Business Visas: Entrepreneurs and Investors

There are several ways for  foreign entrepreneurs and investors to receive business visas in the U.S. Most of the visas for entrepreneurs and investors are nonimmigrant visas without a pathway to permanent residency.  Immigration Attorneys at The Law Office of  Oti Nwosu in Arlington VA  have many years of experience in filing for investor visas and will be happy to assist you.

E-1/E-2 Treaty and Investor Visas

Investors and traders and their employees may receive visas to carry on substantial trade between the United States and the treaty country, or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the foreign national has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital.  See a list of eligible countries.

E visas are generally issued for a period of two to five years depending on the volume of trade or the size of the investment.  The E visa status is renewable as long as the principal continues maintaining their status with the qualifying organization.

Derivative E visas are available for spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age in order to accompany the applicant.  Spouses may obtain employment authorization from after admission to the United States.  Dependent children are not authorized to work in the United States but may but may study in the U.S. without a student (F-1) visa.

E-1 Trader Visa Requirements

The applicant for a E-1 visa must be a national of a treaty country and the trading firm for which the applicant is coming to the U. S. must have the nationality of the treaty country. The international trade must be “substantial” in the sense that there is a sizable and continuing volume of trade.

The trade must be principally between the U.S. and the treaty country, which is defined to mean that more than 50 percent of the international trade involved must be between the U.S. and the country of the applicant’s nationality.

The applicant must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess highly specialized skills essential to the efficient operation of the firm. Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify.

E-2 Investor Visa Requirements

An E-2 visa is for a non-U.S. citizen who will own and/or work at a company in the U.S. which is majority owned by nationals of the non-U.S. citizens country. The person can work as an owner/operator or as a high-level manager or person with special knowledge.

Applicants for an E2 visa can either purchase an existing business or start their own business. In order to file, the applicant must show that the company has invested or will invest a substantial amount of money in the company. The exact amount of the investment is not stated in the law, but the law does require that a substantial amount of money be invested compared to the overall value of the company. Also, the company must employ other U.S. workers; the company cannot employ just the foreign national owner. If the company hires independent contractors, the government can take this into account when deciding whether to issue the E 2 visa.

The applicant must take the steps to start your business before starting the immigration paper work. If the applicant purchases an existing business, copies of all the purchase documents are needed.

E-3 Australians in specialty occupations

The E-3 visa is a visa only for citizens of Australia to work in specialty occupations in the U.S.  The E-3 visa is similar in many respects to the H-1B visa. Important differences include the fact that spouses of E-3 visa holders may work in the United States without restrictions, and that the E-3 visa is renewable indefinitely (in two-year increments). Visas issued to spouses and children are not included in the E-3 quota, and spouses and children do not need to be Australian citizens.

E-3 visas are non-immigrant visas. Accordingly, E-3 visa holders must prove their intent to return to Australia when the E-3 job is finished. This is significantly different from an H-1B visa, which is also a non-immigrant visa, but allows dual intent.

Thus, although an H-1B visa holder may apply for permanent residency (a green card) while working on an H-1B visa, an E-3 visa holder may not. However, E-3 visas may be renewed indefinitely (in theory) whereas any one H-1B visa is valid only up to six years (unless the H-1B holder begins the green card process, in which case the H-1B is extended during the time the green card application is pending).

EB-5: Visas for Immigrant Investors

While the above mentioned visas are nonimmigrant visas and do not qualify for a ‘green card’, the EB-5 preference class allows a path to permanent residence.

The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program was established to create U.S. jobs by attracting foreign capital to the United States. The basic requirements for this program are an investment of $1 million dollars (or $500,000 in a high unemployment or rural area) in a commercial enterprise that will create full-time employment for at least ten (10) workers. The investor may also choose to invest in a pre-approved “regional center.”

Attorneys at The Law Office of  Oti Nwosu has been processing numerous applications for E type investor visas and will be happy to assist you.


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