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An E-2 Visa is an investment visa for foreign nationals who wish to live in the U.S. to develop and direct the operation of a business. An E-2 Visa is a great Visa option for those who want to start a business of any type and size. In order to qualify for the Visa, applicants must meet specific requirements:
1. Must be National of a Treaty Country
The E-2 Investor Trader Visa is only available to people from the countries that the U.S. has a Treaty with. A list of Treaty countries can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fees/treaty.html
2. Must have Invested or be Actively in the Process of Investing
You must invest funds that you have obtained from a lawful means. All of the assets invested must be personal assets subject to risk of loss and this really means that you actually have something to lose. Your business must be at the start up ready phase.
3. Must be in a Position to “Develop & Direct” the Business
You cannot get the E-2 Visa unless you are the one that is going to direct and run the business. Your educational background and experience should suggest that you will be in a position to make the business a success.
4. Investment Must be Substantial
The U.S. Government does not have a predetermined amount that they consider substantial. As such, your investment could be as low as $20,000 or as high as millions.
5. Investment & Business Cannot be Marginal
This means that the business cannot be set up so that it provides a means of living just for yourself and family. You can demonstrate a business is not marginal by putting together a business plan that shows growth over a 5-year period or by showing that you plan to hire employees in the future.
6. Must Intend to Return to Home Country After Expiration
This is not a difficult test to meet and all you must do is sign a document that indicates you plan to return home once your visa expires. Unlike many other visas you do not have to show any ties to your home country like a home there.
There are two ways you can apply for an E-2 visa. While inside the U.S. or from your home country.
Applying for an E-2 Visa While in the U.S. (Change of Status)
If you are in the U.S. on a visa (B1/B2, H-1B or F-1), you can file a petition to change status to an E-2 Visa with the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS). If your petition is granted, it is best to think of yourself as “in E-2 Status” rather than having an E-2 “visa” as the change of status does NOT permit you to reenter the country the way an E-2 visa would. E-2 status is typically granted for a 2-year period. Finally, if you have dependents that are also in the U.S. that are dependents on your visa (eg. H-4) where you want to change their status, you must also file an I-539.
Applying for an E-2 Visa at a Consulate (An E-2 Visa)
If you are outside of the U.S., you must file a DS-160 and this long application is completed online. The visas are typically granted from between 2 & 5 years and you are permitted to leave and enter the U.S. whenever you like. If you have dependents, separate DS-160 applications must be completed for them.
How long does the Visa last for?
If processed as a change of status, the time period will generally be 2 years. If processed at a consulate, the visa can be valid for up to 5 year but the actual time will depend on the reciprocity agreement between countries and the decision taken by the consulate. See more detail on E-2 Visa length and E-2 visa reciprocity by clicking here.
How are Family Members Treated?
E-2 Investors can get an E-2 derivative visa for spouse and children under 21. The spouse can get work authorization but the children cannot. All parties may attend school in the U.S.
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