Do you know who first coined the expression “The American Dream?”
It dates back to 1931 and a book called Epic of America. Author James Truslow Adams describes the dream of a land where life is better, richer, and fuller — with plenty of opportunity for each individual.
Nearly 100 years later, the US is still the top choice for aspiring business investors from around the globe. If you’re doing some research into different investment opportunities in America, no doubt you’ve come across the E2 visa scheme.
How does the E2 visa work, exactly? What types of businesses can you start with this visa? And what do small business investors need to do to qualify?
We’ll discuss these important topics and much more, so keep reading for the answers!
What Is an E2 Visa?
There are many visa options for business investors coming to the US, including the L1, E1, and E2. In this article, we’ll focus on one of the most popular options — the E2 business visa.
It’s also known as a “Treaty Investor” visa because it’s open to citizens from more than 60 nations that have active trade treaties with America. In a nutshell, the E2 visa allows foreign nationals with substantial funds to invest and reside in the US.
Small business investors have the option of launching a startup or buying an existing business. Another popular option is to buy into an established franchise and open a new store location. There’s no predetermined amount you have to invest, but experts recommend a minimum of $100,000 to improve your chances of approval.
Bonus: The E2 visa holder is free to bring their spouse and dependent children under the age of 21 with them!
Does the E2 Visa Grant US Citizenship?
One important thing we must mention is that the E2 visa does not come with dual intent. On its own, it’s not a path to a Green Card or US citizenship. The visa allows you to live in and run your business in the US — with the understanding that you’ll eventually return to your home country.
Upon approval, the E2 visa is valid for anywhere from three months to five years (depending on your nationality). The good news is that you can extend it indefinitely, every two years, as long as your business is still operating. You’re also free to travel in and out of the US as often as you wish as long as your visa is valid.
The other good news is that, if you do decide you want to settle permanently in the US, it’s often possible to change your status to another nonimmigrant category.
Popular Options for Business Investors
Now that you’re more familiar with the concept of the E2 visa, let’s talk about some specific ways business investors can use it. Here are five common paths for starting a business in the US.
1. Franchise Opportunities
There are over 750,000 franchises in the US that employ more than 8 million people. Not surprisingly, many franchise locations are owned and operated by foreign investors.
What makes franchises such an appealing investment opportunity? For starters, all the hard work has been done for you. A new franchise location comes with a detailed business plan, projected operating costs, and thorough corporate training.
This makes it easy to draw up a convincing business plan for investors, as you’ll know exactly how much you need to invest. The stronger your business plan, the better your chances of getting approved for an E2 visa.
You may immediately think of big names like McDonald’s, Subway, and KFC, and these are among the biggest names in franchising. However, you’re not limited to quick food service. A franchise could be something as simple as a kiosk in a shopping mall or as large as a premium gym or day spa.
Best of all, franchises are already established brands that everyone knows and loves. This presents considerably less risk than launching a new unknown business.
2. Multinational Corporations
Many business investors plan to start (or expand) their corporation in the US market. Even if they use a different visa to launch the corporation, the E2 visa is often the easiest way to onboard high-level employees.
As an example, let’s say you’re the majority shareholder in a corporation in the US. You want to bring managers, executives, or other “essential knowledge” employees into the US to work for your company. Provided the individual shares your same nationality, you can file an E2 petition to hire that employee.
It’s important to note that this won’t work for entry-level positions you could easily give to an American worker. For example, you can’t get an E2 visa for your friend to become a cashier or a janitor at your business. As with all types of work visas, you must prove the need to bring in a foreign employee instead of hiring a local citizen.
3. Consulting Business
Do you have a lot of professional experience in your field? Do you want to use your knowledge to launch a consulting firm in the US?
There are many advantages to this business plan for investors. It requires considerably less capital than investing in a restaurant or corporate office. It can also start, operate, and turn a profit with far less overhead expenses.
The opportunities are almost endless. Maybe you’re an expert in software development or IT. Maybe you spent decades in the healthcare industry managing clinics or hospitals. Or maybe you’re an architect or design engineer and you want to use your skills in the American market.
Whatever the case, you can bring your knowledge to the table as a consultant with an E2 business visa.
4. Start Up Business Investors
Aspiring business investors can hardly find a better place to launch their idea than the American market.
The US is the undisputed king of startups, with more than 63,700 successful startup endeavors in recent years. It’s also home to 65% of the world’s “unicorn” startups worth $1 billion or more.
