The E2 visa is a Treaty Trader and Investor Visa for the United States. It is a US non-immigrant visa category, and it is issued for individual investors or investing companies from countries that have a treaty with the United States. The investment can be in any industry or business such as tourism, IT, marketing, etc.
What are the Eligibility Criteria for the E2 visa?
To be eligible for an E2 visa, there are several criteria that you must meet, such as:
- If you are an individual investor, you must be the national of a country that has an investment treaty with the US.
- If the applicant is a company, it must be owned at least 50% by a treaty investment country.
- If a company is sending an employee with an E2 visa, the employee must be a national of a treaty investment country, as well as be in a supervisory, managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge position (essential employee).
- The investor (individual or company) must have the intent to invest a substantial amount of capital in an existing or new bona fide business. A bona fide company is a real company that produces products or services and is profitable.
- The investor (individual or company) must ensure that the business generates more profit than to just make a living. New businesses are exempt from the requirement of marginal profit, but should meet this requirement within five years.
- The investor (individual or company) must have the goal to develop the business further through that investment.
- The investor (individual or company) must place the funds in a bank account or an agent until their visa is approved.
- The investor must have the intention of returning to their home country once their work is completed.
By meeting these criteria, you qualify and are eligible to apply for the E2 visa. It does not mean that you will be granted the visa automatically. You must apply for it, and if approved, your entry into the US will depend on the immigration officials at the port of entry.
However, if you do not meet these requirements and still apply for the E2 visa, you run the risk of getting rejected.
It is also recommended that the investment should be of an amount between $100,000 to $200,000 in an existing business or in a new business, although smaller investment qualifies sometimes. In addition, the investment should be expected to increase employment, at least for 3 to 4 people.
What are the E2 Treaty Countries?
Here is the list of the E2 Treaty Countries:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad & Tobago
The 1995 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights with Iran has been terminated on January 24th 2020. Therefore citizens of Iran are not eligible for the E2 visa anymore.
What Are the Advantages of the E2 Visa?
The advantages of an E2 visa are many. First, there is no quota for it, so anyone who qualifies can be granted this visa. Additionally, it is a much better option of entering the US than with the EB5 investor Green Card, which requires people to invest more than $500,000 in the US and generate employment for at least 10 people.
How to Apply for the E2 Visa?
There are two ways to apply for the E2 visa:
- From within the US.
- From outside the US.
E2 visa application from within the US
Those who are in legal status in the US can change their status to get an E2 visa. This can be done by filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application must contain proof of your nationality, investment, and intent to return.
If you are an individual investor, you must file the petition yourself. If you are part of a company, then your employer must file Form I-129 for you. Once processed, USCIS will either deny or approve your request. If approved, you will get a Form I-797, Approval Notice from them.
E2 visa application from outside the US
If you are outside the US you must apply for the E2 visa through a US Embassy in your country of residence. Here are the steps you must go through to apply for an E2 Visa:
- File the Form DS-160.
- Pay the application fee.
- Schedule your visa interview.
- Prepare your document file.
- Attend the interview.
Apply only through filing a Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
This form will ask you to provide your information and your purpose for going to the US. After you fill it, you will be given a confirmation page and code which you need to have with you for your interview.
Pay the application fee
For the E2 visa, the application fee is $205. You might also be required to pay additional fees such as visa issuance fees or reciprocity fees based on your home country. After you pay all your fees, save the receipts, as you will need them later.
Schedule your visa interview
All applicants between 13 and 80 years old must conduct a visa interview at a US Embassy for their visa application to be complete. It is recommended that you schedule your interview as soon as possible, so you do not have to wait too long due to the high workload of the US Embassy. When you schedule the interview, you will get a visa appointment letter, which you need to bring with you to the Embassy.
Prepare your document file
The document file must be completed on the day of the interview. Here is the list of required documents for the E2 visa:
- Filed Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
- Your valid passport.
- Two photographs that comply with the US visa Photo Requirements
- The receipt that proves you have made the payment of $205.
- Form DS-156E, Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor Application – If you are an Executive/Manager/Essential employee.
- Proof that you intend to return to your home country such as:
- Property deeds
- Apartment lease, etc.
- Proof that the business you will invest in is real (bona fide), such as:
- Business licenses and registration documents
- Financial statements
- Office lease agreements
- Organizational chart
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Contracts with employees and customers, etc.
