Running a business in America can be a lucrative opportunity. Maybe you want to take advantage of a specific customer base or expand your business to a multinational front. Whatever your reasoning, you may want to start an E2 visa business without having to run it yourself — but is that possible?
Although it’s more complicated, you can own an E2 visa business without having to manage it from the U.S. Read on to learn more about this process and how you can find a business strategy that will bring you the best chance of success.
What Is an E2 Visa?
Before we dive into how involved you have to be in running your E2 visa business, let’s talk some about what an E2 visa is. An E2 visa is designed to help investors start businesses in the United States. This is a temporary visa, so your continued visa status will depend on the success of your business.
In particular, the E2 visa is aimed at investors who have invested a “substantial amount of capital” in a business in the United States. There is no specific dollar amount you must have available to invest in order to qualify for this visa. Rather, it will depend on the size and nature of the business you’re planning to run.
In order to qualify for an E2 visa, there are three basic requirements you must meet. First of all, you must be from a country that maintains a treaty of trade and navigation with the United States. You can find a list of countries that maintain these treaties on the United States Department of State’s website.
Second, you must be in the process of investing, or have already invested, a significant amount of money in your business venture. This money must be considered “at risk,” meaning it is already committed to your business venture. And finally, you must be coming to the United States for the sole purpose of starting this business.
Ownership and Control Requirements
Aside from the basic requirements, there are a few supplementary qualifications you must meet if you want to be granted an E2 visa. In particular, you’ll need to own or control at least 50 percent of the business you plan to run in the United States. This means your ownership group is limited to only one or two people; you can’t share ownership or control with half a dozen investors.
There is an exception we’ll discuss more in a moment in which a minority shareholder can maintain control over the business and still get approved for an E2 visa. It is true that this option is more complicated. But it can be a good option for investors who don’t want to immigrate to the United States, but who want to be heavily involved in a business venture there.
How to Own a Business You Don’t Manage
Let’s say you’re one of those investors who doesn’t want to leave your home country but does want to take advantage of the investment opportunities in the United States. You may have plenty of capital to invest in a business, which gives you ownership power. You can own an E2 visa business that you don’t actually manage on a day-to-day basis.
You must partner with another investor who will help to provide the initial money you need to get your visa. If possible, this person should own a 50 percent share of the business; this will simplify your application process. And they should be willing to move to the United States and maintain control over the business you’re launching.
How to Manage a Business You Don’t Own
You can also manage a business you don’t fully own or in which you’re a minority shareholder. Maybe you don’t have enough capital to put up a full 50 percent share in the business, but you’re willing to move to the United States. As long as you have a significant amount of money to contribute and a business partner willing to cover the rest, you can make this arrangement work.
You can put up your share of the money and then move to the United States and maintain control over the business. Because you and your partner together own 100 percent of the company and because you control it, you’ll meet the visa requirements. Your partner will effectively be a silent investor, and you’ll maintain the required control over the business.
Complications with This Process
If you and your business partner don’t own equal shares in your business, your visa application process is likely to be more complicated. Technically, you and your partner will be viewed as one applicant, so as long as you have 100 percent ownership and control between the two of you, your application should be approved. However, you may need to include some extra provisions in your business plan and legal documents outlining exactly how this relationship will work.
If you plan to go this route with your E2 visa business, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer specializing in immigration law. They can help you make sure all your paperwork is in order and that you’ve managed your special circumstances properly. They can also make it easier to navigate the complex and often confusing E2 application process.
E2 Employee Visas
The other way that you can get an E2 visa without having to run a business yourself is to come to the United States as the employee of an E2 company. Likewise, as an investor, you may want to bring employees with you to work in your new business. There are two categories of E2 visa employees, which we’ll discuss more in a moment.
The primary overarching requirement for E2 visa employees is that they must be of the same nationality as the investor or the company they’re working for. An adjudicator will need to review each employee’s application and determine if they meet the requirements for their application. If your business fails, the E2 visas of these employees will be revoked.
The first type of E2 visa employees is executive employees, also known as supervisor employees. This is the easier route to go when it comes to getting an employee E2 visa application approved. The primary requirement for this employee type is that they must have some sort of managerial responsibility in your company.
