E-2 Visa for Foreign Investors

The E-2 visa allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. and invest in a U.S company.

The E-2 visa allows foreign nationals of certain countries to come to the U.S. and invest in a U.S company.  This article provides guidance on who qualifies for an E-2 visa and how to complete the E-2 visa application process.

(Please note that the E-2 visa is significantly different from the E-1 visa, and simply because you qualify for one does not mean that you will qualify for the other.  For detailed information on the E-1 visa, please see our article on "E-1 Visa for Foreign Business Nationals.")

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for an E-2 visa, you must be a national of a country that has a trade treaty with the United States. As a general rule, if you hold a passport from the foreign country, you will meet the nationality requirement and qualify for the visa. However, to make sure, you can either look up the treaty between your country and the U.S. (which will provide a definition of the term ‘national’) or simply contact the U.S. consulate in your country and ask it whether you qualify as a national for purposes of the E-2 visa.

Countries Whose Nationals Are Eligible for an E-2 Visa

The U.S. has E-2 trade treaties with fewer than 100 countries. The list of eligible ones (which include China, Germany, France, Poland, Mexico, and Canada, just to name a few) is at the Department of State’s E-2 and E-1 treaty page.

You MUST be a national of one of the enumerated countries in order to qualify for the E-2 visa. This requirement cannot be waived or excused for any reason.

In addition to the nationality requirement, to be eligible for the E-2 visa you must also have invested (or be actively in the process of investing) a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. commercial enterprise (i.e. a U.S. business).

There is no minimum amount of capital required for the investment. Some E-2 investors have successfully obtained visas after investing as little as $30,000. However, you will need to demonstrate that your level of investment is “substantial” for the enterprise. You will be required to submit evidence that your investment funds came from a legitimate source, specifically that the funds were not obtained through criminal activity.

You will also need to show that you are entering the U.S. in order to develop/direct the investment. The ways to meet this requirement include by (1) showing that you have at least a 50% ownership in the enterprise or (2) that you occupy a managerial position in the enterprise (such as manager, president, or the like.)

Length of Stay and Numerical Limits

Generally, your initial E-2 status will be valid for a maximum of two (2) years, and you have the option to extend your status by two-year increments.

There is no numerical limitation on the number of E-2 visas that may be issued each year. This makes the E-2 visa particularly beneficial to foreign nationals, because you don't face any danger of the annual allotment running out before you receive your visa.

Another beneficial aspect to the  E-2 is that there is no maximum period of stay. An E-2 visa holder could theoretically extend his or her E-2 status for as long as desired. 

Family Members' Rights

Spouses and children of E-2 visa holders are eligible to come to the U.S. as the E-2’s dependents.  These dependents can also continue to extend their status for as long as the principal E-2 visa holder.

Application Process

The application for the E-2 visa is significantly different from that for other nonimmigrant visa applications because (most of the time) the applicant isn’t required to file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain the visa.

Instead, you file an application with the U.S. consulate in your home country, and it is the consulate that decides whether or not you qualify for the E-2 visa. If you are already in the U.S. in a different nonimmigrant status, such as H-1B or B-1/B-2, you have the option of changing status to E-2 by filing an I-129 petition with USCIS.

In order to qualify for an E-2 visa, when you apply for the visa at the U.S. consulate you should include the following evidence:

  • Form DS-160 confirmation page (one for you, and one for each dependent).
  • Form DS-156(E), which must be completed by the company you will be working with in the U.S.
  • One 2x2 passport-style photograph for each applicant.
  • Civil documents establishing the relationship between the applicant and any accompanying dependents (such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, adoption certificates, and the like).
  • Proof of your nationality (typically your passport should be sufficient).
  • Tax valuation/market appraisal of the enterprise.
  • Proof that the funds you invested came from a lawful source (such as audited financial statements, stock certificates, and bank statements).
  • Evidence that you made the investment (promissory notes, security agreements, tax returns, closing/settlement papers, mortgage/loan documents).
  • Information about the enterprise (business license, business tax returns, business plan, W-2 and W-4 forms, annual reports).
  • Proof of your managerial capacity (letter from the enterprise explaining your position and accompanying duties).

This only a general list of evidence. Contact your local U.S. consulate to obtain its detailed list of requirements.

Fees and Costs

The E-2 visa application’s fees and costs vary from country to country, because these costs are governed by the U.S.’s reciprocity agreement with the individual foreign country. Contact the U.S. consulate for exact information on these fees, how you can pay them, and when you should pay them.

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