How to Successfully Set Up a Business in the U.S. with an E2 Visa?

An E2 visa is a type of visa that allows you to live and work in the United States on an investment in the US. E2 visas are typically valid for three months to five years. Whether you are a business owner interested in bringing investors into the country or an investor yourself, an E2 visa is your best bet. E2 visas can also be used for non-investor employees of a business with specialized skills in an executive or supervisory role. Here’s what you need to know about E2 visas as a work visa option for international startup founders, business owners, or employees. 

What Is the E-2 Visa?

An E-2 visa, also called a treaty investor visa, is available to investors or employees in leadership roles of businesses in certain cases. You may get an E2 visa for three months to five years. 

To qualify, you must be from treaty countries and meet additional criteria, such as being an investor in a US business. This investment must be “substantial” and it must have a significant economic impact in the United States. Business owners can use this visa to hire international employees. Read on for detailed qualification requirements for this US visa

How to Qualify for the E-2 Visa?

To qualify for an E-2 visa, first, the individual, partnership, or business entity must have citizenship of a US treaty country. In the case of a business, at least 50% of the business must be owned by people with citizenship of a treaty country. Other requirements are as follows:

  • The investment must be substantial (although there’s no set value for this).
  • The investment must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise.
  • The investment must be for a real operating enterprise, an active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking (not a paper organization).
  • The business income must be more than just the amount that supports your family. It must have a significant economic impact in the US.
  • The investment can’t be secured with the assets of the investment enterprise. Your investment must be “at-risk.”
  • You must be coming to the US to develop and direct the enterprise or be an essential employee such as an executive or of specialty occupation. 

How to Apply for the E-2 Visa?

The steps for how you apply for the E2 visa will vary depending on whether you are applying from within the US or outside. Here are the options:

Applying from Within the United States

To apply from within the US, you will need to fill out the nonimmigrant electronic application form, register with the online visa appointment system, and pay the $205 nonimmigrant visa application processing fee. Most likely you will have to provide digital fingerprint scans before the interview. Then, you will need to bring the following documents to your visa appointment:

  • The visa application, Form DS-160
  • If you’re an executive or essential specialized employee, you’ll need to bring Treaty Investor Application DS-156E
  • A valid passport for travel to the US. The validity date must extend at least six months beyond your stay in the US. 
  • A 2-by-2-inch (5-by-5-cm) photograph
  • A business plan showing that the US business will generate enough money to support you and have a significant economic impact.
  • Registration for the US business.
  • Proof of wire transfer for the investment.
  • Proof of source of income.
  • Proof of intent to return to your home country.

Applying from Outside the United States

To apply for an E2 visa from outside the US, you will need to fill out the nonimmigrant electronic application form, register with the online visa appointment system, and pay the visa fees. 

You will most likely have to provide digital fingerprint scans before the interview, as well as supporting documentation to the relevant US Embassy in your country (see above for common requirements). Check the US Embassy site for your country to confirm the steps and required documents in case of country-specific variations. 

5 Steps to Form a Business in the US with an E-2 Visa

Starting a company in the US can make it easier to get a visa. If you already have an E2 visa, you can start a business within the US or bring your startup into the country. This is an alternative to starting a company on an H-1B visa. Here are five steps to form a business in the US with an E-2 visa:

Form a Company

Depending on your desired business structure, this can be an LLC, corporation, or any other business entity. You must own at least 50% of the business to meet E2 visa requirements. Learn more about legal structures to start your business or the possibility of having two businesses under one LLC here

Apply for an EIN

Once you have a legal business entity, you can apply for an employer identification number (EIN). This will allow you to open a business bank account and hire employees. To apply for an EIN, you’ll need to fill out IRS Form SS-4

Open a Business Bank Account

Once you have an EIN, you can open a bank account for the business and prepare to transfer operating funds. You need a separate business bank account to operate an E2 company. 

Transfer Investment Funds to the Bank Account

With a business bank account, the next step is to transfer the business investment or operating funds into the account. This is a crucial step for E2 visa requirements and business operations. 

Begin Operating the Business

To meet E2 visa requirements that the funds are “at risk” or “irrevocably committed,” you should begin spending the invested funds or using them to build the business. 

Getting an E2 Visa

Whether you’re a foreign partner in an LLC, a business founder, or an investor, an E2 visa offers a path to live and work in the US. E2 visas allow you to build your US business presence. While you need to follow some steps, an E2 visa can make sense for specialized workers, founders, and investors who meet the requirements. 

While you’re in the US building your business presence, doola bookkeeping services can help with accounting. Get doola Books to make accounting easier than ever, allowing you to grow your business while meeting US tax and reporting requirements. 


How long does it take to obtain an E2 visa?

It usually takes about two weeks to four months to obtain an E2 visa. 

Is there a limit to the number of E2 visas that can be issued each year?

There is no limit on the number of E2 visas that can be issued each year.

Can any business qualify for an E2 visa or are there specific requirements that need to be met?

Yes, any business can qualify for an E2 visa, as long as the requirements are met. 

Can I work for another company while on an E2 visa or do I need to run my own business?

Without permission, you cannot work for another US employer with an E2 visa. Instead, you must work for the treaty investor business or a new E2 business you create. 

What happens if my business fails while on an E2 visa?

If your business fails or closes while on an E2 visa, you will need to apply for a different visa if you want to continue living in the US. 

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