Have you ever dreamed of opening your own business in the United States? You can make your American dream a reality, be your own boss, and make money to support your family. But the first step to launching this dream is to get an E2 visa from the United States government.
The E2 visa application process can be lengthy and confusing. Read on to learn more about E2 visa processing time and how long you should expect to wait to hear if your application has been approved.
What Is an E2 Visa?
Before we dive into all the specifics of the E2 investment visa processing time, let’s talk some about what an E2 visa is. This visa is geared towards investors looking to start businesses in the United States. In particular, it is designed for business owners who are ready and able to invest a “substantial amount of capital” in their business.
The E2 visa is a temporary pass into the United States that is tied to the success of your business. If your business fails, your visa will become null and you’ll have to leave the United States. In general, E2 visa investors should expect to put at least $100,000 into your business if they hope to have their application approved.
There are a few basic requirements you must meet in order to qualify for an E2 visa. First of all, you must come from a country that maintains a treaty of trade and navigation with the United States. You can find a list of countries that meet this qualification on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
You must also have invested or be in the process of investing “a substantial amount of capital” – usually $100,000 or more – in your business. You must be coming to the United States for the sole purpose of starting your business. And you must be a majority shareholder in the business with significant decision-making power for the company.
Gather Your Money
The first step in the E2 visa process is to gather the money you’ll need for your upfront investment. The amount of time this takes will depend on your personal resources and assets. For instance, if you already have that money on hand, this part of the process will not take you any time at all.
However, if you don’t have that money readily available, you have several options for getting the funds you need. You can apply for a business loan or partner with another investor who can split the costs with you. You can also try to raise the money with gifts from friends and family or through a crowdfunding website.
Write a Business Plan
Once you have your investment money together, you’ll need to spend some time writing a business plan. Not only will this help you set your business on the best path for success, but it will also be an important part of your application process. The government will want to see that you have a solid plan to create a successful business.
It’s a good idea to work with a business plan consultant to write your business plan. These experts know not only how to put together a comprehensive plan, but also what puts an entrepreneur on the best path to success. Depending on the complexity of your business, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to create your business plan.
Start Your Business
With your business plan in hand, it will be time to start putting money into your new venture. even though your E2 visa application hasn’t been submitted or approved yet, you’ll still need to go ahead and start investing that money. The U.S. government wants to see that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is and do what it takes to make your business succeed.
In particular, one of the additional requirements for an E2 visa is that your money must be “at risk,” meaning that it’s already irrevocably invested in your business. “At risk” expenditures can include premises, specialized equipment, inventory, and other such purchases. This step in the process will likely take a few months, though it is possible to get things launched in a few weeks if you have a solid business plan.
Gather Your Documents
Once your business is off and running, it will be time to gather the documents you’ll need for your E2 visa application. There are several forms you’ll need to fill out, including an I-129 form, which is a petition for a nonimmigrant worker to enter the country. You’ll also need to fill out a Form DS-160 and Form DS-156E, both of which deal with nonimmigrant petitions.
In addition to these forms, you’ll need:
- a passport that is valid for at least six months after your stay in the U.S. will begin
- a passport-style color photograph
- a business plan
- your curriculum vitae
- evidence that you’ll be in charge of your business
- evidence that you have your investment money
- evidence of remittance to the U.S.
- evidence of your nationality
- evidence that you’ve established a business in the U.S.
- evidence of your investment in the U.S.
- evidence that that investment is substantial
- evidence that your business is not marginal
- evidence that your business is a real operating enterprise
Review and Finalize Your Documents
Gathering all these documents can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, and your document process isn’t over yet. As you’ve likely gathered, the E2 visa application process is long and complex. It’s a good idea to get a lawyer who specializes in these affairs to review your documents and make sure everything is being handled appropriately.
Once you’ve gotten your documents together, send them to your lawyer with some time to review them. There’s a good chance you’ll need to provide some additional evidence, revise one of your forms, or expand some of your documents. It will likely take you a few weeks to get your documents finalized and ready for submission.
