US E-2 Visa as A Citizen of a Non-Treaty Country
What you need to know about the US E-2 Visa, what the requirements are, and how to obtain a US E-2 visa as a citizen of a non-treaty country.
Obtaining lawful residence and moving to the United States is not always an easy process. With so many different visas to consider, it can be tricky to navigate through your available choices and find one that works best for you. If you have the means to invest in a business there are ways you can quickly obtain a visa and make your dreams of living in the United States and your US life come true.
Introducing US Immigration via the E-2 Visa Program
The US E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a path you can take to obtain legal residency in the United States. This guide outlines important information you need to know about the US E-2 Visa, what the requirements are, and how to obtain a US E-2 visa even if you aren’t from a country with an investment treaty with the United States.
What exactly is an E-2 Visa?
The US E-2 Visa is a non-immigrant visa designed for foreign entrepreneurs and investors who want to invest and operate a business in the United States. The E-2 visa allows the visa holder to enter the United States legally and operate their business.
Individuals that can immediately qualify for an E-2 visa are citizens of a treaty country. The United States has treaties with a large number of countries around the world in order to facilitate mutual trade and investment opportunities for foreign investors and entrepreneurs. These treaties are also designed to promote good relations between the United States and the treaty country. As such, if you’re a citizen of Argentina, Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sweden, the United Kingdom, or any of the countries listed on this U.S. Department of State website, you are immediately permitted to apply for an E-2 visa.
There is a viable option for citizens of non-treaty countries to obtain an E-2 visa that we cover later in this guide.
Requirements for Obtaining an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
The basic requirements for an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa for foreign nationals are to invest a “substantial amount” of capital into a company operating in the United States. You must have at least 50% ownership and be a person of control in this business to meet the requirements.
The “substantial amount” is not clearly defined in the requirements, but the amount invested by the applicant must be enough to cover start-up expenses, develop the business to the point where it is able to open and operate fully, and have sufficient working capital.
The United States government purposely made the “substantial amount” requirement vague because different industries and businesses require different capital investments. For example, a tech start-up might have very low overhead for it to become fully operational, while a retail business may require substantially more.
The US E-2 Treaty Investor Visa may be a good choice for anyone who wishes to have the freedom to live and work in the United States with minimal constraints and minimized tax consequences.
It’s also beneficial for those who wish to bring their family to the United States with them, as the E-2 visa allows the applicant to extend the visa to their spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21.
The E-2 visa gives your spouse the ability to work in the United States and allows your children to attend school from kindergarten to grade 12 as well as attend college or university. However, once your children have turned 21, they must qualify for a visa that is independent of your E-2 in order to stay in the USA.
If you are not from a treaty country, there is still a legitimate pathway for you to obtain a US E-2 Treaty Investor Visa by obtaining citizenship in a treaty country; this is NOT as complex as it may sound!
How to Obtain a US E-2 Visa As a Citizen of a Non-Treaty Country
Being a citizen of a non-treaty country does not necessarily disqualify you from obtaining a US E-2 Visa.
There is a safe and legal way for you to obtain this visa that is traditionally not available but can be granted through this process. Notable non-treaty countries include Brazil, China, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates, as well as other countries. Citizens of these non-treaty countries can become eligible for a US E-2 Visa by obtaining citizenship through a third-country citizenship-by-investment program with a country that has a bilateral trade treaty with the United States.
Grenada and Turkey are good examples of bilateral trade treaty countries. These may be viable choices for those of you who are from the countries mentioned above and many other non-treaty countries, if it is your primary goal to live in the United States. Once we have helped you determine which country is the best option for you, the process involves two steps: you must first obtain your qualifying second citizenship, and once that has been completed, you can apply for your E-2 visa.
Exactly What is the Two-Part Method of Obtaining an US E-2 Visa As a Citizen of a Non-treaty Country?
How does the two-part method work?
Obtaining second citizenship is the first step in the two-part strategy in applying for your US E-2 Visa as a citizen of a non-treaty country. Becoming a citizen of a treaty country and obtaining a passport from that country will then allow you to apply for the E-2 visa for entry into the United States.
As stated above, the first step to obtaining a US E-2 visa as a citizen of a non-treaty country is to obtain third-country citizenship-by-investment from a qualifying country. Both Grenada and Turkey offer different investment options and we can help you determine which of these options’ best suits your needs.
You can become a citizen of any country with a bilateral treaty agreement however, obtaining citizenship from Grenada or Turkey are two of the more appealing choices for a few reasons: the total costs for citizenship and the eligibility requirements are not overwhelming, and the processing time for citizenship is relatively quick.