If you apply for an E2 visa for an executive employee, your adjudicator will take a look at the employee’s job duties and their position within your company. They will also want to see whether your employee has control over U.S. operations or some essential function of your business. They will also want to take a look at how many employees that executive will be managing and what those employees’ skill level is.
You can also apply for an E2 visa for employees who are considered essential to your business. It’s important to note that it is harder to get approval for a visa for this type of employee. Effectively, the difficulty lies in proving that this particular individual is absolutely essential to the operation of your business.
If you plan to go this route, be prepared to give evidence that this employee has specialized skills that are critical to the operation of your company. Your adjudicator will consider how much expertise that employee has in their field, as well as how unique their skill set is. They will also want to know how much training and experience your employee had to go through to become an expert, how much they get paid for their expertise, how long you’ll need their service, and whether there are employees in the U.S. who have those same skills.
Process for Applying for an E2 Visa
Applying for an E2 visa is a complicated process that can take anywhere from six months to a year, depending on how much preparation you have to do. You’ll need to start by filling out an I-129 form, which is your petition to apply for the E2 visa. From there, you’ll need to start working with a lawyer to assemble all the legal and financial documents you’ll need for your application.
If you’re in the United States, you can submit your E2 visa application directly to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. If you’re outside the U.S. when you submit your application, you’ll need to work through the U.S. consulate in your region of your country. This portion of the process can take anywhere from two weeks to five months.
Investor Funding Requirements
We mentioned earlier that there is no set dollar amount that qualifies as “a substantial amount of capital” for the purposes of an E2 visa application. Rather, the government wants to see that you’re willing and able to put down enough money to give your business the best chance at success. How much money this is will vary from business to business.
If you plan to start an independent dog walking business, which requires no special equipment, licensing, or business office, your initial investment requirements will be lower. But if you’re starting your own construction company, you’ll need to put down a greater amount of money to cover equipment and building materials. Buying a franchise can be a great way to get into a more involved business with a more manageable investment requirement.
Set Long-Term Goals
No matter what sort of business you’re launching and whether you’ll be managing it yourself or not, you’ll need to have a solid business strategy. This strategy will be your road map to success and will help you determine if you’re meeting your goals. The goals you set for your business should be focused on long-term success, rather than immediate profits.
Take a look at where you want your business to be in one year, five years, and ten years. Set specific goals for yourself and then work backwards to figure out how you’ll achieve those goals. Working towards your ten-year goals in year one can help you find the sort of success that will keep you in the United States long-term.
Do Your Homework
It’s also incredibly important that you do a serious amount of research before diving into any new business venture. You need to know what sort of long-term prospects your industry has in the United States and how it’s performing in the region you plan to start the business in. You also need to know who your customer base will be and what they’ll look for.
Make sure to research the market in the area where you’ll be starting your business in depth before you invest any money. Write a target customer profile and figure out what they look for in products, customer service, marketing, and more. You also need to figure out which marketing strategies will resonate best in the region you’re planning on working in.
Pick a Strategy
Once you have a better idea of what your business will look like in your desired region, it will be time to start looking at business strategies. There are dozens of tried-and-true strategies that can help your business find the success you need. You simply need to decide which strategies will be most relevant for your business.
You may want to consider trying to cross-sell or upsell your products when working with customers. You might want to keep your focus on price strategies or on running sales that will drive up your revenue. Gaining a technological advantage or improving your customer retention can also be strong strategies for success.
Find the Right Business Strategy for Your Investment
If you play your cards right with your E2 business, you could have the best of both worlds: benefitting from a United States business without actually having to run it yourself. If you plan to take this route, you may want to hire a lawyer to help you navigate that process. And having a strong business strategy can be a great way to ensure your endeavor succeeds even if you aren’t there to manage it on a day-to-day basis.
If you’d like to find the right business strategy for your E2 business, check out the rest of our site at Advanced Franchising Solutions. Our proven process saves you time, helps you avoid frustration, and streamlines your franchise search. Get a free franchise education today and start owning a business instead of your job owning you.