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The E2 Investor Visa can be a great way for early-stage startups to acquire a startup visa.

The pros:

  • It’s available year-round
  • Renewable indefinitely
  • Open to majority or sole owners
  • Frequently granted to companies that can show a strong business plan (even if they aren’t in full-swing operations yet)

The cons:

  • Only available to citizens of certain countries (China, India, and Brazil aren’t on the list)
  • Must be initially financed with money coming from citizens of that same country

There are two ways to qualify for an E2 visa:

1) As the principal investor

2) As an employee.


The “principal” investor route is a great option for founders who have invested their own money in the startup, and will be actively involved in its development. Here’s a list of the main requirements:

Citizenship: You must be a citizen of an E2 treaty country. (Look at the list closely–a few countries on this list only have an E1 treaty with the US.) Being a legal permanent resident of a treaty country is not enough.

Ownership: The business must be at least 50% owned by citizens of the same treaty country that you qualify under. (For E2 purposes, individuals who hold US green cards do not qualify as citizens of a treaty country, even if they hold a treaty country citizenship.)

Personal Investment: To count towards a principal investor E2 visa, the money invested must come from the E2 applicant personally.  This requires that before the funds are invested in the company, they must have been unconditionally controlled by the E2 applicant. The investment funds can come from any legal source. However, a loan secured by company assets, money invested directly by friends and family, money invested by another company you own, or angel/VC funding directly invested in the company does not qualify.

Substantial Investment: As an E2 principal investor, your investment must have been “substantial.” This investment can be in the form of cash, physical items, or intellectual property such as patents. Unlike investment for the EB5 green card, there is no specific dollar amount that must be invested for an E2 visa. Instead, you must show that the amount you have invested is “substantial” in comparison to the amount required to get the company up and running. For a business that requires expensive equipment and inventory to get started, this amount might be very high. For a tech startup that in reality needs little more than a laptop and an internet connection, this number might be much lower. In any case, the investment must be a high enough number to ensure that the E2 investor has an incentive to work to make the company a success.

Irrevocable: You must be able to demonstrate that the investment you have personally made is “irrevocable,” meaning you can’t take it back. The easiest approach to satisfy this requirement is to show that the money has already been spent on things such as equipment and other startup costs. Some investors are hesitant to spend money before being guaranteed a visa. In this case, it is sometimes possible to place the money in an escrow account, under the condition that the money will automatically be spent in specific ways for the company if the E visa granted, and will be returned to the investor only if the visa is denied.

Non-marginal: You must be able to show that within a few years the company will be undertaking additional projects, rather than just simply supporting the E2 holder. This is commonly satisfied by showing that the company expects to hire US employees.

Direct and control: You must show that you will be “directing and controlling” the company. A common way to demonstrate this is to prove that you own at least 50% of the company and will have a leadership control, such as CEO or CFO.

If you feel you might be able to put together enough money to invest in your own company, the E2 visa can be a great option to try for, since it is renewable indefinitely, and does not require you to give away equity or control. If you are from a treaty country but will not be able to invest your own money, an E2 visa for employees might be an option for you.


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