H1B Visas: E2 Visa Requirements

Posted on May 6, 2008


I came across an interesting article on TechCrunch that provides a straight-forward guideline to the categories of work visas available for foreigners seeking entrance to the US, especially those seeking employment in Silicon Valley’s technology sector.

One of visa categories is the E2 visa – this visa is designed to permit entrance to the US for a foreign investor that adheres to several strict requirements. I did some quick research, and found the specific guidelines for attaining an E2 work visa from Workpermit.com (unfortunately the US Customs and Immigration site doesn’t lay out the requirements as clearly as this…):

1. There has been and will be a substantial capital investment in the US. There is no specific cash threshold defined, but $40,000 is probably an absolute minimum, and any investment below $100,000 would need a very strong case to support it.

2. Risk Capital has been Committed; the investment must entail some risk to the investor (it may not be all in the form of unguaranteed credit). At a minimum, there must be a long-term lease of an office in the US.

3. The investor will control his/her investment. In this respect control is considered to entail owning over 50% of the US enterprise.

4. The cash invested is not marginal when compared to the total investment. In general, unless it is common to the industry to have higher amounts of ‘leveraging’ (such as in the property industry), 51% of the investment should be in the form of cash equity. Where debt is secured against other assets of the investor, it is considered to be ‘at risk’, and may be considered as part of the equity invested.

5. The enterprise is (or will be) active. In order to be ‘Directing and Developing’ their investment, the investor will require an enterprise that involves active management. 6. US workers are (or will be) employed. The treaties envisage more than just creating a job for the principal investor, but there is no requirement to employ a particular number of US citizens. Obviously, employment of large numbers of US citizens would be viewed very favorably.

7. The enterprise, or its principal investor, has a past history of successful trading.

8. That the ‘investor’ has sufficient acumen to direct and develop the investment enterprise. 9. That the principal investor, and any other E2 staff, are able and willing to leave the US upon termination of their E2 status.

As you can see, the requirements are strict and complete. The E2 Visa should not be considered to be a loophole or back office channel, but for foreigners that are willing to invest in the United States, it can be a very effective entrance opportunity to the United States. With the value of the US Dollar compared to the Euro and British Pound, this might be a good time to think about investing in the United States from abroad if you are a business owner overseas.

Michael Arrington’s complete article on TechCrunch includes a guest posting from Peter Nixey, founder of Clickpass, a start-up firm founded in the UK and now based in Silicon Valley.