By Jose Gomez-Urquiza
From geopolitical concerns to favorable tax policy, investors from around the world are flocking to the U.S. as a safe haven for their funds. While this trend is not necessarily new, recent socioeconomic developments overseas have increased the velocity of investors coming to the U.S. in favor of protecting their interests while taking advantage of the country’s attractive tax policies and business opportunities.
Obtaining an EB-5 investment visa as a non-citizen is difficult and vulnerable to roadblocks, which is why the E-2 visa has become such a popular option—namely for its efficient application process, historically high approval rate, and flexibility when compared to other options.
For example, the EB-5 visa has for years gained popularity among investors looking to invest large amounts of capital in the U.S. economy, whether through real estate, business establishment, or otherwise. However, the EB-5 carries with it some restrictions that tend to ward off potential investors, particularly its requirement for complete and permanent fiscal residence in the United States, even barring extended travel time. The E-2 does not contain such restrictions, nor is it a permanent arrangement, hence its current popularity.
While final numbers will not be released until next year, current statistics prove that E-2 visa applications are skyrocketing. For example, in 2019, over 43,286 E-2 visas were issued to investors, according to the U.S. Department of State. Visa applications are also surging from countries in Latin America, the United Kingdom, and Asia. In addition to global economic trends, both far-right and far-left leaning governments in these countries are causing concern among investors looking to safeguard their interests.
With that being said, the E-2 visa has its own parameters and application process. Therefore, anyone looking to obtain this visa must familiarize themselves with the necessary steps and qualification criteria.
Qualifications for the E-2 visa
While the E-2 visa is lauded as one of the most accessible and flexible nonimmigrant visa options, there are still qualifications one must abide by in order to obtain one. Per the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a qualified treaty investor must:
- Be a citizen of a country that maintains a commercial treaty with the U.S.
- Invest or be in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business or enterprise
- Be able to reside in the United States solely to develop and direct the investment, as shown by maintaining at least 50% ownership of the investment or overseeing operational control through a management or corporate position
As of now, there are 80 countries maintaining treaties of commerce and navigation with the U.S. Of these, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Colombia are among the highest in terms of E-2 visas issued.
Unlike the EB-5, which generally requires a minimum investment of around $900,000, there is no set minimum for the E-2—it is determined on a case-by-case basis, though approved visas tend to involve investments upwards of $200,000. This significantly widens access for investors with more discreet amounts of capital who nevertheless want to benefit from investing in the U.S. economy.
Another factor that sets the E-2 apart is its flexible travel and lack of a citizenship requirement. While the EB-5 requires investors to maintain permanent residence in the U.S., even restricting travel time, E-2 investors have the ability to come and go as they please for the duration of the visa, which can last anywhere from three months to five years with the possibility of unlimited renewals.
How to obtain an E-2 visa for the U.S.
Despite its flexible qualifications, the process for obtaining an E-2 can be complex in terms of paperwork for those living outside the U.S. It almost always requires the expertise of an immigration lawyer, as well as a business consultant. However, the processing time usually only takes a few months, providing a much more expedited option when compared to other visas or paths to legal residence in the U.S.
Most applicants not residing within the U.S. will submit their application through a U.S. consulate in their respective countries. This process can around three to eight months on average.
Among the necessary documents is proof of current or prospective investments, which, as explained above, are required to convey a substantial investment interest in the U.S. economy. Most immigration attorneys will suggest a minimum of $200,000.
Fortunately, there are many consulting companies that offer a streamlined network of services and professionals to help prospective E-2 investors assess where and how to invest, in addition to navigating the process as a whole. Many immigration law attorneys specializing in E-2 and other visas will work with these companies, which also offer additional support such as relocation services and a portfolio of qualifying investment opportunities. Services like these are particularly helpful and can usually reduce the total process to about four months while increasing the probability of success.
Flexibility and benefits of an E-2
While the application process may be thorough, there are a wealth of potential benefits prospective nonimmigrant investors can enjoy through their E-2 visa.
For one, the United States represents the largest consumer market in the world, as well as the most developed and liquid financial market. Cities such as New York, Miami, Austin, Atlanta, and Houston are bustling with investment in real estate, technology, and startup businesses, providing havens for investors far and wide looking to safely invest and grow profit.
Furthermore, should an investor decide to extend their stay in the states and continue overseeing their enterprises, the E-2 visa can be renewed as many times as desired, providing that all qualifications continue to be met.
Additionally, along with being able to travel to and from the U.S. freely while maintaining a semi-permanent residence, the families and children of investors can also benefit. The visa allows applicants’ spouses to live and work in the U.S., in addition to allowing investors’ children to attend U.S. schools.
When handled properly with both consultation from qualified professionals and a thorough examination of major U.S. markets, the E-2 visa could make for an ideal option for any investor looking to swiftly benefit from the U.S. economy without necessarily establishing a permanent residence in the country.
It is one of the fastest paths to legal status in the U.S.
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