Common E-2 Visa Questions

  • November 18, 2018
  • Richard Newman

What is an E-2 Visa?

An E-2 visa allows a foreign investor to start or purchase a business in the United States. The investor must be a Japanese citizen (without a green card). There must be a Treaty between the U.S. and the country that the investor is a national of. Japan is one of about 80 countries that have this kind of Treaty with the U.S.

How much do I need to invest?

To obtain an E-2 visa, the investment must be “substantial” in relation to how much is normally required to set up a business of that type.  This is called the “proportionality” test.  If the total amount required to establish a business in low (e.g. a service oriented business such as a consulting company) then you may be able to invest as low as $50,000 to obtain an E-2 visa. But this is considered a very low amount, so the E-2 application would need other strong factors to balance out the low investment amount. On the other hand, if the amount normally required to start the business is high (e.g. a manufacturing company), then an investor would be required to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain an E-2 visa.

What costs can be included in my E-2 investment amount?

You can use any legitimate business expense, but some expenses are better than others. For example, some standard expenses include: legal fees, lease payments, equipment, furniture, website set-up, inventory, construction costs.

Do I need to spend the money before the E-2 visa gets approved?

Yes. In order to get the E-2 visa, you must put funds at risk and spend money on the business before the E-2 visa will be approved. The money will need to be transferred to a U.S. bank account, and spent on the U.S. business. The money cannot just sit idly in the account.

Is a business plan required?

Yes.  A written business plan is required and is a critical part of the E-2 visa application process. The business plan is used to explain key aspects of the E-2 company including what the business is planning to do, how it is going to do it, and when it will accomplish its goals. Business plans normally project business plans and activities over 5 years.

Can I use a home office or do I need to rent office space?

A commercial lease is always recommended for an E-2 visa. A home office, while not strictly disallowed, could jeopardize an application as the Consul might question the seriousness of the business, especially if the amount of investment is border-line or is low. Same is true for a virtual office.

Will I need to hire U.S. workers?

Yes, but not right away. The business plan must be to hire U.S. workers over time perhaps within a year of developing the business.

How long will an E-2 visa be issued for?

An E-2 visa can be issued for up to 5 years, but the actual amount of time is up to the consular officer.