- Proof that your investment is substantial, such as:
- Your personal or business bank statements
- License, or registration documents for your business if you are starting it
- Business plan
Attend your scheduled interview
You will be interviewed by a US Embassy official regarding your purpose and intentions for going to the US. The interviewer will also inquire about your intentions to return to your home country, which you must prove. If it is suspected that you want to remain in the US permanently, your application might be rejected.
After you submit the application and conduct the interview, the US Embassy will process your request.
What is the Processing Time of the E2 Visa?
If you are a company applying for the E2 visa registration, the processing time is 4 to 6 weeks, while if you are an employee, it takes around 2 weeks.
The processing time varies, however, with the workload of the US Embassy, so if you do not receive an answer within those time frames, it does not mean that your visa application was denied.
How Long Can I Stay in the US as Treaty Investor?
The initial period of time that the E2 visa is given for is 2 years. During those two years, the visa holder can continue developing the company in which they have invested. When that period of validity is close to expiring, the E2 visa holders can extend it.
How Can I Extend My Stay in the United States?
There are two ways how you can extend your stay in the United States as a treaty investor.
One way to extend your stay is to travel outside the US and come back in. This will result in automatic renewal for another 2 years. The other way is to apply for an extension through USCIS. You can apply for the extension by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Status. The extensions are granted in 2 year periods, and the investor can apply as many times as they want to. Extensions will be granted if the visa holder continues to be eligible for the E2 visa and proves intent to return home
In addition to extensions, E2 visa holders can also change their status if they become eligible for another type of visa. For example, if a person finds an employer willing to sponsor them, they can apply for the H1B visa.
Can my Dependents Join Me?
The E2 visa allows dependents to join the primary visa holder. Dependents are the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old. They can apply at the same time as the primary visa holder for the E2 visa or later on.
With an E2 visa, dependents are allowed to study and the spouse is allowed to work. To begin working, the spouse must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing Form I-765, Employment Authorization.
The period of validity for the E2 dependents visa is the same as the primary visa holder. However, if the dependents want to extend the validity of the visa, they must apply for the extension by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Status. Dependents do not get automatic renewals if they leave the US and return.
Additionally, E2 visa dependents can change status if the primary visa holder changes status too. Also, if the primary visa holder gets a Green Card, the dependents qualify to get it too.
How to Apply for a Green Card as an E2 Visa Holder?
Since one of the requirements of the E2 visa is to prove intent to return home, it is difficult to go from an E2 visa to a Green Card. There are however ways through which you can do that.
There are four indirect ways to get a Green Card as an E2 visa holder:
Get an EB-5 Visa for Investors
The EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa or Green Card for investors. Since the E2 visa is also a nonimmigrant visa for treaty investors, it is similar to the EB-5 visa.
Anyone can actually get the EB-5 visa, but the investment amount required is quite large. An investor looking to get an EB-5 visa must invest between $500,000 and $1 million in a commercial enterprise and create 10 or more jobs.
Self-Petition for an EB-1 Visa
The EB-1 visa is a Green Card for people with extraordinary abilities in science, business, education, athletics, and arts as well as those who have been in a managerial or executive position at a foreign branch of a US company for the past 3 years.
You can either have an employer petition for you, which is recommended if you have been working at a foreign branch of a US company, or you can file the petition yourself to USCIS.
Get an Immediate Relative or Family Based Visa
If you have a close relative living in the US as a permanent resident or US citizen, then it is much easier to get a Green Card from an E2 visa. There are two types of immigrant visa categories that you could adjust your status to: the Immediate Relative and the Family-Based Immigrant Visas.
Change status to a Nonimmigrant Dual Intent Work Visa
Another less direct way which leads to a Green Card from an E2 visa is to change the status to a dual intent visa. A dual intent visa is a US nonimmigrant visa which allows the holder to apply for a Green Card without needing to prove their intent to return to their home country.
Examples of dual intent visas are the H-1B visa, the L-1 visa, or the O-1 visa. You could change your status to these visas by finding an employer in the US who is willing to petition and sponsor you for one of these visas. You will also have to fulfill the requirements of them to be eligible to apply.
How long Does it Take to Go From an E2 Visa to a Green Card?
Depending on which option you choose to go from an E2 visa to a Green Card, it can take quite some time. If you choose to go with an EB-1, EB-5, or family petition then it might take you from six months to more than a year to get the Green Card. If you choose to adjust to a dual intent visa, it will take several years.
How to Adjust Status From an E2 Visa to a Green Card?
If you get approval for one of the immigrant visas from an E2 visa, then you must adjust your status. This is done by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. They will take some time to process it and will mail your Green Card to you once completed.
Other Treaty Trader and Investor Visas
There are two more visas in this category and they are the following: