What is an E-2 Visa?

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 them 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.

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