Investor Visas (E-2)

Investor visas (E-2) are nonimmigrant visas for citizens of a country with which the United States maintains a trade or navigation treaty or agreement and who wish to go to the United States for any of the following purposes: To carry out substantial commerce activities, primarily between the United States and his or her country: or to develop and direct operations of a company in the United States in which the citizen has invested or is in the process of investing a considerable amount of capital.

Trader (E-1) visas and Investor (E-2) visas were established in order to facilitate and improve economic interaction between the United States and other countries. Its purpose is NOT to serve as a means for foreigners to permanently reside in the United States or under its laws, which specifically states that holders of an E-2 visa must enter “only to develop and direct the operation of a company in that which He or She has invested.”

On the other hand, these visas are Non-Immigrant visas and therefore are temporary. Trader or Investor visas can be renewed or extended only if the investment or commercial exchange continues to meet all the requirements of the United States Immigration laws. People who wish to remain indefinitely in the United States must apply for the corresponding Immigrant Visa.

It's about becoming a business owner. The business can be created from scratch or it is also possible to buy an existing business. It is even possible to use these visas to send employees of a company to work in a subsidiary of the same in the United States. What is not allowed is to apply for the E-2 to manage a business that has been inherited in the United States. The business can be a franchise.

The business must be real and active. It must produce a good or a service. Additionally, you must have all the necessary permits and licenses to operate. It cannot be a non-profit organization.

Business size. The law is silent on this point and does not require a minimum size. However, it is strictly necessary that it generate benefits that go beyond merely covering the expenses and needs of the investor and his family. What's more, it calls for what is called a “major contribution to the economy.”

Countries of which the investor must be a national. These are the Spanish-speaking countries whose nationals can apply for this visa: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Spain, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay.

Investor's family. The husband, wife and children under 21 years of age of the investors can have a derivative visa to live in the United States.

The spouse may apply, once in the United States, for a work permit that will allow him or her to work for another company, for that of his or her partner, or even create his or her own business.

Children will only be able to enjoy this visa until they are 21 years old. After that age, they will have to leave the country or have another visa that allows them to remain in the United States.

E-2 Investors by Trade Agreement

Who Can Request a Change of Status to Classification E-2?

If the treaty investor is currently in the United States in legal nonimmigrant status, he or she may file Form I-129 to request a change of status to the E-2 classification. If the desired employee is currently in the United States in legal nonimmigrant status, the eligible employer may file Form I-129 on the employee's behalf.

How to Obtain the E-2 Classification if You are Outside the United States?

An application for E-2 classification cannot be made on Form I-129 if the person applied for is physically located outside the United States. Interested parties should consult the US Department of State website for more information on how to apply for an E-2 nonimmigrant visa abroad. Once the visa is issued, the person may apply to a DHS immigration officer at the U.S. port of entry to be admitted as an E-2 nonimmigrant.

General Requirements of an Investor for an E-2 Commercial Agreement

To qualify for E-2 classification, the treaty investor must:

  • Be a citizen of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation
  • Have invested, or are actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a genuine company in the United States.
  • Try to enter the United States solely to develop and run the investment company. This is established by showing ownership of at least 50% of the company or possession of operational control through a management position or other corporate device.
An investment is the placement of treaty investor capital, including funds and/or other assets, at risk in the commercial sense with the objective of generating a profit. The capital must be subject to partial or total loss if the investment fails. The treaty investor must demonstrate that the funds have not been obtained, directly or indirectly, from criminal activities.

Travel Authorization Program for Investors.

Potential investors can search for business opportunities, sign contracts, make purchases or activities to establish their business by traveling with a type B1/B2 visa or with the Travel Authorization Program. However, applicants cannot develop or operate a business while in the United States with this visa or status.

Department of State regulations state (9 FAM 41.31 N9.7), “an individual seeking to invest in the United States, including an investment that could qualify him for an E-2 investor visa, is excluded from engaging in productive activities or participating in actively in the administration of a business until the E-2 Visa with investor status has been granted. Such actions are prohibited whether or not the investor receives any type of payment for their work.

A substantial amount of capital is:

  • Substantial relative to the total cost of purchasing an established business or establishing a new one.
  • Sufficient to guarantee the financial commitment of the treaty investor to the successful operation of the company.
  • Of a magnitude that supports the probability that the treaty investor will successfully develop and manage the enterprise. The lower the cost of the company, the greater, proportionally, the investment that must be considered substantial.
A genuine enterprise refers to a real, active and operational business or entrepreneurial enterprise that produces services or goods for profit. You must comply with applicable legal requirements to do business within your jurisdiction.
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