E-2 Visa Experience & Tips
I would like to announce that this is no legal advice! Only my personal experience with E-2. If you are not confident enough, then hire an immigration lawyer! I hope my experiences will help you!
FAQ & COMMON QUESTIONS
What is the E-2 Visa?
I consider E-2 Visa as the best option for those who want to come to the United States in order to start and manage their business. The common name is treaty investor visa but sometimes just investor or business visa. Remember that an E-2 visa is non-immigrant type of visa and you must return back to your country when the visa expires. For more information search on Google, YouTube. There are plenty of good sources. I definitely recommend to visit official website of the U.S. embassy in your country and follow its requirements before you apply for E-2 visa.
Can I apply for the E-2 Visa from every country?
Unfortunately not. Citizens of some countries cannot apply for an E-2 visa. However, most of the countries have agreements with the USA. Here is the list or seach on Google for list of Treaty Countries.
How long is E-2 Visa valid? Can I extend it?
If the E-2 Visa is approved it is issued for 5 years and it can be extended for another 5 years if you prove your business still can financially support you and your family.
For how long period can I stay in the U.S if I have a valid E-2 Visa?
2 years and then you have to leave the United States. Technically you have to cross the borders and you can return back the same day. Then you will get authorization for another 2 years.
Can I work in the U.S with an E-2 visa? Can I apply for SSN?
Yes, you can work and be employed but only in your business connected to the E-2 visa. After arrival, you can apply for SSN (Social Security Number).
Can my family travel with me to the U.S?
Yes, but only spouse and children and they all must apply as a dependent applicants with you.
Is the spouse eligible to work in the U.S?
This is probably one of the most valued advantages of an E-2 visa. Your wife or husband may apply for SSN too and work anywhere in the United States. However, you as the principal applicant can only work in your business.
What is the minimum investment for the E-2 visa?
This is by far the most discussed question and some people say that the minimum recommended investment is between $50,000 – $100,000 or even more. However, this is very, very individual and every E-2 application is unique according to the business needs. I would say that the most important fact is that you can prove that you spend your money really for the business and not only on getting the visa. You must prove that your money is at risk and it is a real investment to the business such as an office, software, and hardware, wages for employees, services related to the business. The best evidence is already to have real customers, orders, and results. Even if you cannot prove this you can still get the visa. However, my application including cover letter and business plan had almost 150 pages. You will also have to pay non-refundable fee $205 when applying for the visa but it is nothing compare to business investments.
Do I have start the new business?
You can start completely the new business but you can also buy an existing business. Both ways should work. I started a new business from scratch and without previous experience.
May I have business partner?
You can have a business partner but remember that you have to own at least 50% of the business in order to be eligible for the E-2 visa.
What about the current situation with COVID-19 and NIE?
I applied in February 2021 from the Czech Republic through the emergency request and had the E-2 visa appointment in March 2021. I also had to apply for NIE (National Interest Exception) and I had to prove that my physical presence in the U.S. is necessary for my business and also for the American economy. Hopefully when you will apply the situation with COVID-19 will be better. If you want to know more about how I successfully got the NIE, please read this.
Below I describe the necessary steps in order to get an E-2 visa from my view. I do not talk about any business itself. This is completely your task! I share my experience, my tips and the mistakes I did. Save your time and money avoiding the same mistakes I did.
E-2 VISA GENERAL REQUIREMENTS
PLEASE VISIT OFFICAL WEBSITE OF THE U.S. EMBASSY IN YOUR COUNTRY AND SEARCH FOR E-2 VISA INFORMATION OR E-2 VISA REQUIREMENTS.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE & TIPS
BE SURE YOU REALLY WANT TO LIVE AND START A BUSINESS IN THE U.S.!
Seriously, this important decision will affect your personal and family life. Be aware it’s gonna be probably difficult in the new country, new environment, without family, friends, and contacts. It’s gonna take time and a lot of effort, time, and money to start the business, to get your visa, and to move to the United States and start the new life completely from scratch here. I would personally recommend to anyone who considers applying for the E-2 visa, go to the USA first on vacation, maybe several times to different places, and see if you like it here or you don’t. I have been to the United States four times before I apply for E-2.
