Due to the sluggish nature of the United States’ economy more individuals are now seeking new ways to become self-employed while acquiring legal immigration status. The United States has always welcomed the foreign investment of capital and jobs as a mainstay of its economy. As such, the United States created the treaty investor/trader visas. These visas are usually referred to as the E-1/E-2visa. In this month’s article I will briefly outline the requirements of these visas.
Immigration provides treaty trader/investor nonimmigrant i.e. “temporary visa” for a national of any of the countries with which an appropriate treaty of commerce and navigation exists. An individual who wishes to come to the United States to conduct substantial trade, principally between the United States and his/her own country, may apply for a treaty trader visa (E1). Someone who is coming to the United States to develop and direct the operations of a business in which he/she has invested, or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital is welcome to apply for a treaty investor visa (E2). The category is popular because unlike the L-1 visa, it is not necessary to maintain a business outside the United States. The visa option is always popular because unlike the L-1 status, E-1 and E-2 visas can be renewed every five years without limits. The spouse and minor unmarried children of the treaty trader or treaty investor aliens also qualify for the same status as the principal alien, and their nationality is not relevant to their qualification. They can live and study in the United States without any additional permits. The spouse of the visa holder may obtain authorization to work in the U.S.
Although Immigration evaluates each case on an individual basis generally the following rules apply in terms of minimum investment expectations:
1. Investments which are valued at less than $500,000:
- A minimum of 75% of the total value of the business or for small to medium sized businesses, more than half of the value of the business
- Exceptions may be made for certain start-ups and service businesses, where smaller initial investments may be appropriate depending on the particulars of the type of business
2. Investments which are valued between $500,000 and $3 million:
- A minimum of 50% of the value of the business or a flat $1,000,000 is expected to be invested
- Immigration may make an exception if it can be demonstrated that in the specified industry, it is common practice to start a business with less than 50% of the value of the enterprise.
3. Investments which are valued in excess of $3 million:
- A minimum of 30% of the value of the business or a flat $1,000,000 is expected to be invested
All of the following three elements must exist for the E visa to be obtainable:
- There must be a treaty between the United States and the country of the company or national applying for the visa
- The majority ownership or control of the enterprise engaged in trade or investment with the United States must be held by nationals from the country which has signed a trade/investment treaty with the United States
- Each employee or principal seeking E status must hold citizenship of the country, which has signed a trade/investment treaty with the U.S.
Note that both E-1 and E-2 applicants can submit a variety of other documents demonstrating that an investment or trade between the United States and treaty country is substantial. The issue of “substantial trade” is a legal issue. Examples of E-1/E-2 visa documentation can include, but are not limited to, the incorporation of the business in the United States, proof of the ownership of the company, the capitalization of the business, the business plan, information on business activities such as marketing documentation, sales contracts, lease or property ownership documentation, and financial statements and tax returns for the United States business.
The E-1/E-2 visa is wonderful vehicle to realize your dream of owning your business in the United States while obtaining legal immigration status for yourself and your immediate family. To learn more about the E-1/E-2 visa process contact our firm at [email protected] or via phone at 404-992-6506.
Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview of the E-1/E-2 visa classifications. This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
About the Writer:
Safiya Byars ([email protected]) is the senior partner and owner in the Law Office of Safiya Byars (www.byarslawgroup.com). She is an active member of the Caribbean and International communities in Georgia. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Montevallo and received her law degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her office is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Attorney Byars handles all immigration matters, deportation defense, family law issues, and business formation/litigation. To discuss you case, contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809.