Which Visa Is Right for You?
Before investors buy or start a business in the U.S. they will need to make several important decisions, such as the type of business to invest in and the appropriate location (see Planning an Application).
- After those decisions have been made, the most appropriate visa category under which to apply to live and work in the United States must be determined. For a comprehensive explanation of all visa categories, see www.usvisalawgroup.com. For many investors, the E-2 is the most appropriate visa.
The key requirements for an E-2 visa are:
- There must be a treaty of trade, commerce, navigation and/or friendship between the investor’s country of citizenship and the United States, e.g. U.K., Pakistan, etc.
- A substantial investment (see Investment Amount) in a business in the U.S. must be made. Some financing restrictions apply.
- The business must provide the investor with more than enough income to support themselves and their family and employ U.S. workers (see Business Profitability).
- The investor’s personal funds must have been irrevocably committed to the business purchase.
Considerations for Eligibility for a Green Card
If an individual is eligible for a Green Card (permanent residence) this may take a year or longer to process. It is therefore sometimes prudent to consider an E-2 nonimmigrant visa to enable the individual to live and work in the U.S. while the Green Card application is pending.
There are often misunderstandings as to the merits of the E-2 visa as it relates to an application for a Green Card. A Green Card (as a Multinational Manager) can be applied for when the investor is in the U.S., as long as there is a "qualifying relationship" between the US business and the overseas business and the overseas business continues to trade actively. Alternatively, an individual may be eligible for a Green Card based on an investment of either $500,000 or $1 million under the Employment Creation (EB-5) category.
The investment and visa application is a complicated process, and investors frequently have numerous questions throughout the process. One of the most frequently asked questions is how much to invest (see Investment Amount). While there is no minimum amount required for an E-2 visa, it must be sufficient to establish or purchase a viable business. In general, it is difficult to obtain a visa with an investment of less than $100,000 to $150,000.
An investor must consider whether the investment may be viewed as marginal by consular officers at the U.S. Embassy. A finding that the business is marginal will lead to denial of an application. To ensure compliance with this requirement, investors must ensure the business will generate sufficient income to support the investor and family members in addition to contributing to the local economy through the creation of jobs (see Business Profitability).
Despite their best intentions, investors sometimes encounter certain common pitfalls. Among them are reliance on too much or inappropriate financing to fund the business, making an investment that is considered marginal or making an investment that is considered passive.
Investors starting a new business, rather than buying an existing one, face a unique set of requirements and, often times, a more complicated visa application process (see Starting a New Business).