For any business looking to expand to the US, immigration is one of the most important aspects to consider. But with enough visa categories to span every letter of the alphabet, from Diplomat Visa (A) to Amnesty Visa (Z), understanding which option is right for your business and your employees can be a daunting task.
With today’s notoriously stringent administration, it’s more important than ever to carefully consider your immigration strategy into the US – which can be an expensive and time-consuming process at the best of times.
An ESTA or B visa may be appropriate while exploring US expansion and beginning to drum up business, but a longer-term strategy will be needed once you decide to establish a permanent business there. For many UK companies looking to establish in the US - who don’t fancy the $1 million price tag of an EB-5 visa - a perfect solution may come in the form of an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa.
But what exactly is this visa, what are the requirements, and is it right for your company?
The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows a national of a treaty country to be admitted to the US when investing a substantial amount of capital in a new or existing US business. For UK citizens, the E-2 visa can be granted for up to 5 years, depending on the strength of the application, and allows its recipients to re-enter the US multiple times. Extension requests can be granted in increments of up to two years each, with no maximum limit. An E-2 visa holder can bring their spouse to the US and they will be permitted to work openly.
An E-2 company registration will be granted with an initial individual E-2 employee visa application. It is then possible to add further employees onto the company E-2 visa down the line, making it an attractive visa category for companies looking to establish a US presence and bring over multiple foreign employees.
However, it is important to note that the E-2 visa is a temporary visa, and any immigrants will be expected to return to their country upon termination of the visa. Therefore, this option is not a natural stepping stone to a Green Card, and so if this is your long-term goal, another visa may be a better option. On the upside, an E-2 means that you won’t be beset with the tax demands of permanent residency, and that only your US income (rather than worldwide) will be taxed in the US.
To be eligible for an E-2 visa, you must be a resident of a treaty company, the full list of which can be found here. The main requirement is then to demonstrate a substantial investment in the US. The definition of a ‘substantial’ investment is not a fixed figure, but relative to the business at hand, its operations and the amount of capital necessary to get the business running. For example, a boutique consultancy would need a significantly lower investment than a large manufacturing business. This investment must also be of benefit to the US, for example by creating US jobs or having a positive economic impact on the US.
Importantly, this investment must be an ‘at-risk’ financial commitment and must have already been made at the time of application. This means that, if the visa application is unsuccessful, the investment would be lost. The money invested must also belong to the business and not a bank loan (unless secured by personal assets). However, the cash is operational, and could include the costs of a binding office lease agreement, employment, equipment, incorporation, and more. Passive investments, such as in stocks or bonds, are not eligible as E-2 investments. Half of the business must also be owned by nationals of a treaty company, and the initial applicant must be in charge of the company and invested monies themselves.
The application for an E-2 visa can be a lengthy and extensive process, with documented evidence of the investment, the new or existing company, and also a thorough 5-year business plan being required. After the formal application has been submitted, an embassy interview will be conducted. The timeframe could therefore range from weeks to months, and an immigration lawyer will be required.
To learn more, join PGC’s Commercial Director, Jeremy Wastall, as he interviews Charlotte Slocombe and Paul Samartin - two U.S. immigration experts - on the current U.S. immigration climate.
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Setting up in America: Immigration
Join our webinar where where we ask the experts about the immigration climate in the U.S. and how it could impact your business.