Did you know that the US government issues between 8-10 million US visas in an average year? Even though the world was engulfed in a pandemic in 2020, over 4 million visas were still issued at foreign embassies.
Have you been researching ways to start a business in the US? Would you like to bring your family over to give them the benefits and opportunities that come with living here? Are you trying to decide which type of US visa you might qualify for?
If you’re nodding, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the E2 business visa. Keep reading to learn if this is the solution you’ve been looking for!
What Is an E2 Business Visa?
Of the millions of US visas issued each year, over 43,000 are E2 business visas. In simplest terms, this visa allows foreign nationals to invest and reside in the United States.
Also called a “Treaty Investor” visa, it’s open to citizens from countries that have active trade treaties with the US (we’ll provide a full list of countries below). It allows individuals that have substantial funds to invest to come to the US and do one of three things:
- establish a startup
- buy an existing business
- start a franchise
It’s important to note that the E2 business visa is not the same as a Green Card, nor does it establish permanent residency or US citizenship. Depending on your nationality, your E2 visa is valid anywhere from three months up to five years.
The good news is that you can renew it indefinitely as long as your business continues to operate and be profitable.
What Are the Requirements for an E2 Visa?
Let’s start with a list of countries whose citizens are eligible to apply for an E2 visa. As of 2020, these include:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- Republic of Congo
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
Assuming you have a passport from one of these nations, your next biggest concern is the amount of money you have to invest. Unfortunately, there’s no pre-determined dollar amount you’re required to have for your business venture.
At a bare minimum, you’ll need at least $100,000 to start the application process. However, there are many factors that determine the “minimum” amount to invest.
Basically, the consular officer that reviews your application needs to see solid evidence that the venture can’t succeed without your investment. If you’re investing $100,000 in a $200,000 business, that’s generally considered “substantial.” However, $100,000 barely makes a dent in a business that’s worth $15 million.
Understanding the Fine Print
For your business plan to be approved, you should invest at least a 50% stake in the business or assume a significant managerial role (or both). It’s also worth noting that you can bring your spouse and dependent children under 21 on their own derivative E2 visas.
Although there’s no required minimum for the number of jobs your business must create, your plan has a better chance of approval if it will generate at least three to five jobs. The business must also operate on a dedicated physical location, which means you can’t run the business from your home.
As far as the renewal process, you can apply for unlimited extensions of your E2 visa every two years. During this time, you’re free to travel in and out of the US for personal or other business purposes.
It’s generally understood that E2 visa holders “intend” to depart the US and return to their home country eventually, and many do. For those who desire to settle in the US permanently, it may be possible to adjust their status and gain residency.
How Do I Apply for an E2 Business Visa?
If this sounds like the type of US visa you’ve been looking for, it’s time to prepare for the application process. Exact rules and requirements may vary depending on your nearest US Embassy or Consulate, but the general process goes like this:
1. Start With the Online Application
The first thing you’ll need to do is fill out the DS-160 Form (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application). This is a standard form used to apply for many different types of US visas, including the E2 business visa.
It will be helpful to have your passport, resume/CV, and travel itinerary handy to fill in the requested details. You may need to provide travel details (to the US and other destinations) from the previous five years. You’ll also need to upload a digital photograph of yourself, similar to a passport-style photo.
Once you’ve filled out the form, sign and submit it electronically. Be sure to print out and keep the DS-160 barcode page, which you’ll need for your in-person interview.
2. Schedule & Pay for an Interview
Submitting your electronic application is just the beginning. Next, you’ll need to schedule a visa interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where you currently reside. An interview is typically required for all applicants and dependents between 14 and 79 years of age.
How long will you have to wait for your visa interview appointment? The answer is: It depends. Wait times vary by visa category, location, and even the time of year. You’ll be able to view current wait times when you visit the relevant consular website.
Once you’ve scheduled your interview, you’ll need to pay a non-refundable application processing fee — usually around $200. You must pay this fee before you arrive for your interview. Depending on your nationality, you may also need to pay an issuance fee after your visa is approved.
3. Gather Required Documents
Hopefully, you won’t have to wait too long before your interview appointment! In the meantime, you have plenty of work to do to keep you busy.