There are also eligibility requirements you must meet, but these should not be too demanding, making it an easier process than most other bilateral treaty countries.
The requirements are as follows: you must be at least 18 years old; you must be in good health with a medical exam certificate to prove your good health, you must not have a criminal record of any kind, and you must verify that your investment funds have been obtained through a lawful source.
You are not required to prove your net worth, your level of education, or any work or management experience in order to be approved
It is also completely possible to legally obtain citizenship in Grenada or Turkey without a formal interview with a government official or even having to ever step foot in the country.
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E-2 treaty ‘Investor Visa’ status that qualifies you to apply for the valuable US E-2 Visa and, when granted, operate a substantial business in the U.S. and reside therein.
- Fast processing within 4 months
- No physical residency requirements
- No requirements to travel to the country during the application process
- No interview, education or management experience required
- Potential visa-free travel to more than 142 countries including Europe’s Schengen zone and China
- Potentially No tax on worldwide income (see here minimized tax consequences for details)
At this time, if the US government does not have a treaty with your country that would allow you to obtain an E-2 Treaty Investors Visa, obtaining a passport from a country that a) allows foreigners to obtain citizenship by investment and b) has a treaty with the US allowing its nationals to use the E-2 Visa is the only way for Nationals of non-treaty countries to obtain the E2 visa and all the freedom it offers for business in the USA.
Your choice of country to obtain a second passport from is an extremely important decision as you can imagine. The current top picks to obtain your second passport that can qualify you to take up status as a US Treaty Investor is costing circa $150,000 to $350,000 depending upon the type of investment and how many family members you are including. We will supply a complete cost breakdown upon request.
Compare Citizenship by Investment Programs
Grenada Citizenship by Investment
Obtaining Grenada citizenship provides access to a picturesque island nation, with lush tropical forests juxtaposed with beautiful beaches.
Investors do not have to live in (or even visit) the country to apply for citizenship by investment.
To take advantage of the immigration by investment program in Grenada, applicants have two options.
Applicants can choose to make a non-refundable donation of $150,000 USD to Grenada’s National Transformation Fund (NTF). This is the fee for a single applicant. For a family of four, the fee raises to $200,000 USD, plus fees ranging from $10,070 to $23,545.
Investors could also purchase a business or property from a government-approved real estate project. The minimum purchase price for this option is $220,000 USD.
This property must be held for at least three years. There is also an additional flat government fee of $50,000 USD for the main applicant, with increasing fees for additional family members.
Benefits of Using Grenada to Gain an E-2 Visa
Grenada is a lush island nation located in the Caribbean. As such, it provides a beautiful vacation destination for investors, if desired. On the other hand, purchasing a home in this nation allows for the potential of renting out the property. Just owning a property in another nation alone diversifies any investment portfolio. But renting out the home when not in use opens up an additional stream of income.
Another major benefit to obtaining a second citizenship in Grenada is the tax benefits. Citizens of Grenada do not pay tax on foreign income. They also are not mandated a wealth or inheritance tax on global monies.
The country’s official language is English, removing cultural barriers that may otherwise hinder social or business opportunities.
Finally, the path provides a family-friendly citizenship program. If granted, full citizenship status with a passport is granted not only to the main applicant. Spouse, children up to age 30, parents, and grandparents ages 55 and older also qualify. Please be aware that this benefit does not carry forward to your E-2 visa application.
Considerations if Using Grenada to Gain an E-2 Visa
One other important consideration of dual citizenship in Grenada is the location. Though it serves as a beautiful backdrop for any offshore home, it can potentially be problematic for access to other countries. For investors who frequently travel to Europe or Asia, this country is out of the way. It does not provide the “home base” that other investors may be looking for when purchasing a property in another country. Plus, the country has fewer resources than more developed nations. This could play a part in business and development costs.
Turkish Citizenship by Investment
Becoming a Turkish citizen provides one path to obtaining an E-2 visa.
Turkey is an extremely unique country located partially in Europe and partially in Asia. As such, it is known for its geography and role in world history. Picturesque topography and rock formations are commonly associated with the Turkish landscape. The country is also known for its amazing architecture, cuisine, and rich cultural heritage.
Turkey is already a treaty country with the United States. Individuals who are granted Turkish residence can get on the fast track for E-2 visa status in the US. The most common method under this path is to obtain Turkish citizenship by investment. The most favored investment to gain citizenship is to purchase real estate. The minimum investment is $250,000 USD. This option is quite popular, as there is a large selection of property at this investment level. In 2019, more than 6,000 applicants from nearly 100 countries opted for this choice.