SPEAK & UNDERSTAND ENGLISH
I highly recommend having at least some basics knowledge of English before you move here. You don’t have to be perfect and fluent user but how do you want to do business if you won’t be able to talk to your customers or employees. However, this is just my personal advice. Technically you don’t have to prove any knowledge of English when applying for an E-2 visa. Just be aware that the E-2 visa appointment is in English with a native American officer.
HAVE ENOUGH TIME & MONEY & EXPERIENCE
You should really consider if you have enough time and money to successfully start the business and apply for the E-2 visa. It is also good to have some previous experience with business from your country. It took me almost three years before I finally decided and dived into a whole long and difficult process. Remember that you also have to prove that you legally earned the money for the investment. In my case, I showed paychecks for the last three years from all my jobs. I was also able to prove income from real estate sales in my country. If you have a successful business in your country and you can prove that the business will support you it is definitely plus for you.
AVOID MISTAKE: I closed one of my bank accounts in the Czech Republic and cannot used this bank statements.
HAVE A VISION WHAT BUSINESS YOU WANT TO START
Always remember that your main concern should be your business. You are an entrepreneur, right? If you do this just only for getting the visa, don’t do that! The chance your E-2 visa application will be denied is really high. There are many stories about people who You must really dive into the business process in order to create something that will work. I know it is hard to start something overseas or without previous business experience from the U.S. What can help you is to expand your current business from your country to the USA if possible. Still, struggling with what business you should start? Talk to and meet other entrepreneurs from the U.S and maybe they can help you with some ideas. You can also start more than one business and see which one has a bigger potential. Later select the only one you will present in your E-2 visa application.
TRACK & STORE ALL YOUR INVESTMENTS & EXPENSES
Alright! You decide to continue. Congratulations! This is very important. I highly recommend tracking & store all expenses such as invoices and receipts related to your new business. You will need to prove this later to the embassy when applying for an E-2 visa. Be aware that you will have to pay initial expenses from your personal funds. One of your first goals should be to incorporate your business as soon as possible and open a business bank account. When you have a business account, then transfer or deposit funds needed for initial investments and then continue with paying from this business account.
Later in your visa application, you can use these expenses that qualify for E-2 visa
|INVESTMENT||DESCRIPTION||USED IN MY APPLICATION|
|Rent||Office, warehouse, store||Yes|
|Equipment||Computer, printers, etc||Yes|
|Car||Car for business||No|
|Licenses & Software||Any software for business||Yes|
|Incorporation expenses||Fees, registered agent||Yes|
|Marketing expenses||Any marketing expenses||Yes|
|Banking||Banking fees, checks||Yes|
TIP: If you are not an IT person and you don’t know how to securely store your important documents related to E-2, just use Google Docs. If you have personal Gmail you can store there some amount of data for free.
SELECT THE STATE WHERE YOU WILL INCORPORATE YOUR BUSINESS
The general advice is to incorporate your business in the state where you will offer your services or will have office or store. If you plan to start entirely online business. Then form your business entity in the state where you want to later live. Let’s say you want to move to New York City, then I would recommend to establish your business in state of New York. It doesn’t have to be exactly in NYC but it should be in the same state.
AVOID MISTAKE: My LLC was incorporated in the state of Wyoming in 2018. I thought it is a good idea to incorporate in Wyoming because there are low incorporation fees and no state income tax! Well, it wasn’t a good idea because I had serious trouble opening a bank account for my Wyoming LLC while I was in New York State. In the end, I had to incorporate a foreign LLC in the NY state and it cost me additional hundreds of dollars plus you have to keep both LLCs alive (pay taxes and so on). The whole story about opening a banking account is here.