Submit Your Application
With your documents reviewed and finalized, it will finally be time to send in your E2 visa application. There will be a number of fees associated with this portion of the process. For instance, you’ll need to pay a $460 filing fee for each I-129 form you have to submit, plus a $205 filing fee for your DS-160.
Once you’ve submitted your application, the waiting game will begin. In general, it takes the U.S. government about five months to review an application and schedule you for an interview. However, this can vary depending on the consulate you’re working through and when you submit your application.
Prepare for Your Interview
After the government has time to review your visa application, they’ll reach out to you to schedule an interview. If you’re working with a busier consulate, it may be three months before you can get your interview scheduled. In a consulate with fewer demands, you might be able to get in as soon as three weeks.
You don’t have to spend this time before your interview sitting idle, however. You can spend time preparing for your interview and making sure you’re ready to answer any questions that may arise during this process. You might want to work with your immigration lawyer during this process, as they are often familiar with the sorts of questions that these interviews include.
Attend Your Interview
On the day of your interview, be sure to dress well and take any required documentation with you to the consulate. In general, it’s a good idea to have a copy of your passport and two passport-style photos. You should also bring copies of all your E2 visa documentation and any confirmations and approval notices you received prior to your interview.
The interview itself is usually a fairly short process, taking somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. The consulate officer will review your paperwork and application and ask you a few questions about your business. From there, they will let you know right away if your visa is approved.
Get Your Visa
Once your visa application is approved, you’ll still have a little waiting to do. In general, it usually takes about a week after your approval is granted for you to receive your visa. The visa itself will be a page that you insert into your passport to document that you have permission to enter and leave the United States freely.
It’s a good idea to wait to book travel to the United States until you have your visa in hand. This way, you can be sure there won’t be any delays or complications that cost you a plane ticket. Depending on your situation, travel to the United States will likely take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Premium Processing Option
Waiting five months for the U.S. government to grant you an interview can be an excruciating and expensive prospect. If you want to speed the process along, you do have the option to choose premium processing for your application. With premium processing, you’re guaranteed an answer to your application within 15 days.
It’s important to note that, even with premium processing, it may still be a few months before you can schedule your interview. The premium processing fee is also $2,500, and you’ll need to pay that money every time you renew your visa if you want to have the same processing speed. This option can save you a lot of time, but you’ll need to weigh that benefit against your budget.
Renewing Your Visa
Unfortunately, even once your visa is approved, your process isn’t over yet. Although E2 visas are technically valid for five years, you’ll have to renew your visa every two years. Waiting on this process could mean you lose your legal status in the United States if your visa expires before you complete it.
In general, it’s a good idea to start renewing your visa a year before it’s set to expire. You’ll need to go through much the same application process as before, with a few exceptions. You shouldn’t have to schedule an interview, and you won’t have to submit a new business plan during the renewal process.
Change of Status Option
If you need a way to get your business going fast, you can opt to do a change of status, rather than a full visa application. While a visa application usually takes three to five months to process, assuming there are no delays, a change of status can take as little as two weeks if you opt for premium processing. However, there are a few catches with the change of status option.
First of all, you must already be in the United States on another form of visa in order to opt for a change of status. And unlike a full visa, your change of status does not allow free travel in and out of the United States. If you leave the country, you’ll have to get a new visa before you can get back in.
Learn More About E2 Visa Processing Time
An E2 visa can be a great way to launch your business in the United States and start living the American dream. However, this process is lengthy, and you should be prepared to spend several months getting your application together and waiting for your interview. Making sure all your documents are in order and correct can help to speed your process along.
If you’d like to learn more about E2 visa processing time, check out the rest of our site at Advanced Franchising Solutions. We’re here to help you own your own business instead of your job owning you. Get a free franchise education today and start preparing yourself to be your own boss.