The E2 visa is a special non-immigrant visa available to nationals of treaty countries entering the US to do the following:
a.) Develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested, or are actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital;
b.) Invest substantially in an already-established US enterprise;
c.) Develop and direct investments from the treaty country.
The investment should create job opportunities for US workers. While it is preferable to have the U.S. workers hired at the time of application for the treaty investor visa, reasonably achievable projections of jobs that will be created in the future is often sufficient.
There is no specific dollar amount that must be invested to meet the substantial amount requirement, but the investment must meet one of two tests:
1.) It must represent a significant proportion of the total value of the business enterprise; or
2.) It must be sufficient to establish a profitable and viable business of the type contemplated.
Family members (spouses and unmarried children under 21) of the principal Treaty Investor visa holder may obtain derivative status that allows them to live, work and attend school in the US.
Treaty Investor visas are generally issued for four or five years, although some consulates issue the first visa for two years. Extensions are generally unlimited as long as the investment continues, and are often reissued for five additional years at a time.
Applicants in this category must have extensive documentation detailing the business plan, the amount of the investment, the nature of the capital, and calculation of jobs to be created. A successful visa application will also demonstrate how the proposed enterprise will benefit the United States.
Treaty Investor (E-2) versus the Business Expansion Visa (L-1A)
It is often the case that one may qualify for either the Treaty Investor (E-2) or Business Expansion (L-1A) visa. The question then arises as to which of the two visas is the most advantageous. Following is our analysis of this question:
The Business Expansion visa has the following distinct advantages:
One does not have to invest a specific amount of cash in advance of visa approval;
Once the case is presented, one can have approval in as little as 7 – 10 days;
Adjudication of the case takes place in the US, rather than at the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate (which can be quite tough on investor cases);
The spouse of the principal gets a general work permit during the life of the visa;
Eligibility for Priority Permanent Residency in the US after 1 year.
In contrast, as explained above, the Treaty Investor visa requires the investment of a “substantial” amount of money, in advance of approval, and usually requires adjudication at an American Embassy or Consulate, which can take several weeks.
Also, although one may plan to remain in the US for only a few years, one might very well change one’s mind about this at some point in the future; the Treaty Investor visa does not lead to Permanent Residency regardless of the amount of time one spends in the US.