Turnaround time is typically three to four months. This span is from the time the application is submitted to the receipt of a second passport.
Benefits of Using Turkey to Gain an E-2 Visa
There are many financial benefits to obtaining Turkish citizenship. Owning property in another country allows investors to diversify their portfolio in a unique way. Plus, there is the option to open up yet another stream of income by renting out the property when possible. Turkey is the sixth-most visited country in the world. Tourism in many regions is booming, so renting the new property out is an option as well, to earn a return on investment.
Families can also benefit from choosing Turkey for dual citizenship. Family dependents also qualify under this program. This includes spouse and children under 18 years of age, and dependent parents. Please note that the benefit of including parents does not carry forward to your E-2 visa.
Another benefit of choosing Turkey for dual citizenship is the travel benefit. Due to its unique location between Europe and Asia, the country could provide a very advantageous home base for some travelers.
Plus, Turkey has slightly more passport recognition in terms of ease of travel. Turkey is one of the European Union’s main partners in the Middle East.
After obtaining Turkish citizenship, residents can travel visa-free (or visa on arrival, in some cases) to various countries. These include Japan, Thailand, the Schengen Area, the US, the UK, and many others. Investors can also enjoy visa-free access to 95% of south and central American countries.
Considerations if Using Turkey to Gain an E-2 Visa
The language component. While there is no legal requirement to learn the Turkish language, only about 1/5 of Turkish people speak English fluently. This can pose social or cultural barriers that could impede the experience and business opportunities in Turkey if that is your intended desire.
These comparisons are included here as it is important for you to think about each step of the process independent of the E-2 visa and the social, geographic and political nature of the United States. – If you and your family were going to pick either Grenada or Turkey, which one would better suit the long term needs of your family?
Business Requirements of the E-2 Visa
The requirements for the E-2 visa include having at least 50% ownership or operational control of a United States business that would be considered a Grenadian or Turkish-owned entity.
You must prove by providing evidence that shows at least 50% of the ownership is in the hands of citizens of Grenada or Turkey. If you, as the applicant, have obtained second citizenship from either of these countries, then that requirement has been satisfied as long as you can prove you have the required control in the business.
You also need to provide a “substantial investment” into the American business, and the business cannot be a marginal business. Investing in a marginal business operation is not enough to satisfy the requirements for a successful US E-2 Visa application.
Although the definition of marginality has changed in the past and it may change again, as of the time of writing (at the beginning of 2020), you must prove that your business has the capacity to make more than enough income to be able to provide more than a minimal living for you, as the investor, and your family, or it has the projected future capacity to do so within five years.
You must also be able to provide proof that you, as the applicant, are maintaining at least a 50% interest in your business and that you will develop and direct it. Finally, you must prove to the US government that the source of your investment capital was obtained legally.
The “substantial investment” requirement does not have a required minimum investment threshold, as stated by the United States government. It is, however, instead considered substantial if it is sufficient enough to ensure you, as the applicant, have a financial commitment to the success of the business entity.
The reasonableness of the investment amount varies depending on the cost of establishing your business, which can differ between industries and organizations.
It is important to note that generally, if you invest a higher amount of capital and contribute more of an investment into your American business, the chances of a successful immigration application increase. It shows a greater financial commitment to the success of your business.
As the investor, your E-2 visa must be obtained under the premise that you will be in a position to direct and develop the business, and that you are not going to relinquish full control or sell your share of the enterprise once your visa application is approved. This can be proven through documentation, including franchise agreements, contracts, or any other similar and relevant documents.
Challenges Involved with an E-2 Visa Application
There are some challenges you may face during the E-2 visa application process, including increased scrutiny into your documents surrounding your business. In fact, the U.S. consular officer interviewing you and overseeing your application could look further into your business or franchise than just the prepared documents you have submitted.
The purpose of a further probe is to ensure the credibility of your declaration that you, as the applicant, will actually be in a position to develop and direct the business.
There are no specific education or work experience requirements outlined for an E-2 visa. However, it does require you, as the applicant, to demonstrate the necessary ability and skills to operate your American business.
You can present any combination of any relevant training, work experience, or education in business, sales, accounting, management, or entrepreneurship to make your case to the U.S. consular officer.
With the E-2 visa, you need to have the capacity to run the business yourself or be working with others that possess the necessary skills.
