WHAT IS THE US E2 VISA
The EB-5 Programme has been a popular choice for many high net worth individuals looking to migrate to the US. In-fact, increasing demand for the programme has resulted in certain countries facing backlogs of up to 15 years in some instances. The extreme back logs and the November 2019 increase in the minimum required investment from $500,000 to $900,000 have forced many individuals to explore another investment immigration option offered by the US – the E2 Visa.
The US E2 visa is an investor visa that allows the holder to live and work legally in the US as long as he/she maintains ownership of 50 percent or more in a business. Unlike the business investments made by EB-5 applicants, there is no minimum specified investment amount required for E2 Visa applicants. However, most US immigration lawyers advise investments of $100,000 or more. Additionally, E2 Visa holders must be involved in the operations of their business. In-fact, the E2 business must be the sole employer of the visa holder while he/she lives in the US. As long as the visa holder continues to work and operate the business successfully and renew his/her I-94 card every two years, he/she is eligible to extend the E2 Visa indefinitely.
BENEFITS OF THE E2 VISA
The E2 Visa provides many benefits to investors looking to live in the US – some of which may prove more applicable to those actively accessing whether they should invest in the visa or in the EB-5 Programme.
Quick processing time of two to three months
Payment of taxes only on the income generated from the E2 business, and not on income earned outside of the US
No minimum investment amount specified
Ability to extend the Visa term indefinitely as long as the E2 business remains operational
Ability for one’s spouse to work at any business and children to attend school
Less stringent source of funds requirements than that of the EB-5 Programme.
Ability to immediately migrate and commence work in the E2 business.
Provides greater travel flexibility for investors relative to the EB-5 Programme.
ACCESSING THE E2 VISA
The E2 Visa is only accessible by citizens of countries with a US E2 Treaty. There are currently 80 countries with E2 Treaties. Citizens of these countries receive visas valid anywhere from three months to five years dependent on the type of E2 Treaty their country holds with the US.
Individuals hoping to access the US E2 Visa, who are not from a treaty country, will have to become a citizen of an E2 Treaty country before they can apply for the visa. This is possible through citizenship by investment programmes. At present, there are three countries with Citizenship by Investment Programmes that also have E2 treaties – Grenada, Montenegro, and Turkey. Of these three, Grenada’s programme offers the greatest benefits and provides an E2 visa that’s valid for five years in the first instance.
E2 VISA APPLICATION PROCESS
To obtain an E2 Visa, investors must first establish a business in the US. This business can be an existing business that the investor purchases, a new business that is established from scratch, or a franchise that is purchased and developed. In-fact, there are many American based companies that offer franchises with pre-developed business models for the E2 market. Most of these franchises start at $200,000. Though purchasing a franchise with a pre-defined business model and management structure may be efficient for some investors, it is always advised that investors purchase or create businesses in keeping with their interests and specialities – especially as the business will be their sole form of employment within the US.
- Select a US immigration lawyer to provide guidance and pay the required legal fees.
- Complete the required immigration forms and collect the necessary supplemental documents.
- Find a suitable business opportunity (franchise or otherwise) and create a business plan for the selected business opportunity through the assistance of a third-party business planner, if required.
- Purchase the business opportunity and incorporate the company through the assistance of a corporate attorney.
- Place the investment amount for the business opportunity in an escrow account.
- File the E2 Visa application at the US embassy nearest to the investor
- Attend visa interview at the US embassy
- Security clearance on the investor is conducted by the US Government
- Investor required to turn over his/her passport to the US Embassy
- Investor will be contacted to collect his/her passport with the visa included, from the US Embassy.
CONVERTING AN E2 VISA TO AN EB-5 INVESTMENT
An E2 Visa cannot naturally convert to permanent residency in the US. However, through efficient planning, an E2 Visa investment can be converted to an EB-5 investment through which an investor can get permanent residency. As the E2 business matures, the investor may use their E2 business and other capital and assets to meet the financial investment threshold and qualify for the EB-5 green card.
“Changing one’s status from an E2 Visa to EB-5 is possible based on the specifics of each case. There are a number of factors that must be considered to evaluate if an investor can qualify. At the Law Office of Robert Abedi, we have helped many E2 investors convert to the EB-5 programme. For more information, about the E2 Visa or how to convert to the EB-5 Programme, contact us.“