AVOID MISTAKE: Another problem is that if you get the E-2 visa, the visa is connected to your business entity and it is written on the visa in the passport and you can only work for this company. So I have E-2 visa connected to my LLC formed in Wyoming but our office is in Los Angeles in California where I also currently live and do business. After my arrival to LA, I had to form a foreign LLC in California. So right now I have one domestic LLC in Wyoming because my visa is connected to this business entity. Then I have a foreign LLC in the state of New York because of my bank account and also a foreign LLC in California. Anyway, I will close the NY LLC soon because I already have a new bank account in Bank of America thanks to my LLC in California. I mentioned here terms domestic and foreign business entity. If you don’t know what does it mean, you can read this article. I hope you guys, after these stories you will form your business in the right state and avoid having three LLCs like me!
YOU MUST DECIDE IF YOU ESTABLISH LLC OR CORPORATION
Types of Business Entities in the USA
There are basically four main types of business entities in the US:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Corporation (INC)
As a non-citizen or permanent resident (green card holder), you have probably only two possible options. If you are an American citizen or you have a green card you can also consider become a sole proprietorship or be involved in some partnership. As a foreigner, you cannot start a business as a sole proprietorship or be part of some partnership. Now let’s introduce the two most popular types of business structures you can form and own as a foreigner.
Well, both types of business entities are eligible for the E-2 Visa and when it comes to the visa application it really doesn’t matter. I formed LLC because it is more simple and it has fewer requirements than a corporation. Just be aware that some services you can only provide with companies and this is totally according to the state and the service you will plan to offer.
TIP: Before you decide on LLC or corporation search on the official website of the state what requirements and licenses are required and if both business entities (LLC and corporation) are eligible for the service.
Limited Liability Company is probably more simple than a corporation when it comes to management structure. Technically is LLC not a corporation but has similar advantages as a corporation. The biggest one is that members are protected from personal liability for business actions and decisions. LLC has typically one owner he or she is called a member or more owners that are called members.
How we call owners?
- Member – owner
- Members – more co-owners
Each member owns a certain percentage of interest in the LLC and the profit can be distributed in any way the members want to. A very important fact is there is no required annual meeting of members which saves your time and money.
Who manages the LLC?
Member or members typically manage the LLC. There is another option though. You can also hire someone else and then we use the term manager or group of managers. However, also a member can be a manager and you will choose this when you will incorporating your business. I suggest you choose that your LLC will be managed by the manager especially when you are a non-American resident.
Corporation has very similar legal protection but the main difference is that owners are called shareholders because corporation issues shares and each shareholder owns the number of shares that shows percentages of his or her ownership. If you consider later sell some shares to investors in order to gain financial support for your business or startup then it is the right decision because most of the venture capitalists invest only in corporations. However, if you plan to own and manage your business by yourself than LLC is better option. Who manages the Corporation? Boards of directors
Another difference is that every corporation is required to hold annual shareholders meetings and this will increase your annual costs.
TIP: Form an LLC if you are a business beginner, startup, online business or you are starting from scratch. If you focus with your business to venture investors then form a corporation
FIND REGISTERED AGENT & MAIL FORWARDING PROVIDER
Excellent! Now you know if you will form LLC or corporation but before you establish your first company in the United States you will need registered agent for your company. I think the registered agent is required in all states in the U.S. Just be aware that some states may use different name for registered agent. Generally the registered agent is responsible to receive postal mail on behalf of your company name and must have real street address in the state where is your business incorporated. This is required because if the state, government or court want to send you some mail they want to be sure the registered agent will receive it and forward it to you as soon as possible. In some states you can be your own registered agent, for instance in California but if you are not here yet it is not good idea. You will also need mail forwarding provider in order to get real street address in the USA and be able to receive mail. Technically is registered agent and mail forwarding exactly the same service wiht one difference. The registered agent is mandatory from the state. Good question is if you really need mail forwarding. From my point of view definitely. You will need business address in order to recive your debit card, checks from bank once you open bank account.
My company Mail on Screen provides mail forwarding and also registered agent services in California (I got the E-2 visa thanks to this business) I can help you with mail forwarding and registered agent in California. You will get:
- personal address for you in California – mail forwarding (you will need personal address for bank)
- business address for your business in California – mail forwarding
- agent for service of process in California – registered agent
for only $30 per month. You can manage everythink from one online account.
