looking to run a business in the United States. With an E2 visa, you can start a US business or invest in a US business and work for that business.
To get an E2 visa, you must invest a substantial amount of capital into a US business and you must direct and develop that business. You can either start a new business or invest in an existing business to qualify for an E2 visa.
There is no limit to the number of times the E2 visa can be renewed. So as long as the E2 business continues to operate and meet the E2 visa requirements, and E2 visa holder can continue to renew their visa and live and work in the United States.
What are the Benefits of an E2 Visa?
- With an E2 visa, you can start a business in the United States and work for that business.
- By getting an E2 visa, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old can also qualify for E2 visas.
- Your spouse can apply for work authorization, to work in the United States.
- Your children can go to school in the United States.
- There is no set minimum investment amount to qualify for an E2 visa. Investments as low as $50,000 or even lower have qualified for E2.
- There is no limit to the number of times you can extend your E2 visa. Some E2 visa holders stay in the United States for 15 years or longer.
- Unlike other non-immigrant visas, you do not need to maintain a foreign residence to get an E2 visa.
What are the E2 Visa Requirements?
There are 8 main requirements to qualify for an E2 visa:
- You must be a national of a country with an E2 treaty with the United States.
- You must have the intent to depart the US once your E2 status ends.
- You must make a substantial investment in a US company.
- Your E2 business must be an active, for-profit business.
- The business that you invest in cannot be considered a marginal enterprise.
- You must be entering the United States to direct and develop your E2 business.
- The source of your investment funds must be lawful.
- Your investment must be irrevocably committed to the E2 business and must be at-risk.
What are the Differences Between Doing a Change of Status to E2 and Getting an E2 Visa?
There are many factors that you should consider before you decide whether to change status or go through consular processing. Before you decide which option to choose, you should discuss it with an immigration attorney.
Here are a few factors to consider…
Are you lawfully present in the US?
- Filing for a Change of Status is only available to nonimmigrants who are lawfully present in the US
- If you are abroad you will not qualify for a Change of Status.
How quickly do you need the E2 visa?
- One of the reasons some people choose to do a Change of Status is because of the speed of processing.
- USCIS offers Premium Processing. This means that a Change of Status can be processed in as little as 15 days. Consular Processing can take much longer.
Will you need to travel outside of the US?
- Keep in mind that if you change status to E2 status, once you leave the United States, you will no longer have status.
- To re-enter the US, you will have to get an E2 visa at a US Consulate abroad.
- US Consulates do not base their decision on a prior approved E2 Change of Status from USCIS. So you will be applying all over again for an E-2 visa at the consulate. You will have to re-submit the documents proving that you meet the E2 requirements.
How much are you investing?
- Some consular posts are more strict than others and will want to see a higher investment amount, to qualify as a ‘substantial investment.
- If your consular post is strict, you may want to change your status. This is so that you can grow your E2 business. Then, at that time, you can apply for an E2 visa abroad with more funds invested in the business.
- Keep in mind that this strategy can also work against you if your E2 business does not perform as well as you expect. In this situation, the consular post would have two years of actual business activity to judge your business.
How Long Does it Take to Get an E2 Visa?
There are three main stages of the E2 visa process that determine how long it will take:
- Document Gathering
- Legal Preparation
- Consular Processing or Change of Status
- Once you hire an immigration attorney, they will review your case. They will then provide you with a list of all the documents they need from you to file your E2 visa application.
- The gathering of documents takes clients around 1 month. This can be much faster or slower depending on you.
- Once you send the documents to your immigration attorney, they will take about two weeks to prepare and complete everything. They will then file your completed E2 petition.
Consular Processing/Change of Status
- Your application will then be sent to the US consulate of your home country (consular processing). Or, if you are in the US you can change status to E2 status (change of status) by sending your application to USCIS.
- Consular processing takes around 2-3 months.
- A change of status through USCIS takes 2 to 3 months. You can choose to speed up the process by paying an extra fee of $1,225.00 for premium processing. This will reduce the total processing time to 15 calendar days. A request for additional evidence (RFE) can slow down this process.
- Keep in mind: If you select Premium Processing, USCIS only has to issue a response within 15 days. USCIS can send a request for more evidence if they believe your application is missing something or if they are confused about something.
- Once you respond to a request for evidence, USCIS is no longer required to respond within 15 days. USCIS can take longer to respond.
How Long Can I be in the US on an E2 Visa?
