Investor Visas – Business Immigration

Investor visaInvestor visas allow foreign investors to explore new investment opportunities in the United States and at the same move to the U.S. permanently or temporarily, bring their family members with them, and in some cases hire employees from their countries of origin.

Before applying for an investor visa, it is necessary to know which type of visa is the most suitable for your goals and to understand which ones you may qualify for.

I am going to review the most commonly applied-for business visas.

EB-5 investor visa

EB-5 visa petitioners are people who want to immigrate to the United States by investing in U.S. commercial enterprises. The EB-5 visa falls under the immigrant visa category, which allows a foreign investor to obtain a Green Card and in five years apply for citizenship.

An EB-5 visa petitioner is required to satisfy the following general requirements:

  • Minimum investment capital should be $1 million, or else $500,000 in a high-unemployment area or rural area. 
  • Within 2 years after obtaining a Green Card, the investor should create at least 10 full-time jobs.
  • Subject to certain exceptions, the investor should hold a managerial or policy-making position in the company in which he/she invests.
  • The enterprise should benefit the U.S. economy.

Because there are many technical documents involved, other professionals such as accountants, corporate and securities lawyers, and business plan specialists should also participate in the application process. Nevertheless, it is an immigration lawyer who should prepare an application for an EB-5 visa.

If you would like to learn more about EB-5 visas, please visit my webpage at the following link.

What if you do not have $1 million or $500,000 to invest, or you don’t want to take this kind of financial risk? Or what if you are not willing to deal with such paperwork-heavy procedures? Then please continue reading.

E-2 investor visa

E-2 visa is another type of investor visa, but unlike the EB-5 visa, it falls under the nonimmigrant visa category, which means that an E-2 visa doesn’t pave the way for an investor to obtain a Green Card and citizenship.  Nevertheless, in some cases E-2 might be the most favorable option for investors because the E-2 visa application process is less time consuming and less complicated compared to the EB-5 visa.

In order to obtain an E-2 visa, one needs to invest in a commercial enterprise located in the U.S., but unlike for the EB-5, the law does not specify the amount of investment required.  The investor does not have to invest $1 million or $500,000, but rather to make a “substantial” investment.  “Substantial” is defined “in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one.”  The lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher the proportional value of the investment.  However, “marginal enterprises” – those that do not have the capacity to generate at least enough income to provide a basic living for the treaty investor and his/her family – will not qualify for E-2 visa purposes.

Another requirement is a citizenship requirement.  That is, an E-2 visa applicant must be a citizen of E-2 treaty countries. You can find the list of E-2 treaty countries at the following link.

As I have indicated, in some cases, an E-2 visa can be the best option for an investor for the following reasons:

  • An E-2 visa holder is not required to pay taxes on income earned outside the U.S. Green Card holders (aka Permanent Residents) have the same tax obligations as U.S. citizens, which means that they are required to pay taxes on all of their earnings irrespective of where the source of the income is.  An E-2 investor, on the other hand, as a non-immigrant visa holder, pays U.S. taxes only on income earned in the U.S unless the visa holder meets the substantial presence test. 
  • An E-2 visa holder, like an EB-5 investor, can bring his or her family members to the U.S. Such dependent family members will be authorized to work as long as the principal beneficiary, who is the E-2 investor, maintains his or her E-2 visa status.
  • Even though an E-2 visa does not grant a Green Card, the visa can be renewed every 2 years continuously.  The number of visa renewals is not limited, which means that in practice, the investor and his or her family can potentially stay in the U.S. for an unlimited amount of time and enjoy almost the same benefits as EB-5 investors.  Meanwhile, if the investor’s business is successful, the investor can apply for an EB-5 visa by expanding the investment and satisfying the EB-5 visa requirements.

E-1 Trade Visa

The E-1 visa also falls within the non-immigrant visa category and has the same benefits as the E-2 visa.  Instead of investing money in a commercial enterprise, an E-1 visa petitioner is required to be engaged in international trade.  The general requirements for obtaining an E-1 visa are as follows: 

  • Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. You can find the list of these countries at the following link.
  • Carry on substantial trade.
  • Carry on principal trade between the United States and the treaty country that qualified the treaty trader for E-1 classification.

Substantial trade “refers to the continuous flow of sizable international trade items, involving numerous transactions over time.”  Principal trade exists “when over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the U.S. and the trader’s treaty country.” 

If you realize that you do not meet the requirements of any of the visas discussed above, then you should seek the advice of a qualified immigration lawyer, who might be able to find other types of visas that will fit your situation.

Should you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact me by submitting the form or by calling me at (248) 900-3399.  I accept clients from across the U.S. and around the world.  My law office is conveniently located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan for in-person meetings.  For phone consultation, you can reach me from any part of the United States or abroad.