Living the Dream: Investing in & Working in a US Business

Maybe you’ve been working hard all your life and you want a change. Or you may have visited the US many times and want to live there. A common way people can do this is by investing in a business in the US in order to qualify for an E-2 Treaty Investor visa through investment. In this posting I’ll discuss the basics you need to know to obtain an E-2 Treaty Investor visa to begin making your dream a reality.

The E-2 Treaty Investor visa is available only to nationals of countries that have an investment treaty with the United States. This requirement can me met if the sole owner has the nationality of the treaty country, if treaty country nationals own at least 50% of the company or, if the company is publicly traded, it is traded on that country’s stock exchange.

Next, the investor must make a substantial investment into the US enterprise. Congress did not define a specific amount of an investment which can be a cause of confusion to many. Basically, you need to look at the amount of capital required to get the business up and running. For very large business it may take millions of dollars to get a business going or a small business would not take very much capital to get started. The smaller amount of investment required, the higher percentage of your own money do you have to invest. For example, a car manufacturing company may invest a million dollars to get the factory up and running. In this situation, the investor could show that 50% of this amount was invested and still meet the substantial investment requirement. On the other hand, a professional services business would need very little, say $10,000 to get started. A small business would then need to show that the investor has invested at least 90-100% of the capital required for it to be considered a substantial investment for E-2 visa purposes.

Related to the amount to be invested is the requirement that the E-2 visa applicant also needs to demonstrate to the US Embassy or US Citizenship & Immigration Services that he or she will be dedicated to the enterprise. To meet this requirement, an professional services company investor would need to show a much higher amount of investment than $10,000. As a rule of thumb, an investment of at least $100,000 is a safe amount to show that the investor will be dedicated to the growth of the business but investors who have invested much less have been approved as the totality of the circumstances can be assessed in determining whether the investor will be a success.

The next requirement for the E-2 visa is that the business is real and operating. If you are purchasing an existing business this is easy to prove as the business is most likely already actively doing business. If you are creating a business from scratch, you need to do as much as you can to prove that, within a short period of time after your visa is issued, you will be able to open your doors and start doing business. This means that you need to spend your money on all the things that will get the business up and running before you submit your visa application.

Next, you will need to convince the E Visa Officer at the US Embassy or Consulate that the business has the present or future ability to earn more than a basic living wage for you and your family within five years. This is often an issue for small businesses because it can be difficult to get a business to the point of being profitable during this time period, especially during tough economic times. The E-2 visa application must contain a business plan that clearly sets out how you are going to make the business a success including financial projections and evidence backing up any claims made about the local market conditions where the business will be. In addition to the business plan, the investor will be interviewed at the Embassy and his or her ability to direct and develop a business will be assessed.

This is just a quick overview of the E-2 Treaty Investor visa category requirements. If you have any questions, please contact Janice Flynn at +44(0)20 3286 9491.