Have you ever dreamed of launching your own company in the United States and living the American dream for yourself? Maybe you’ve even made plans for what sort of business you would want to operate and where you’d want to live. But before you can plan any more of that venture, you need to know how much you’ll need to invest upfront.
An E2 visa is a great way to get started running your new business in the United States, but the process isn’t cheap. Read on to learn more about E2 visa investments and what you can expect to pay during this process.
What Is An E2 Visa?
Before we dive into all the costs associated with getting an E2 visa, let’s talk some about what it is. An E2 visa is designed to help investors launch businesses in the United States. Your E2 visa is temporary and is tied to the success of your business; if your business fails, your visa will be revoked.
In particular, E2 visas are geared towards business owners who are able and willing to dedicate a “substantial amount of capital” to their new venture. We’ll discuss more later what qualifies as a substantial amount of capital and sources that you can get this money. The main thing the U.S. government wants to see is that you’re willing to do what it takes to make your business a success.
There are a few basic requirements E2 visa applicants must meet if they want their application to be approved. First of all, you must be a citizen of a country that maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. You can find a list of these countries on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
Aside from the country of origin requirement, you must be coming to the United States with the sole purpose of starting a business. You can’t, for instance, come to the U.S. to get married and use an E2 visa to gain access to the country. And finally, you must have invested or be in the process of investing a significant amount of money in your new business venture.
What Qualifies as a “Substantial Amount of Capital?”
So exactly how much money do you have to invest in order for it to qualify as a “substantial amount of capital?” In general, visa application experts recommend you plan to invest at least $100,000 in your E2 visa business. That being said, there is no specific investment minimum the government requires you to meet for an E2 visa.
Primarily, the government wants to see that you have the resources and dedication to make your business work. A substantial amount of capital is enough money to get your business off the ground and give it the best start possible. This amount will vary depending on the type of business you run, as well as your specific company.
Investing in an Existing Business
Your up-front investment costs may change slightly depending on whether you’re applying for an E2 visa with an existing business or a new business. If you have an existing business, you can take a loan for your E2 visa investment cost using your business assets as collateral. However, there are some limitations to this financing allowance.
If your investment will be between $100,000 and $500,000, the government doesn’t want to see you finance more than about 30 percent of your business. You may take out additional loans beyond this 30 percent that don’t rely on your business assets as collateral. However, if your investment is closer to $1 million, a loan for up to 50 percent of your business value should be fine.
Investing in a New Business
If you’re starting a new business for your E2 visa venture, the amount of money you must invest will depend much more on your specific business needs. In essence, you must have enough money to get your business up and running and to support it through its first several months of operations. The larger your planned business, the smaller the percentage you must invest will be.
If your business will cost $500,000 or less, the government will likely want to see you invest at least 75 percent of the cost – more if your business is worth significantly less than $500,000. If your business will cost between $500,000 and $3 million, you can plan to invest 50 percent up front. And if your business will cost $3 million or more, you should be fine investing 30 percent up front.
Investment Requirements for Different Business Types
Investment requirements for new businesses will also change depending on what type of business you’re running. Remember, the goal here is to make sure your business has everything it needs to succeed. A car wash business is going to have different needs and different startup costs than a restaurant or retail store.
If you’re starting a business that doesn’t need a premises or a ton of inventory, you may be able to get approved with a smaller up-front investment. However, if you plan to have a storefront and physical products, you’ll need to invest more. You’ll also need to put up more money if you plan to start a company that requires multiple employees or specialized equipment to operate.
“At Risk” Requirement
Unfortunately, simply having your investment money in hand isn’t enough to satisfy E2 visa reviewers. The U.S. government wants to see that you are well and truly committed to making this new business work. That means that if your visa gets denied, you can’t just take that money and dedicate it to another venture.
The government requires that your investment money must be “at risk” at the time of your visa application. This means that you must have already committed a large portion of it towards your new business venture. This investment must be irrevocable – things like buying branded merchandise, specialized equipment, or premises in the United States.
