“Investor visa USA requirements” is a popular search phrase on the internet as prospective investors worldwide try to decide if an investor visa is right for him or her. While the idea is still in it’s infancy, the prospective investor usually focuses on how much money he or she will need to invest in the business to have a good chance of the business succeeding and also being approved for the E-1 or E-2 visa.  The good news for E-1 and E-2 visa applicants is that there is no minimum investment requirement. Unlike the EB-5 green card investor program which requires a minimum investment of $500,000, there is no such requirement for the E-1 or E-2 nonimmigrant investor visas.

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E-1/E-2 Investor Visa USA Requirements/Eligibility

The E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visa program allow foreign nationals from treaty countries to enter the U.S.  to set up businesses and or engage in substantial international trade, which is beneficial to both countries.

Proof of Nationality

The foreign national investor or trader must prove that he or she is a member of a treaty country. Evidence of this includes a birth certificate, citizenship certificate or a photocopy of a passport. The applicant is still eligible even if he or she has not resided in the treaty country for quite sometime. The nationality of the business is determined by the nationality of the individual owners of that business.

Ownership Documents

The E-1 or E-2 applicant must show that he or she owns at least 50 percent of the business, when the investor is an organization and the applicant is an employee. For example, if the business is organized as a corporation and it has 3 officers, the E-1 or E-2 applicant must own at least 50 percent of the shares and the remaining 50 percent of shares can be divided between the other two officers, who are not applying for an E-1 or E-2 visa. If the business is a sole proprietorship, it has just one owner, who owns 100 percent of the business.  Shares/stock certificates or partnership/joint venture agreements are some of the documents that can be submitted to show ownership.

Trade or Investment

E-1 Visas

E-1 visas are for traders; while E-2 visas are for investors. E-1 visa applicants must show that they are engaged in traceable or identifiable exchange of goods or services between the U.S. and the treaty country. The trade relationship must be in existence between the two countries before applying for an E-1 visa. Trade must be substantial, meaning that there is a continuous flow of goods and services overtime. A single transaction, regardless of size is insufficient.

Although the E-1 visa applicant may engage in trade with other countries, more than 50% of the total volume of international trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country. The applicant may submit bills of lading, customer receipts, letters of credit, insurance papers, purchase orders, carrier inventories and sales contracts, as evidence that he or she is engaged in substantial international trade with the U.S.

E-2 Visas

Whereas the E-1 visa requires a pre-existing trading relationship between the U.S. and the treaty country; the E-2 visa allows the applicant to search for a new business opportunity in the U.S. E-1 classification does not allow startups but E-2 does.

The E-2 applicant must have invested or be actively in the process of investing in a commercial enterprise. Passive investment is not allowed. Non-profit institutions are not commercial enterprises. Also, idle or speculative investments held for potential appreciation, such as undeveloped land or stocks held by an investor without the intent to direct the enterprise are ineligible.

The funds must be “at risk.” This means that the capital must be subject to total loss if investment fortunes reverse. Eligible funds must be the investor’s unsecured personal business capital or capital secured by personal assets. Funds may come from savings, gifts, inheritance, contest winnings or loans collateralized by the applicant’s personal assets and the funds cannot be obtained through criminal activity. Uncommitted funds held in a bank account is insufficient. The funds may be placed in an escrow account, with legal ramifications, pending approval of the E-2 visa, in case  the investor tries to change his or her mind during the process.

There is no bright line rule to answer the question: “how much money do you need for an investor visa.” The investment must be “substantial” and must pass the “proportionality test.” The amount of money will vary, according to the type of business. The business cannot be marginal A marginal business is one that earns a living solely for the investor and his family and does not have present or future capacity for growth.

The proportionality test takes into account:

  • the amount of funds invested versus the total cost of purchasing or creating the business;
  • the amount normally considered sufficient to ensure the investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise; and
  • the size of the investment to support the likelihood that the investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise.

The lower the cost of the the business, the higher the investment should be to be considered substantial.

Management and Employees

Both E-1 and  E-2 visa applicants must manage the business and not compete directly in the U.S. market as a skilled laborer. He or she should have a controlling interest in the business.

Employees of E1 or E2 visa holders must have the same nationality as the treaty employer and must be either executives and supervisors or nonsupervisory persons with special qualifications who are essential to the business.

Investor Visas Attorney E-1/E-2

Cheryl Fletcher is an immigration attorney who assists foreign investors with their visa applications. If you meet the investor visa USA requirements, she will complete the application form and compile a comprehensive application package to improve your chances of getting an E-1 or E-2 visa.  Please call  561-507-5772, email: [email protected], or contact us via or contact form.