Do You Have a Great Idea and Some Capital? E-2 Visas Remain Viable Option for Entry to the U.S.

What do eBay, Pfizer, Kraft, and Google have in common?  All of these companies—and many more that are far too numerous to list here—were started by individuals who immigrated to the United States. Despite recent political pressure, there are still ways for foreign-born individuals to start their new business ventures here in the U.S.:  E-2 visas for investors and their employees remain a great option.

E-2 visas are available for individuals who originate from a country that maintains a commerce or navigation treaty with the U.S., and who qualify as an investor or the employee of an investor.  The U.S. Department of State provides the list of qualifying “Treaty Countries”.

In addition to being a national of one of the Treaty Countries, an E-2 Treaty Investor must: (1) “[h]ave invested, or be actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States”; and (2) “[b]e seeking to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise,” which is “established by showing at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.”  This investment may not be marginal.

Employees of the E-2 Treaty Investor are also eligible for an E-2 classification visa.  This classification requires: (1) that the employee share the same nationality as the investor/employer and the Treaty Country; (2) that the employee qualify as an employee, and not an independent contractor, under the applicable law; and (3) that the employee operate in an executive or supervisory capacity or bear some special training that makes him or her especially qualified for the position.  The investor/employer can be an entity (not an individual) if 50% or more of the people who own the entity share the nationality of the treaty country but reside in the U.S.

Once obtained, an E-2 visa is for five years and enables a person to stay in the U.S. in two-year increments, and the visa can be extended.  The E-2 visa also enables the investor or employee to bring his or her immediate family, such as spouses and unmarried children who are younger than 21.

All in all, E-2 visas provide a great option for qualifying individuals and their families to legally enter the U.S. and launch their new business.  E-2 visas provide an alternative to H-1B visas that also provide temporary entry to the U.S. for employment.

Be forewarned, however: Each of the operative phrases in the definitions here—such as “invested,” “substantial amount of capital,” and “bona fide enterprise”—have specific, minimum requirements.  Visit or your Orr & Reno immigration professional for assistance in navigating this entry pathway.

About the Authors: Laura Hartz and Julie Morse




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