Once you get past the cost of your initial investment, you still aren’t done with your E2 business visa costs. You’ll also have to pay filing fees, which the government charges before they’ll even review your application. If you’re filing for visas for more than one person, you’ll have to pay these filing fees for each application you submit.
When you file your I-129 form, the first form you’ll submit as part of your visa application, you’ll need to pay a $460 filing fee. If you live outside the U.S. and submit a DS-160 form, you’ll need to pay a $205 filing fee. And you’ll also have to pay $85 to cover the biometric services that applicants living outside the U.S. must get.
In addition to your filing fees, you’ll have some other application costs associated with your E2 visa. As we mentioned, you’ll have to pay the $460 I-129 form filing fee for each person included on your E2 visa application. These people may include a business partner, employees, or family members who will be traveling to the U.S. with you.
If you live outside the U.S., you’ll have to travel to your nearest consulate during your application process. If your visa gets approved, you’ll have to pay travel and moving expenses for your move to the United States. There may also be other miscellaneous fees associated with your application process that you’ll need to plan for.
Aside from your application costs and filing fees, another huge expense in your E2 visa application process will be your legal fees. The application process is complex, and navigating it successfully on your own is difficult or impossible. You’ll need a lawyer who specializes in immigration affairs to help you manage this application.
Some lawyers offer a flat fee package in which they help you manage all parts of your application process for one agreed-upon cost. Those packages usually run somewhere between $1,500 and $10,000, depending on how complex your business is. You can also find lawyers who charge an hourly fee, usually ranging between $100 and $350 per hour.
Business Plan Creation Costs
In addition to legal advice, you’re also going to need help getting your business plan together. Your business plan will be a critical part of your application, as it will show the government exactly how you’ll find success with your business. It will also give you the best chance at success once your application is approved and you launch your business.
Hiring a business plan service will cost you somewhere around $1,500, but these services only work for small, simple businesses. More complex companies may require you to work with a traditional consulting service. Depending on the complexity of your business, you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $10,000 for a traditional consulting service package.
Premium Processing Fees
Once you have your business plan together and your E2 visa application submitted, the waiting will begin. A standard application will usually take about five months to process, during which time you’re out your investment and waiting to recoup those costs. However, you do have the option to decrease your wait time if you can pay an additional fee.
You can opt to pay a premium processing fee that will put your application at the top of the stack. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service will guarantee that you get a response to your application within fifteen days of filing if you pay this fee. However, the premium processing fee is $2,500, and you’ll have to pay it each time you renew your visa in order to get the same processing time.
Visa Renewal Fees
On the subject of renewing your visa, this is a recurring expense you can expect to pay if your E2 visa application gets approved. Although E2 visas are theoretically good for five years, you’ll need to renew them every two years. This will involve going through the same application process you went through the first time, complete with all the fees.
Each time you renew your visa, you’ll have to pay the $460 I-129 form filing fee and the legal fees to help you navigate the process. You’ll also have to pay the premium filing fee if you don’t start your application early enough to allow for the five-month wait period. The good news is that you won’t have to pay for business plan costs again, since you’ll have that plan in place and underway.
You may be wondering at this point how you’re going to get together the money to cover all the expenses we’ve discussed here. Of course, raising this capital on your own is the simplest and most direct way to launch your E2 business venture. You can ask family members and friends to donate or loan you money to start this venture if you wish.
You can also opt to get a business loan or go into this venture with a business partner. However, if you plan to work with a business partner, keep in mind that you’ll have to demonstrate at least 50 percent ownership in the business. If you’re working with multiple partners and you have a less than 50 percent share, your application process will be much more complicated.
Calculate Your E2 Visa Investments
An E2 visa can be a great way to make your way to the United States and launch your new venture. However, this visa option requires a significant up-front investment. You need to plan to spend at least six figures, and possibly more if you’re starting a large or complex business.
If you’d like help calculating your E2 visa investments, check out the rest of our site at Advanced Franchising Solutions. We’re here to help you own a business instead of your job owning you. Get a free franchise education today and start getting industry information from thousands of franchises.