If you have an idea for a startup, you’ll need to present a solid business plan to get your E2 visa. The consular officer will want to see a detailed plan of how you’re going to finance your company and support yourself while the business grows.
5. Buying an Existing Business
A final option you might consider is buying a business that’s already established and turning a profit. Franchising isn’t the only option here — you could find an independent business for sale in your chosen locale.
It’s usually easy to get an E2 visa for this type of investment because you have the company’s financial records at hand. You can easily prove that it’s already a profitable business and your investment will continue to keep it that way.
Bonus: An existing business comes with existing clientele, which means a smaller marketing budget for you.
E2 Visa Requirements for Small Business Investors
Does the E2 business visa sound like this solution you’ve been searching for? If so, it’s vital to understand what you’ll need to do to qualify for this visa. Here are the three most important components of your application.
As mentioned earlier, the E2 visa is open to citizens of countries that have an active trade treaty with the US. This includes most countries in Europe as well as many nations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
To determine whether you’re eligible based on your passport, here’s a full list of the countries currently included in the E2 visa scheme.
2. Financial Status
Small business investors must have a “substantial” amount of money to invest in their business venture. Unfortunately, there’s no predetermined dollar amount for what that figure should be.
The general rule of thumb states that it should be at least $100,000. It needs to be more than 50% of the cost of the business venture, making you the majority shareholder.
It also depends on the size and scope of your intended business. For example, investing $100,000 in a business worth $175,000 is almost guaranteed approval. Investing $100,000 in a corporation worth $25 million hardly makes a dent and is unlikely to get you a visa.
3. Business Plan for Investors
It’s not enough to have a lump sum of money sitting in your bank account. The consular officer who reviews your application needs to see hard proof that you’re invested in the business.
To make your case, you can provide evidence such as:
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Business licenses
- Lease agreement
- Escrow documents
- Customer or vendor agreements
- Receipts for equipment purchases
- Advertising & marketing efforts
It seems counterintuitive to place your hard-earned money “at risk” before you know whether your visa application is approved. However, this is exactly what you need to do. Your plan won’t be approved if it’s clear that you could walk away at any time without losing anything.
How to Get Started With the E2 Visa Process
If you’ve read this far, you’re clearly committed to the idea of starting a business in America. Here’s a brief overview of the first steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal.
1. Establish Your Company
If possible, consult with an immigration lawyer to discuss your finances and business plan. If they agree that you’ll likely qualify for an E2 visa, go ahead and officially establish the company. You could do this through an LLC or an S Corporation.
Remember, an E2 visa holder must manage the business. Although you can bring in other investors or managers, you’re required to own at least 50% of the business.
2. Open a Bank Account & Transfer Funds
Next, it’s time to open a business bank account dedicated to your endeavor. One of the most important parts of your E2 visa application is detailed bank records, so it’s wise to start this part of the process as soon as possible.
Once the account is opened, transfer your investment funds (at least $100,000) into the account.
3. Spend Your Investment Funds
As mentioned above, you can’t just let your money sit in a bank account. You actually need to spend it to prove your commitment o your business endeavor.
Sign a lease for your company’s physical location. Put down deposits on utilities. Purchase any equipment, furnishings, and electronics you’ll need to operate. Remember, your funds need to be “at risk” if you hope to qualify for your visa.
4. Apply for Your E2 Visa
With this initial work out of the way, it’s time to go online and begin your visa application. Visit the website for the US Embassy or Consulate in your country and fill out the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
Once that’s submitted, you’ll need to schedule an in-person interview at the Embassy or Consulate. This is where you’ll bring your financial details and business plan to review with a consular officer. The officer will let you know if you need to do anything else to qualify and when you can expect a decision on your visa application.
If all goes well, you’ll soon receive your passport back — complete with your shiny new E2 visa.
Congratulations! You’re now ready to travel to America and launch your new business.
Advanced Franchising: Professional Help for Business Investors
Are you ready to get your slice of “The American Dream?” For aspiring business investors, the E2 visa scheme is one of the best ways to start a company in the US and turn that dream into reality.
Not only can you start a lucrative business, but you can bring your family along so everyone can enjoy the benefits of the American lifestyle. Small business investors have many terrific options to choose from, whether it’s buying an existing business, launching a startup, or buying into an established franchise.
If you’re leaning towards the last option, we can help. We know it can be overwhelming to research existing franchise options and try to choose one that fits your budget and interests. That’s why we’ve done the hard part for you and put together an entire site dedicated to pairing you with the best franchise opportunities.
Click here to begin your free franchise education and we’ll help you find the best possible investment options for your money.