E2 Visa – A great way to start US residency


Many people are looking to move to the US for all sorts of different reasons. You can, of course, easily fly to the US on a visitor’s visa but to then be able to stay here it would not be a good idea to try that with a visitor’s visa. To do that would invite all sorts of problems, especially if for any reason you have to travel outside the US. On your way back you are very likely to be stopped and asked the sort of questions you would not want to answer.

When you get into that position you end up not being allowed back in and it can cause all sorts of havoc with your plans, your family and your investments.

So, what are your options? Let’s discuss a few…

1. EB5 Visa

You need to invest $1,000,000 in an approved project that creates or preserves at least 10 US jobs. OR, you can invest $500,000 in an approved project in a high unemployment or rural area. What sort of returns an investor can make on the investment varies and the investment is not guaranteed.

2. H1B Visa

This allows companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The requirements are that you have at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent experience. You have to work for the company that sponsored you, if you leave them you lose the visa. So, it’s pretty restrictive. Usually you only get granted a 2-year maximum stay with this visa.

3. E2 Treaty Investor Visa

This option allows an investor to purchase a business in the US (or be at least a 50% owner) of a business. The smaller the business the larger the percentage investment would need to be to show “substantial” investment. It seems to be a little bit of a grey area. Investors that obtain an E2 Visa usually get a 2-year stay in the US.

There are many other types of visa’s but they are usually employment based. For those individuals that have already achieved success in their own country the employment based visa’s are not really an option. For them the most likely visas are the EB-5 or the E2 Treaty Investor visa.

I personally think the E2 visa is a great way to get established in the US compared to the EB-5 visa. With the EB-5, you’re handing over at least $500,000 (for a rural investment) to another group to manage. Rural areas or areas where there is high unemployment are not usually the best areas in which to invest.

The beauty of the E2 visa is also that it does not necessarily require a $500,000 investment, the guideline simply says “Substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one”. So, if you purchased a business that was selling for $150,000 and you paid $150,000 for it (I’m not suggesting that you should pay full price!) then you were purchasing 100% of the business which is definitely “substantial in relation to the total cost”. So, this business could qualify you for an E2 visa. If it does, that’s a lot less money than $500,000!

Also, imagine that you’ve moved to The Woodlands, a really nice master-planned community just North of Houston that has attracted it’s fair share of immigrants. Now, you could purchase a successful small business or franchise that is operating in The Woodlands as the E2 Treaty Investor guidelines does not say you have to invest in a business in “a rural or high unemployment” area. That means you can invest your funds in something with most likely a better chance of success and, not only that, you will be the one keeping an eye on it!

Our group does business brokerage and we have a number of local business opportunities available. We are also able to track down specific opportunities that investors might be looking for. See our steps on buying a business. We are not, however, immigration attorneys so please have an attorney review your plans & potential investments prior to making any. We can refer you to very good local immigration attorneys if you need one.

The main takeaways are these…
– An E2 Visa could be a cheaper way (than EB-5) to gain at least a 2-year residency in the US. $150,000 could do it.
– Buying a business is part of the qualification
– You can buy in any area including very nice areas (i.e. not just rural or high unemployment areas)