As a citizenship by investment consultant with over 14 years of experience in the industry, I have assisted High Net-Worth investors and helped hundreds of families across the globe live their dream.
Today, I'd like to bring into discussion international investor and entrepreneur visa opportunities in the global market.
The reason? Because you need to compare between programs, if relocating is what you're looking for or perhaps, you have more than one jurisdiction in mind to invest in.
As a business person, an investor or a wealthy resident, you want to have a secure investment with higher returns, have the opportunity to operate your business overseas, or you just want to start a new business as an entrepreneur. Because of this, you'll see many people in the field pushing you to a particular kind of program that probably might not be the right one for you.
So, today, we’ll discuss the E-2 investor visa (a visa category that is underutilized by many people), a non-immigrant visa that allows a national from a treaty country (please visit U.S. Department of State's Treaty Countries for a current list of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation) to come to the United States when investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business (certain employees of such a person or of a qualifying LLC or corporation may also be eligible for this classification).
This visa allows you to invest around $100,000, depending on the nature of the business, start a business in the United States and live there for a period of two to five years at a time (based on your nationality and treaty country you are applying through). With this visa, you can obtain an extension or renewal.
The investment options
There are two ways to apply for the E-2 visa:
1. The first one is to apply through the U.S. Embassy in your home country. I consider this as one of the best ways to apply for several reasons, since you are going to get the stamp and that means that you can travel freely back and forth,
2. The second is in the U.S. through USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). If you apply through USCIS, it's just going to be the adjustment of your status. In this case you are not going for any interview.
The question now is what are the requirements? Like any other investor or entrepreneur program, the E-2 investor visa program has its own unique set of requirements:
- The investor must be from an E-2 treaty country,
- Must make a substantial investment in a business,
- The investor must own 50% of the business,
- The employee must be an executive, manager, or have essential knowledge,
- Must prove that the investment or trade is substantial, and the company is not "marginal".
So, how do you actually apply for the E-2 visa? Well, the first step is to decide what you want to do. Over time, I've come across many investors and prospects that have the funds in their home countries, but they don't know what they want to do in the U.S. Whatever the scenario is, you have to make this decision first. In this article, I will break down the process of making this decision.
- The first step is to set up your U.S. LLC or C Corp.
- Once you open your U.S. entity, the second step is to set up a bank account for that U.S. entity, so you can move the funds from the foreign country to your new U.S. bank account. If you’re already in the United States on any other visa such as employment visa, student visa, or any other visa, and you have a bank account in the U.S. with funds available, you can transfer some of those funds and use them. You also have to document the source of the funds because one of the key elements of an E-2 visa is to prove where the money comes from, be it the income, savings, loan, gift or any other legit source.
- Once the money is in the U.S., you are now in the investment period. If you are in a foreign country, you can enter the U.S. either as a visitor on a B-1 visa or, if you are from a European country you can come to the United States as a visitor to be able to setup your business. You can potentially try to lease an office space, or a warehouse depending on the business and you can sign that lease.
- The next step is securing any regulatory approvals that you need, for example, a certificate of authority to conduct business in the state of New York.
- Afterwards, you will enter into contracts with clients in the name of your U.S. entity. One of the requirements is that it has to be a real and operating commercial entity. Your business must be more than a marginal enterprise, which means that your business generates income sufficient enough to cover the cost of living for you and your family.
- Finally, you apply and get a date for an interview. A nominated person for your company goes on the application form.
These are all authorized activities on a visitor visa for business purposes, as long as you have declared it upon entry, in lieu of your E-2 visa. You can sign the lease, find an office space, start doing some marketing for your new business, you can set up a website, and you can even start looking for potential employees for your new business. After all, they need to see that you have taken the steps and you have used the money.
One of the reasons why E-2 visas are denied is because the immigration officer might feel that your investment is not at risk or it’s marginal because you haven’t used enough of the funds that are in the bank account; therefore, it's essential to enter into an investment period where you will spend money. I would say that you need to spend at least 25% or 30% of the funds that are being invested before you apply for the visa.
Another very interesting question that is often asked is "Can I get a green card from the E-2 visa?". The answer is that there is no direct or ultimate path to obtain the green card if you are an E-2 Investor. However if you grow your business, you have different options, such as:
This visa allows any investor to put $900,000 into a regional center and obtain a green card by investing in a government approved project. Investors can also put $1,800,000 in their own project, as they expand E-2 operations or open an additional company that will employee ten workers and will create a substantial difference in the economy. This is a good option for anyone who is on an E-2 visa right now and knows for sure that they want to obtain a green card because their kids are about to turn 21 and they want to keep them in the U.S.
The H-1B visa allows you to be self-employed, so if your business is doing well, you can convert the E-2 visa to the H-1B visa as a self-employed entrepreneur. If you do that, it's important to follow H-1B entrepreneur rules. A key element to this is to have a separate board to allow you to be detached from the operations of the company by getting an H-1B visa after the E-2 visa. You can also transition to a green card later on through that same company. Even tough it's not a very simple or straight forward process, it's still an option.
Derivative petition allows the spouse to get their own H-1B visa, then the spouse’s employment will allow the E-2 visa person to be sponsored right away with the wife or husbands petition.
Green Card Through Marriage
It’s another interesting way that allows an E-2 visa person that is not married and is currently in a relationship with a U.S. citizen. They will be able to get a green card through marriage.
EB-2 NIW National Interest Waiver)
If the E-2 business person is so exceptional then they are able to apply for what is also called a “self-petition green card” based on national interest, or if their business creates an impact on the economy. This option allows you to get a green card without involving any other company, but your own business and your own ideas.
In short, this is a non-immigrant visa for people who seek a fast solution, meaning they want things to get going; they don't really care if that's a Permanent Residency or not, they just want to be in the U.S. as soon as possible, so they can start a business that they want to actively engage with.
While choosing to write about E-2 investor visa, my colleagues asked me why I haven't decided to write about Portugal, Cyprus or any other European program, and the answer is that E-2 allows you to bring in your team members to the United States under E-2 essential category that allows your employees to move from your country to the U.S. to work for your business. Furthermore, with this visa, the spouse gets a dependent visa and the EAD, commonly known as Employment Authorization Document or work permit - that means your spouse (be it the husband or a wife) can work anywhere (it could be your business or any other) in the U.S.
One thing I must add for clients that are from India or those who are not from the E-2 treaty countries and they still want to own a business that they wish to actively engage with is that they should not worry, as you still can live that dream by obtaining a Grenada, Turkey or Montenegro citizenship as the first step towards an E-2 visa.
For more information on those countries, you can visit the following links:
Over the past years, Savory & Partners has accompanied and assisted hundreds of families across the Middle East in securing their second citizenship & residency by investment in the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, the European Union and the Caribbean.
Book your FREE consultation to learn how Savory & Partners can help you secure your future and the future of your family with a second nationality and passport, or please get in touch with us by giving us a call at +971 54 440 2955 or send us a WhatsApp message.
Imran Mirani is a Senior Citizenship Consultant, with 14 years of expertise in Citizenship & Residency by Investment Programs, business migration to the UK and the U.S., and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) & Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) expert.