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E-2 Visa, Explained

Learn more about the eligibility requirements, process, and timeline of the E-2 treaty investor visa

What Is the E-2 Visa?

The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign nationals from certain treaty countries to enter the United States for the purpose of investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. This visa is designed to promote foreign investment and facilitate the movement of individuals who contribute to the American economy.

In this guide, we’ll cover the eligibility requirements for the E-2 visa, how to apply, and what costs and timeline to expect.

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E-2 Visa Eligibility Requirements

Although the specific eligibility requirements for the E-2 visa may vary depending on each individual’s case, the general eligibility requirements all applicants can expect are:

  • Nationality: The applicant must be a national of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation or a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. Not all countries qualify, so it’s essential to check the list of eligible treaty countries on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
  • Substantial Investment: The applicant must invest a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. The investment must be sufficient to ensure the success of the business, and the specific amount considered “substantial” can vary depending on factors such as the type of business and its scale.
  • Active Management: The investor must typically play an active role in the management of the U.S. business. An active role could mean having control and ownership of at least 50% of the enterprise, being involved in making major decisions, and overseeing day-to-day operations.
  • Business Type: The investment must be in a bona fide enterprise, and the business should not be marginal. The enterprise must have the capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the investor and their dependents.
  • Source of Funds: Similar to proving the business is a legitimate and legal venture, the E-2 applicant must prove that the funds invested in the U.S. business have a legitimate source. This helps to ensure that the money used for the investment was obtained legally.

How to Apply for an E-2 Visa

Applying from Within the U.S. 

Individuals legally residing in the U.S. have the option to change their status to an E-2 visa by filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) with USCIS. The application should include documentation verifying your nationality, investment, and additional financial details about your business.

If you are a solo investor, you are responsible for filing the petition yourself. If you are an employee of a company, your employer should submit Form I-129 on your behalf.

Applying from Outside the U.S. 

If you’re applying from outside the U.S., you’ll need to complete the following steps:

-File Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) 
-Schedule & attend a visa interview at your home country’s U.S. Embassy or consulate

You can learn more about the cost and application process for the DS-160 in Boundless’ guide.

E-2 Visa Cost

The costs for the E-2 visa can vary depending on several factors, including where you are applying from, and whether premium processing is requested.

In general, there is a $460 fee to file Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) with USCIS. If premium processing is requested, there is an additional fee of $2805.

E-2 Visa Timeline

The processing time for the E-2 visa can vary, depending on the USCIS service center where the petition was filed and the complexity of the case. 
You can check the current processing times for E-2 visas at specific USCIS service centers here.

E-2 applicants may also be able to request “premium processing” of their Form I-129 for an additional fee (mentioned above). If approved, USCIS will typically process your L-1 visa application within 15-45 calendar days.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of businesses are acceptable under the E2 visa?

Many different kinds of businesses in various sectors are considered acceptable for an E-2 visa classification, including (but not limited to) franchises, real estate and property management, personal service providers, legal professionals, and commercial ventures.

Can employees of the primary E-2 visa holder also obtain E-2 visas?

In some cases, employees of the treaty investor (the person applying for the E-2 visa) may also be eligible for E-2 visas if they have the same nationality as the principal investor and are engaged in duties essential to the business.

How long can I stay in the U.S. on an E-2 visa?

Treaty investors and their eligible employees can initially stay in the U.S. for up to two years under the E-2 visa. If they need more time, they can request extensions, and each extension can be granted for up to two years. There’s no set limit on the number of extensions an E-2 visa holder can receive.

Can I travel outside the U.S. while on an E-2 visa?

Yes. E-2 treaty investors can travel outside the U.S. and will typically be granted an automatic two-year period of readmission when returning to the U.S.

Can dependent spouses or children of E-2 visa holders also obtain E-2 visas?

Yes. Treaty investors and their employees have the option to include their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old on their application. Spouses and children can typically apply for E-2S dependent classification, and if approved, they will typically be allowed to stay for the same duration as the employee. NOTE: It’s not necessary for spouses and children to have the same nationality as the treaty investor or employee.

Can dependent E-2 spouses work in the U.S.?

Yes. In most cases, dependent spouses of E-2 visa holders (in E-2S status) are automatically granted work authorization, without the need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Dependent spouses can use an unexpired Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) showing their E-2S status as proof of work authorization.

Can an E2 visa lead to a green card?

The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning that there is no direct path to lawful permanent residency, or a green card. It may still be possible for the E-2 visa holder to pursue a green card through an alternative path, such as family sponsorship.

Can I change jobs on an E2 visa?

No. The E-2 visa holder is typically only authorized to work in the U.S. business they have invested in and applied for the visa under.

Do E-2 visa holders pay taxes?

Yes. E-2 visa holders must file federal and state tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for all income earned in the U.S.

Do you need a sponsor for the E-2 visa?

No. You do not need a U.S. employer to sponsor you for an E-2 visa.

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