Here’s what you’ll need to bring with you to your interview:
- Passport (valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the US)
- Form DS-160 confirmation page/barcode
- Receipt for payment of the application fee
- A passport-style photo (if the digital upload failed)
- Form DS-165E (Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor Application)
Of course, you’ll also need to have proof of your financial means to launch your business venture. The exact requirements for forms and paperwork will vary by location, so be sure to read the fine print before you show up for your interview. The last thing you want to do is to be denied because you’re missing a document!
4. Attend the US Visa Interview
On the day of your interview, you’ll sit down with a consular officer to review your application and business plan. Their goal is to determine if you qualify to receive a US visa and, if so, which one you’re eligible for.
This is why it’s so important to have all your paperwork together and organized. The more evidence you have to support your business plans and goals, the stronger the likelihood of getting approved for your visa.
During the interview, you’ll have digital inkless fingerprints taken. There may also be other administrative processing for your application after the interview. The consular officer will let you know what (if anything) you need to do while your application is being processed.
Experts recommend that you hold off on purchasing your tickets to the US until you know for sure your application is approved.
5. Get Your Visa & Travel to the United States
The consular officer will give you an estimate on when you can expect to receive your passport and visa. You may be able to have it delivered via courier, or you may have to return and pick it up in person.
Here’s an important note: Your E2 visa does not guarantee entry into the US. It does allow you to travel to a US port of entry (usually a major airport), where you’ll request permission to enter the country based on your visa.
Ultimately, it is up to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at your port of entry to make the decision.
With that said, don’t let the idea scare you. If you’ve done everything legally necessary to acquire your E2 business visa, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be allowed into the US.
6. Extensions & Change of Status
As mentioned earlier, your E2 visa does not grant you permission to remain in the US indefinitely. When you pass through immigration, you’ll receive an admission stamp or Form I-94, or both. These state how long you’re allowed to remain in the US — typically two years.
If you intend to stay longer to continue conducting business, you’ll need to apply to extend your stay another two years. For most E2 visa holders, you can continue to renew and extend your visa indefinitely — as long as you’re still “in business.”
At some point, you may desire to change your status to another nonimmigrant category. You can do this from within the US or from your home country, provided you still have a valid, unexpired E2 visa.
Which Business Is Best for an E2 Visa?
Perhaps you already have a skill that you want to turn into a US-based business. Maybe you’re interested in starting a franchise and you’ve already researched some great franchise opportunities. It could also be that you want to invest in a business in the US but you have no idea where to start.
Here are some of the best E2 business visa ideas, including some you may not have considered before:
- Restaurants, bars, and cafes
- Day spas, nail salons, and massage studios
- Construction companies
- Residential or commercial painting
- Interior design services
- Landscaping and outdoor maintenance
- Cleaning companies
- Preschools or daycare facilities
- Acupuncture, TCM, and holistic health services
- Doggie daycare or luxury pet boarding services
- Logistics and delivery services
- Industrial medical supplies
- Home health care services
These are just some of the many paths you could take to starting your own business in the US. If you have the capital and the desire to start your own company from scratch, choose one of these E2 visa business ideas.
Other investors decide that the best option for them is to invest in an established franchise. There are countless options to choose from, but there are also tools available to help you narrow your search.
For example, our franchise match tool allows you to find franchises available in your chosen state that fit your investment budget. You can also filter by business category to ensure you choose a niche you’ll enjoy working in!
Need Help Getting Your US Visa?
If you qualify for an E2 business visa, it’s one of the best tickets into the United States.
With this type of US visa, you can start a lucrative business that will support your family for years to come. You’re also free to bring your family along for the journey so they can also experience the benefits of living, working, and studying in America.
Of course, there’s a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into your E2 business plan. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, don’t worry — we’re here to help.
Advanced Franchising is dedicated to helping aspiring investors like yourself to achieve the American dream. We offer free courses that explain how to find and fund a franchise in the US. We even offer an online business assessment tool to help match you to the perfect franchise opportunity.
Click here to ask us a question or schedule a call to discuss your business goals. We look forward to hearing from you!