- The length of time your E2 visa is valid depends on the country issuing the visa. The period of visa validity generally ranges from 1 year to 5 years.
- If your E2 visa is valid for 5 years, this does not mean that you can stay in the US for 5 years at a time.
- Your status (not your visa) determines how long you can stay in the US at any one time.
- With an E2 visa, you are granted 2 years of status each time you enter the US.
- With a valid E2 visa, you can exit and re-enter the US to get an additional 2 years of status.
- There is no limit to the number of times you can renew your E2 visa.
- You can continue to renew your E2 visa as long as your company meets all the E2 visa requirements.
If I Get an E2 Visa, Do My Family Members Get Immigration Benefits?
- Yes, as the principal E2 applicant, you can bring your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old.
- Your spouse and unmarried children also have E2 status.
- Your spouse may apply for a work permit to work in any lawful capacity in the United States.
- Your children may attend school in the US but they may not work.
Can I Get an E2 Visa as an Employee of the E2 Business?
Yes, a noncitizen may get an E2 visa through employment with an E2 business enterprise.
There are generally 3 classes of employees that can get an E2 visa:
- Executive Employees
- Supervisory Employees
- Employees with Special Skills that are Essential to the E2 Enterprise
How to Go From an E2 Visa to Green Card?
Yes, there are a few things to go over:
- The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa category. This means that the E2 visa is temporary and does not directly lead to a green card.
- So, to get a green card you will have to apply for an immigrant visa or adjust status to immigrant status.
- Remember, the E2 visa requires you to have the intent to depart the United States once your E2 status is terminated.
- Still, you cannot be denied E2 status just because you get approved for an immigrant visa petition.
- This means that you can apply for an immigrant visa or adjust status in the US while you have an E-2 visa.
- Now that you know the basic issues, let’s discuss the different green card options.
Green Card Options:
- The EB-5 visa is an investment-based immigrant visa. This means that it leads to a green card.
- The EB-5 visa requires that you invest a minimum of $1 million in a US business. Or, you can invest $500,000 if the investment is located in a targeted employment area. Your investment must also lead to the creation of 10 full-time jobs for US workers.
- The benefit of transferring from an E2 visa to an EB-5 visa is that in some cases, your investment to get the E2 visa will count for your EB-5 visa.
- Also, if you’ve created jobs for your E2 business, these jobs may count for your EB-5 visa.
- If you already invested a lot of capital in the E2 business and created enough jobs, you may be able to get an EB-5 visa with little effort.
- Your close family members that are US citizens or lawful permanent residents may be able to sponsor you for a green card.
- You may qualify for a green card if you enter into a legitimate marriage with a US citizen.
- You may qualify for a green card if a US company offers you a job and sponsors your green card.
- The US employer would have to get a Labor Certification through the US Department of Labor.
- The EB-1 A visa is for people with “extraordinary ability.”
- The benefit of this visa is that you can self-petition. This means that you can apply for your green card without a company sponsoring you.
EB-2 National Interest Waiver
- The EB-2 visa is for people with “exceptional ability” or “advanced degree professionals.”
- The unique aspect of an EB-2 visa is that, along with an EB-2 visa, you can apply for a “National Interest Waiver.”
- With a National Interest Waiver, you can apply for an EB-2 visa without a US company sponsor.
- To get a National Interest Waiver, you must show that it is in the national interest of the United States, to allow you entry without a US company sponsor.
What is an E-1 Visa?
E-1 visas are reserved for individuals involved in the exchange, purchase, or sale of goods/services or merchandise. (In contrast, E-2 visas are reserved for individuals who own or invest in businesses in the U.S.) Services include technology transfer, architecture and engineering services, management consulting, or accounting. The trade-in goods and services should be substantial, as defined by the INS, in terms of value, volume, or a large number of small transactions. The trade must also meet the following criteria:
- The trade must be principal with the treaty country.
- More than 50% of the total volume of international trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- The amount of trade must be sufficient to ensure a continuous flow of international trade between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- Trade can be binding contracts that call for the future exchange of items.
- Income derived from the value of numerous transactions that is sufficient to support the trades and his/her family is a favorable factor.
In contrast, E-2 visas are reserved for individuals who own or invest in businesses in the U.S. As we’ve covered here, an E-2 visa holder doesn’t have to deal with the trade requirements an E-1 applicant must. Though some people may have the potential to apply for both (including as an employee conducting trade on behalf of their employer), they vary in a few fundamental ways.