Frequently asked questions about the E-2 visa: the Treaty Investor Visa.


The treaty investor visa (a/k/a E-2 visa) is the one I have specialized in most over the years: at the beginning in the United States and then once in Italy. Most of my legal consultations are related to this visa and its complexity, timing, and requirements.

In this article, I decided to answer the questions that people most often ask about the topic.

"What amount of money do I need to apply for a treaty investor visa?"

By far, it is the most popular question I have to reply to, and the reason comes from the misinformation spread by "I heard...", "I read on the internet," or "a friend of mine told me that...".

The common belief is that the necessary and helpful investment required to apply for an E visa equals more than $100,000.00. But is there a universally applicable rule? The answer is "no." Indeed, even requests based on a lower amount can be approved, mainly because the investment depends on business activity. If you wish to open an Italian restaurant or a bakery, this sum may not be enough. Otherwise, it could be so if you are going to open a consultancy firm, for example, in the tourism sector.

Who has obtained an E-2 visa could after applying for a Green Card?

The E-2 visa is a great opportunity to live and work in the United States through an investment. However, it is also true that this visa is a non-immigrant and does not automatically permit obtaining a green card.All that said, valid options for an E-2 visa to be translated into a green card are in the following:

All that said, valid options for an E-2 visa to be translated into a green card are in the following:Invest a considerable sum of money and apply for a green investor card (immigrant investor program). If a person has money to invest, it is possible to apply for a green card as an investor even if he is still carrying on his business in the United States with an E-2 visa. It is crucial to understand that we are talking about huge costs: 1 million dollars investment and at least ten jobs must be made available in the applicant's company. And the money used for the investment has to be traceable.

  1. Invest in a project in a local center and apply for a green card as an investor. Instead of investing $1 million, it is possible to make a lower amount of money-about $500,000-in the project of a local community and thus be a passive investor while continuing to operate in the United States under an E-2 visa. The requirement to provide ten new job positions can be carried out indirectly through the local community project. The latter hypothesis represents a cheaper solution to obtaining a green card. However, it binds the investor's money to a local community project for five years.
  2. Having a sponsor. Having a sponsor means hiring a person for a job position perfectly suitable with the skills and qualifications necessary to demonstrate exceptional skills (extraordinary abilities). An exception exists by obtaining a permanent work certification (c.d. national interest waiver) to accelerate and simplify the conversion to a green card. However, the employer is obliged to follow up a recruitment campaign to demonstrate that no American workers hold the same position and document the whole recruitment process. This activity is carried out by publishing job advertisements in the leading newspapers, preparing websites, and hiring recruitment companies to find possible candidates. This procedure is feasible, even if it is particularly complex.
  3. Be sponsored by a family member, c.d. family-based green card (find the article here: In that case, the spouse (US citizen or legal permanent resident) will sponsor the person holding the investor visa to obtain a green card while working and managing their business with an E-2 visa.
  4. Create a new business outside the United States. A person can work for companies located abroad and then start working for them in the United States as a manager transferred between companies. In the latter case, it is an L-1 visa which we will discuss in the appropriate article.

To start a business and obtain an E2 visa, which type of activity is most suitable?

    The activities that, to date, have given more significant margins of success in obtaining a treaty investor visa are briefly listed below:
  1. Multinationals
  2. Franchising
  3. Consulting
  4. Purchase of a previous asset
  5. Restaurants

How long will it take to get an E-2 visa?

The estimated time for an E-2 visa issue may vary from a minimum of 2 weeks to a maximum of 6 months. After the initial review, the Consulate will arrange an interview with the applicant. If the E-2 visa is approved, it may take up to a week to be released.

Is it challenging to get an E-2 visa?

An E-2 investor visa is a perfect option for all those who desire to start a business in the United States, allowing investors and immediate family members to live in the United States; the investor's spouse can obtain a work permit of the same duration as the visa holder's E-2. It is possible to renew the E2 indefinitely if the company E-2 exists.

According to data provided by the State Department, the E-2 visa has experienced exponential growth in the last five years. The US government received 57,613 visa applications in the 2016 calendar year-a much higher number than the 43,450 applications submitted in 2013-and 44,243 got approval, a percentage equal to 77%.

Japan received the highest number of approvals, followed by Germany, France, Canada, and Great Britain. Data shows that the E-2 visa has experienced steady growth in demand with an approval rate of 80% in the last five years. That is why we can say that-with rigorous planning-the approval could be easy. Related to this, it's important to point out that most of the refusals are because the applicants didn't hire lawyers to help them.

The procedure for obtaining the E-2 visa may be discouraging, but potential investors must also be aware that most E-2 permits are approved when properly structured.

Will I be a permanent resident with an E-2 visa?

As previously stated, the E visa is a non-immigrant visa, and it prohibits the person from immigrating to the United States when the visa is issued or used to enter. Consequently, E-2 does not guarantee a direct route to a permanent residence (green card).

Finally, what is the main difference between E-1 (treaty trader) and E-2 (treaty investor) visas?

The E-1 visa is for foreign nationals wishing to pursue an international business activity in the United States. To obtain it, it is mandatory that more than 50% of trade takes place between the country of the holder of the visa and the United States and that the volume of these transactions is "considerable."

Otherwise, the E-2 visa is for entrepreneurs wishing to set up or operate a company that invests a certain amount of capital.

Abogado Sarah Silvestri
Immigration Attorney

"Building your future in a new country, with us by your side"