Starting A Small Business In America With The E-2 Visa

The $500,000 investment required for the EB-5 visa is often out of reach for many small businesses. If you’re interested in starting a business in the United States, the E-2 Treaty Investment Visa could provide a more attractive and cost effective alternative to help get your business up and running, writes Heather Landau


The E-2 Treaty Visa is suitable for:


· Investors who want to oversee the running of their business while living in the US

· Those who do not have a business in their own country

· Small businesses that have been trading for less than 12 months and employ fewer than four people

· Business owners who would prefer to trade in the US.


To qualify you must be able to demonstrate that you will have an active involvement in the business; this visa is not designed for individuals who are simply looking to retire in the US.


There are no restrictions on the type of business that are eligible, any business that generates a profit can be considered as part of the application.


If you’re considering starting a franchise in the US, the E-2 visa is a particularly good fit but it’s important to employ staff with the necessary skills and experience to fill key management roles.


Employing Staff

Both investors and employees can apply for the E-2 visa, however the process is different. To ensure key members of staff are eligible under the scheme you must demonstrate that:


· A US resident worker could not fill the position

· The applicant is necessary to the running or the business in the US

· US workers will be trained to replace the original applicant (because of this it can be more difficult to renew an employee’s E-2 visa).


Unlike the EB-5 Investor Visa there are no requirements to employ a particular number of US citizens.


How Long Does The E-2 Treaty Visa Last?

The initial visa is valid for two years with the option to extend in additional two-year stages. Notably there is no maximum limit for the number of extensions that can be made.


Which Countries Are Applicable?

Over the years the US has signed treaties with a number of countries in order to improve economic relationships and trade. If you’re a citizen of the following countries you will be eligible to apply.



How Much Will I Have To Invest?

There is no minimum level of investment required to qualify for E2 status, however applicants need to demonstrate a significant level of investment into the business. In our experience this means at least $100,000, but lower amounts can qualify in certain circumstances. Investment is restricted to the business and the purchase of property, stocks and shares will not qualify.


A business plan will be required as part of the application process that illustrates how you intend to grow the business over the course of your residency.


Applicants who are willing to invest $500,000 or more may want to consider the EB-5 visa with a direct route to permanent residency.


When Can I Open My Business?

Until your visa is approved you will not be able to trade or accept payments from customers. However your business must be ‘close’ to starting, meaning that you should already have a business bank account, website and a signed lease. Applications take on average between six and eight weeks.


What About My Family?

The E-2 visa offers flexibility and convenience for the entire family with both spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 being eligible to move to the United States. A spouse may apply for a work permit after arriving in the US and seek employment for almost any company they choose, there are however limitations on certain government jobs that require full US citizenship.


Potential Changes

Congressman David Jolly introduced a bill on 16 April 2015 that, if approved, would allow those on E-2 visas to gain lawful permanent residence after ten years, with children being allowed to remain in the US until the age of 26.


This post was written by Heather Landau, managing director of Immigration Into, which specialises in all aspects of US immigration, helping businesses and investors with tax planning, company incorporation, visa applications and immigration.