The E-2 visa, also frequently called treaty investor visa, is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to come to the United States when making a substantial investment in the country. If you are planning on opening a new business, or acquiring a franchise, the E-2 investor visa might be a good option for you.

In this article we will go through the most common asked questions regarding the E-2 visa:


E2 visa for investors - 2 business persons having a talk while pointing at documents

What is an E-2 Visa?

E-2 visa, also frequently called treaty investor visa, is a nonimmigrant visa that enables persons who have or are in the process of purchasing or establishing business in the United States to obtain a legal status to be employed in that business in the United States. 

What are the requirements to obtain an E-2 visa?

  1. The person must be a citizen of a country with the requisite treaty with the United States. For example, Colombia has the requisite treaty with the United States, so Colombians may apply for E-2 visas.

  2. The person must be making a “substantial” investment in the United States.

  3. The investment must not be “marginal”. An investment is not marginal if either: (a): the investment will earn a profit more than enough to provide a “minimal” living for the investor or his family or (b): will make a significant economic contribution. “Significant economic contribution” is not directly defined in the regulations but has generally understood to mean that it will create employment for U.S. workers.

  4. Finally, the investor must “develop and direct” the operation of the enterprise. This requirement also means that the investor must have a controlling interest in the enterprise.

What do you mean by “the person must be making a “substantial” investment in the United States”?

“Substantial” does not mean a particular dollar amount.  Rather, substantial is defined in the regulations to mean that the investment must pass the proportionality test.

First, the amount invested must be appropriate to the type of business which the person is investing in.  This will differ widely depending on the type of business – an investment of $50,000 to open a consulting company might be appropriate if you can demonstrate that that amount is sufficient to establish such an office.  On the other hand, an investment of $1 million to open a large manufacturing plant might not be sufficient, since opening a large manufacturing plant probably costs far in excess of $1 million.

Second, the investor must be investing an appropriate percentage of the funds necessary to pursue the business, which will be determined based upon the size of the investment amount.  For example, the Department of State has indicated that for an investment amount of $100,000.00 he would have to be investing at least 75% of that amount, and for a business costing $500,000.00 he would have to invest at least 60%.

Can I just form a company and leave large amount of money in the company’s bank account (say, $1 million)?

No.  The money must actually be spent or be otherwise “at risk” to count as an investment. Money simply held in a bank account does not count as an investment except to the extent that it is required for the business’s day to day cash flow needs.

Where do I apply for the E-2 visa?

That depends on where the person is living.  A citizen of Colombia living in Colombia would normally have to apply for an E-2 visa at the U.S. Consulate in Bogota, Colombia.  However, if one is physically present in the United States then one has considerable more flexibility.  If one is maintaining a legal nonimmigrant status say, for example, as a business visitor, then one may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (hereinafter “USCIS”) to change one’s immigration status in the United States to E-2.

May I remain in the United States after I have applied to USCIS for E-2 visa?

Yes, if you filed the application prior to the expiration of the I-94.

I have received approval from the USCIS for E-2 visa. Can I also travel internationally?

No.  The approval from the USCIS allows you to remain in the United States and work in the business.  If you wish to travel internationally, you need to apply for E-2 visa from a U.S. Consulate overseas.

How many years is the E-2 visa valid for?

In answering this question one must draw an important distinction between an E-2 VISA and E-2 STATUS.  A visa is stamped in your passport by a U.S. consulate. It allows you to come to the U.S. and present yourself for inspection at a U.S. port of entry (either an airport or a land border crossing) and apply there for admission as in E-2 status. Usually (although not always) you will be issued an E-2 visa  by a consulate for the maximum period that your country would issue an American an investor visa, typically 2 or 5 years.

However, when you go to the U.S. and present yourself for admission as E-2, you will usually be admitted for 2 years, regardless of the length of your visa. In other words, whether your visa is valid for 2 years or 5 years, you will normally be admitted for only 2 years in E-2 status, although you may extend those 2 years as many times as you wish, either by leaving the U.S. and reentering with an unexpired E-2 visa, or by applying to USCIS for an extension of your  status.

Likewise, if you enter the U.S. in another status (such as B-1) and then apply for a change of status with the USCIS, again you will normally be granted 2 years in E-2 status, even though you don’t have a visa in your passport at all.  If you receive approval for E-2 change of status, then you can choose to remain in U.S. in E-2 status and own and operate your business – there is no requirement that you must go overseas and apply for E-2 visa. 

However, if you wish to travel internationally, you will need an E-2 visa from a consulate in order to return to the U.S.  This visa can only be applied for (the first time you try to get it) at a U.S. consulate, and the consulate will, at that time, make its own determination as to whether you are entitled to E-2 visa, and will not attach any significance to the fact that USCIS has already approved you for a change of status to E-2.

After I get my E-2 visa, can I utilize my company as the sponsor who will sponsor me for a green card?

No.  However, if there is another sponsor not related to your company who is willing to sponsor you for a green card, then green card process might be possible. 

However, when you go to the U.S. and present yourself for admission as E-2, you will usually be admitted for 2 years, regardless of the length of your visa. In other words, whether your visa is valid for 2 years or 5 years, you will normally be admitted for only 2 years in E-2 status, although you may extend those 2 years as many times as you wish, either by leaving the U.S. and reentering with an unexpired E-2 visa, or by applying to USCIS for an extension of your  status.

Likewise, if you enter the U.S. in another status (such as B-1) and then apply for a change of status with the USCIS, again you will normally be granted 2 years in E-2 status, even though you don’t have a visa in your passport at all.  If you receive approval for E-2 change of status, then you can choose to remain in U.S. in E-2 status and own and operate your business – there is no requirement that you must go overseas and apply for E-2 visa. 

However, if you wish to travel internationally, you will need an E-2 visa from a consulate in order to return to the U.S.  This visa can only be applied for (the first time you try to get it) at a U.S. consulate, and the consulate will, at that time, make its own determination as to whether you are entitled to E-2 visa, and will not attach any significance to the fact that USCIS has already approved you for a change of status to E-2.

I am an E-2 investor. Can I work part time or full time for another employer?

E-2 investor may not work for anyone other than the E-2 company.

An alien in E-2 status may be employed only by the treaty-qualifying company through which the alien attained the status. Therefore, any other employment is unauthorized employment.

E2 visa for investors - Signing an Agreement

If you are looking to apply for an E-2 Visa, contact the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles (ILOLA). With more 35,000 cases approved and a 5 Star rating on Google, we are the best option to secure your future in the U.S.
Give us a call at (213) 375-4084 or (800) 792-9889