If you do not have such experience, you could take another approach. Instead of declaring you will be directly overseeing and developing the business yourself with a lack of experience, you can create a detailed plan that involves hiring and overseeing an on-site manager for your business.
As the majority owner of your enterprise, you can send an employee to the United States as long as you can show in your plan that they will be directing and developing the business.
The details of your plan must be clear and in place before applying in order to prove to the U.S. consular officer that it is a viable plan; otherwise, you will risk your application being denied.
Your goal is to convince the U.S. consular officer that you will be presiding over and managing the business as you oversee the manager, rather than running the business on your own with minimal or no experience.
The U.S. consular officer needs to be confident that your business will be able to develop and be successful with your business plan in place, and you must be able to show that collectively, you have the ability to do so.
Another option would be to invest in a franchise business.
Franchise training is viewed by the United States immigration authorities as tremendously valuable in terms of determining your qualifications. Franchise training is specifically designed for the business you are investing in, which proves to the immigration officials that you have comprehensive education and ongoing support in all operational aspects of your business.
Completing franchise training will also prepare you when it comes time to explain your franchise model and operating strategies during your visa interview, so you can confidently demonstrate your knowledge and skill set.
In order to maintain your E-2 visa status, you must meet various ongoing requirements. Your E-2 visa does not give you permanent residency status or the same status as you would have with a green card.
If you, as the investor, do not maintain compliance with the E-2 visa requirements while you are in the United States, your visa could be revoked once your non-compliance has been determined.
You are also only permitted to work for the business for which your application and approval was based on while you are on your E-2 visa.
If there are any “substantive changes,” which are defined as fundamental changes in your business, including an acquisition, merger, or any major event that would affect your relationship with your business, they must be approved by the U.S. government.
With Grenadian or Turkish citizenship, your E-2 visa is typically granted for an initial five-year increment. Once that time frame has expired, you will be required to renew your visa. As an E-2 visa holder, you are eligible to apply for an extension in increments of up to two years each time, and there is no limit on how many times you can apply for an extension, meaning you could continue to apply and extend it indefinitely if you so choose.
E-2 Visa via the Two-Step Process – Special Considerations
As we have mentioned, immigration by investment resulting in an E-2 visa will require a two-step process if you are a citizen of a non-treaty country. As such, it is critical that you understand these two steps are independent of one another.
Even though your E-2 visa eligibility may be dependent upon you successfully obtaining citizenship in a country such as Grenada or Turkey it is critical that you consider each step in the process carefully and think about the “what ifs” you could encounter along the way.
You should consider the positive and negative aspects of each country you see as a potential choice for citizenship by investment. This is important, as the possibility always exists that something could change that may delay or derail your E-2 visa application.
Too often individuals are expected to rush their investment decision without giving proper heed to what would happen if the unexpected arises.
Our goal is that you properly consider each step in the process so you have already thought about what to do if the unexpected arises.
While obtaining citizenship in a country such as Grenada or Turkey may be a requirement for citizens of countries that do not have an E-2 eligible treaty with the US, there is no guarantee that once citizenship is obtained that you will quickly and successfully secure your E-2 visa.
Our intent is not to scare you but rather to encourage you to make wise choices throughout your entire process.
Obtaining an E-2 and Converting to an EB-5
Once you have your E-2 visa and are living in the United States, you may be eligible to apply for the EB-5 visa and possibly be able to use funds you have already deployed in your business to satisfy the EB-5 requirements.
It should be noted that the rules around using E-2 funds towards your EB-5 visa requirements are quite rigid and inflexible; you cannot simply transfer or convert your E-2 investment to your EB-5 investment.
I Have Filed for an EB-5 Visa – Can I Enter the US on an E-2 Visa While I Wait for the EB-5 visa to Be Approved?
The short answer is yes, it is possible to apply for an E-2 visa while you are waiting for your EB-5 visa to be processed and accepted.
You have to be able to prove that you have made a substantial investment or are overseeing and directing your business based upon your essential skills, as outlined in the E-2 visa requirements. It is likely that your E-2 visa may well be approved before your EB-5 visa thus providing, what some consider, an early entry into the US.
However, it should be noted that, depending on wait times, it is possible your E-2 visa may expire before your EB-5 visa is approved. Typically, an E-2 visa needs to be renewed every five years, and depending on how long your EB-5 visa is backlogged, you may need to renew your E-2 visa while you wait.
Because the E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa and the EB-5 visa is a path to permanent residency, applying for the EB-5 visa shows “immigrant intent.”
