An E-2 Visa can provide South American entrepreneurs the opportunity to obtain a visa to start a new business or acquire an existing business in the United States.

Applicants for the E-2 Visa must apply with the purpose of developing and directing the business in which they plan to invest. This visa is available to citizens of certain South American countries that have signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Citizens of the following South American countries may apply for an E-2 Visa:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Suriname

The duration of the E-2 Visa depends upon the terms of the particular treaty. Generally, E-2 Visas are granted for two years, with unlimited extensions as long as the investment continues. Most E-2 Visas can be extended for two years at a time. One benefit of the E-2 Visa is that the foreign investor’s spouse and children under the age of 21 can obtain a derivative status under the foreign investor. This derivative status allows the spouse and children to live, work, and attend school in the U.S.

An E-2 Visa may be issued to a foreign national who is starting a new business or acquiring an existing business in the United States. There is no requirement with respect to the minimum amount of investments. However, the amount must be sufficient to support a business plan proposed by the applicant. Depends on a type of the business, even investments under $50,000 might be sufficient to apply. Although, an investor is not required to create any particular number of jobs in the United States, the business cannot be “marginal” meaning that it must exist independently of the investor – not merely provide an employment to foreign investor and her family.

In order to obtain an E-2 Visa, the foreign investor must prove that they are investing a substantial amount of capital with the aim of generating a profit. The foreign investor must invest in a bona fide business that produces goods or services for profit. This does not include “idle investments” that serve to benefit only the foreign investor. Additionally, the investment must include risk that could result in partial or total loss if the investment fails. The business must generate enough income for the foreign investor to sufficiently support the investor and his or her family, while contributing significantly to the U.S. economy.

While starting a new business is sufficient for an application for an E-2 Visa, it is generally easy to prove “feasibility” of a business enterprise if the business was in existence for a few years in the United States or in the applicant’s country.

To that end, foreign entrepreneurs may consider acquiring a franchise. First, availability of an existing and tested business model may reduce the risk, especially when an entrepreneur operates in an unfamiliar business environment of a new country. On the other hand, statistical data, typically provided by a franchisor, will help proving feasibility of the business and make the process of applying for an E-2 Visa easier.

Additionally, the foreign investor must prove that they possess the investment funds and that the funds are earmarked for that particular business. The investment funds must be the personal funds of the foreign investor. The foreign investor must also prove the source of the investment funds, specifically that the funds were not obtained criminally. Further, the foreign investor must demonstrate that they own at least 50 percent of the business or that they possess control of the business via a management or corporate position.

E-2 Visa applications typically take 1-2 months to process, depending on the demands of the U.S. Embassy in the particular country and the thoroughness of the required documents provided by the potential foreign investor. There are several companies that can assist an applicant navigate the application process.

DISCLAIMER: Attorney Advertisement. The information presented in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a legal advice. This information should not be relied upon without first seeking professional legal counsel.