Who is Eligible for E-2 Visas, and What are They For?
Hopeful entrepreneurs from all over the world come to the U.S. to achieve the American dream of business ownership. The U.S. has treaty agreements with 82 countries and created E-2 Visas that allow entrepreneurs to work in the U.S. for a business they’re invested in. These non-immigrant, or non-permanent, visas are also available to their spouses and minor, unmarried children, allowing them to accompany international investors to the U.S. A major benefit of E-2 Visas is that they can be extended an unlimited amount of times to allow the entrepreneur to stay in the U.S. for two- to five-year increments. The actual time frame depends on the country the investor is from.
E-2 Visas differ from Green Cards because they aren’t permanent or connected to American citizenship. E-2 Visa applicants also need to prove that they are invested in the company. If you are an international investor who is interested in a franchise or business in the U.S., there are some requirements to qualify for an E-2 Investor Visa.
E-2 Investor Visa Qualifications
- You must be a citizen of a U.S. treaty country. This includes countries to which you have secondary or tertiary citizenship that don’t require you to own a home in your country of citizenship.
- You have to be involved in the direction and development of the business. This can be achieved through owning at least 50% of the business or having a major managerial role and essential skills.
- You must either be invested or are in the process of investing in a business. While there is no legal requirement in terms of the minimum amount of your investment, the more you invest, the better. For example, the immigration officer working on your case will have more confidence in the future success of your business if you invest at least $150,000. This will help you make a stronger case than if you invested less than $100,000.
To apply for an E-2 Visa, you have to go to the U.S. embassy in your country of citizenship. When your business in the U.S. ends, you must leave the country. You will likely have to show the U.S. consulate in your country of citizenship that you intend to leave. Additionally, your business can’t just be a way to support yourself. The ultimate goal of E-2 Visas is to provide jobs to American workers, in a non-home-based location, such as an office or retail store.
The U.S. government would be foolish to ever get rid of this program, as E-2 Visa holders employ millions and contribute to the economy.
E-2 Visa Investors and Franchises
Franchises are popular for foreign investors because a business plan and operating cost projections are required. This helps them determine how large their investment has to be, which is an important part of their application. In terms of E-2 Visa-friendly franchisors, you'll likely find more luck with an emerging brand than a national corporation, like McDonald’s or Subway. According to Bobby Chung, an immigration attorney with the Law Office of Bobby C. Chung, midsize or startup brands are motivated to work with international investors because they put a lot of money into their businesses and want to see them succeed. Big corporations already have many American investors, so Chung said their need for franchisees is easily met.
Franchises also allow you to scale your business and create a lot of jobs for others while providing for yourself and your family.
Working With a Franchise Consultant
Working with a franchise consultant will help you find the ideal franchise opportunity. These professionals will recommend you to franchisors and guide you to invest in a business that fits your lifestyle and financial background. When working with your consultant to find E-2 Visa-friendly franchises, it is important to ask these questions:
What is the Minimum Investment?
By law, there is no minimum investment required to qualify for an E-2 Visa. But your case will be stronger if you have an investment of at least $100,000 or more. Since many multinational corporations require seven-figure investments at times, it may be better to focus on start-ups and mid-sized companies.
What is a Qualifying Business?
Legally speaking, this is an ambiguous term like a minimum investment. To qualify for an E-2 Visa, you can invest in a new or existing business, and you must prove that you have a physical location, like an office or store. Home-based businesses aren’t included.
The ideal business that qualifies for an E-2 Visa creates American jobs and is asset-based with a demonstrated substantial usage of investment funds. This includes inventory, equipment, supplies, build-out and renovation.
Franchise consultants connect franchisors with passionate entrepreneurs who want to open a franchise. Since the consultant knows how various franchise businesses work, they will connect you with franchisors who work with E-2 visa holders. With the consultant's deep knowledge of how to buy a franchise, they will only connect you with franchising opportunities that align with your values, skills, background, and financial situation.
On top of knowing about the specifics of franchise cost, franchise consultants can also help you better understand important documentation, such as the franchise agreement and the Franchise Disclosure Document, which tell you everything you need to know about a franchise business.
Due Diligence Before Buying a Franchise Business
In addition to speaking with a consultant, attending discovery day is an important part of the due diligence process before buying a business. If you have what it takes to be a franchise owner, the franchisor will invite you to discovery day. This event usually takes place at the franchisor’s corporate headquarters and allows you the opportunity to vet the franchisor along with members of the leadership team. But keep in mind that you are being vetted, as well. To get the most information you can before owning a business, take notes and be actively involved in the event.
To avoid making the mistake of buying a business too quickly and based on emotions, take time to rest and read your notes after you get back home. The decision of owning a franchise should be finalized after the franchisee validation process.
The Franchisee Validation Process
As a prospective franchise owner, you should know that the franchisee validation process is one of the most important parts of the investigative work you do before buying a business. During franchisee validation, you ask questions to franchisees in the system to know how a franchise business really operates. Their experience is indispensable to you and can be the deciding factor of whether to buy a franchise or not.
To get the best possible picture of a specific franchise business, you should speak with multiple franchise owners. Be aware of the consistency or inconsistency of the responses you get to your questions. This can help you identify red flags and stop you from making the mistake of buying a business that isn’t ideal for you.
What is an E-2 Visa?
E-2 visas provide entrepreneurs from 82 treat countries to achieve the American Dream of business ownership. Different from Green Cards, E-2 visas are non-permanent and are also available to the international entrepreneurs’ spouses and unmarried children. E-2 visas can also be extended an unlimited number of times for two-to five-year increments. To qualify, entrepreneurs need to be citizens of a treaty country and heavily involved in the operations of the business and are at least in the process of investing. Investors also have to be prepared to depart the U.S. when their time with the business is over. As part of the due diligence that comes with franchise ownership, international investors benefit from working with franchise consultants. These professionals provide candidates with information on the required minimum investment and the definition of a qualifying business. With a high approval rate, international investors should strongly consider E-2 visas.