Under the E-2 visa requirements, you are making a declaration to the U.S. consulate that you do not have any immigrant intent, so if you are applying for your EB-5 visa, or have already applied, and are then applying for your E-2 visa after, you may come under increased scrutiny by the U.S. consular officer.
In this case, you must convince the U.S. consular officer at the time of your E-2 application that you have every intention, and have a plan, to leave the United States in a timely fashion at the end of your E-2 visa – even if it expires before you obtain your permanent residency through another visa.
Your immigration attorney can best advise you on the procedure required.
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- How Long the E2 Visa is Issued for: For citizens of Grenada and Turkey an E2 Visa is usually issued for 5 years initially with multiple renewals allowed.
- Freedom to Leave the USA and Return: Unlike immigrant visas, the E2 Visa is considered non-immigrant. This allows you to come and go from the USA without restriction for as long as your E2 visa is valid.
- Dependent Children Under 21: Your dependent children under 21 can attend school and, in most States, they qualify for in state tuition costs at State Universities (potentially saving thousands of dollars in out-of-state tuition fees) until they reach 21 or no longer qualify as dependents.
- Spouse Can Obtain Work Authorization: An E-2 Visa spouse can apply for Work Authorization. Once approved they can work for any employer in the USA, not just the E2 business.
- Minimum Investment Amount: No definition of investment amount exists for an E2 Visa to be successful other than the fact that it should be sufficient to ensure the business is not a marginal business. This goal can likely be achieved with an investment of circa $200,000
- An E2 Visa is a Non-Immigrant Visa: Because the E2 Visa is considered a non-immigrant visa it cannot lead directly to permanent residence in the way an immigrant visa does. This does not bar an E2 visa holder from pursuing an alternative route to permanent residence.
- Potential Problem for Children Who Reach 21: Once your children reach 21 they must qualify for their own visa if they wish to remain in the USA.
- Business Failure Means Leaving the USA: If the E-2 business should fail, the visa holder must leave the USA even if their visa has not yet expired.
- Primary E2 Visa Holder Must Work for the Business Only: While the spouse of a primary E-2 visa holder may obtain employment authorization and work for any suitable employer the primary E2 visa holder can only work for the business that they used to obtain their E2 visa.
- E-2 Visa Renewals Can Be Denied if Business is in Difficulty: When it becomes time to renew your E-2 visa it cannot be struggling or marginal otherwise your visa may not be renewed.
- Permanent Residence: The EB-5 Visa leads directly to permanent residence (conditional for 2 years, with conditions removed after approval) as it is considered an immigrant visa.
- Work, Retire or Self-Employed – Your Choice: With certain EB-5 investments you are free to obtain employment with any employer, to retire or operate a business (be self-employed).
- Benefits Children: Children who qualify with their family for an EB-5 visa are not required, when they turn 21, to find an alternative visa or leave the USA.
- Permanent residence is granted to all eligible family members.
- Minimum Investment $900,000: The minimum investment for an EB-5 Visa is now $900,000 – In addition, depending on your Country of Citizenship, the wait time can be anything from two to fourteen years before you are able to enter the USA on your EB-5 visa.
- Pay Taxes on Worldwide Income: As a permanent resident, green card holder, you are required to declare your worldwide income and assets for US tax purposes.
- Maintain substantial presence in the USA: Permanent residents (Green Card holders) must typically be present in the U.S. at least 180 days/year (unless they apply, in advance, for permission to stay out of the country longer).
In this guide we have attempted to introduce you to a path to life in the USA and the steps necessary for you to achieve that goal. At times the amount of information may seem overwhelming, it is not meant to be.
We just want to make sure that you have as full an understanding of the process as possible and we assure you that many have completed this path before you.
Here are a couple of additional questions and answers for you:
How long does each step take?
- Obtaining your second passport from a treaty country approximately 3-6 months
- Finding or starting a new business 1-6 months
- Applying for and being approved for your E-2 Visa approximately 3 months
- Moving your family to the USA varies depending on your circumstances
Total time as low as 6-9 months
How much money does this take?
- Obtaining your second passport $150,000 – $350,000 US Dollars
- Purchasing or starting a business in the US to qualify for an E-2 visa $150,000+
- Legal and professional costs typically $50,000 – $75,000
- Moving your family to the USA – Only you can decide that depending on lifestyle
If you are an entrepreneur or investor with dreams and goals of living in the United States and developing your business in the American market, the US E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a simple, safe, legal and quick way to make this a reality.