If you want to know more about mail forwarding and registered agent click on links below
FORM YOUR BUSINESS
Incorporate LLC or corporation in the U.S. is far easier than in Europe (or in my origin country Czech Republic) Most of the states offer online filling and you can do it by yourself or hire some incorporation provider.
I just want to tell you that every state has different requirements and rules. If you decide to form business by yourself than always search for official requirements. From this point I will describe how to form LLC or corporation in California where I live. Anyway California is one of the most popular state and most populated state in the US. California has more residents than entire Canada.
For register your business in California you will need:
- Name: Search here is your desired name is available. If you won’t find the name there you can use it.
- Designator: I definitely suggest: LLC for Limited Liability Company and INC for Corporation
- Registered Agent: You must have proper information about your registered agent. You will have to fill them to the form.
- Form business: fill online forms below. It takes usually 5 business days to get confirmation by email that your company has been formed. I mentined here only online option. You can form your company also by mail or visit secretaty of state in Sacramento 🙂
|Articles of organization||Articles of Incorporation|
I can help you with forming an LLC or corporation in California if you use my company Mail on Screen as a registered agent. You can contact me at email@example.com
CREATE FORMATION DOCUMENTS
For LLC operating agreement is a legal internal document that describes the operating rules and structure of owners and managers. For corporations, it is used similar document called articles of incorporation. If you want to know more about these legal documents, just search on Google because I am not a lawyer to explain this properly. What I can tell you, there are plenty of free or paid templates where you can add your information and a proper document will be created for you in a few minutes. You don’t need this for the state or government but you will need to show this in the bank when opening a bank account and also included it in your E-2 visa application. Later just keep these documents in your company. Below I attached some links that I found.
APPLY FOR EIN
You should apply for EIN – Employer Identification Number as soon as possible after your LLC or Corporation is formed. You will need this number in order to pay taxes and have employees in the US.
You have to fill form SS-4 and mail or fax to IRS – Internal Revenue Servis. Due to COVID-19, you should expect delay and it may take 2-3 months to receive EIN for your company. I remember that I applied for EIN in 2018 by mail and after some time a few weeks call to the IRS and they told me my EIN by phone (before I received a letter from IRS) – this could be probably a problem because of COVID-19.
Remember that you will need EIN when opening a bank account.
I found perfect tutorial how to apply for EIN as a foreigner here!
STATEMENT OF INFORMATION
Every LLC or Corporation formed in California is required after incorporation fill statement of information. You have up to 90 days to fill online – statement of information after your LLC or Corporation was formed.
Then you have to fill statement of information every two years.
Fee is $20 and I recommend to fill this online below:
Please be aware this applies to the state of California. If your company is in a different state, the requirements might be different.
Statement of information is commonly known as an annual report (however in California you have to fill this every two years
OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT
If you have a chance to come to the US. (it could be a problem right now but I hope they will open borders for tourist soon again) I definitely recommend open a checking account and apply for a business debit card in some of the big banks. Here is thelist of biggest US banks.
I had serious trouble opening a bank account for my company two years later. You read about it here.
However, I recently opened a business checking bank account in Bank of America for my LLC in California. The important fact is that I did not have SSN at that time.
You will need:
- Be in the USA – you have to visit a local brand in the same state where is your company.
- LLC – articles of organization from the secretary of the state.
- Corporation – articles of incorporation form the secretary of the state.
- EIN – bring letter from IRS with EIN.
- Business Address – you can use my company in California
- Home Address – you can use my company in California
- Another ID – such a driver’s license from your country.
- Debit Card – from your country (they wanted to show my debit card)
- Initial Deposit – I think the minimum deposit is $200 you can deposit cash in ATM with your temporary debit card (they gave me a temporary debit card immediately) Then you have to wait about one week to receive a regular debit card. Important is that card numbers remain the same. (temporary and regular card)
If you can’t come to the U.S try to find some temporary solution like WISE (TransferWise) or find another way but I don’t have personal experience with that.
Don’t be nervous in the bank. You have to present yourself confidently otherwise they could be afraid to open a bank account for you.
TRANSFER OR DEPOSIT MONEY TO YOUR BANK ACCOUNT
It is totally up to you if you deposit or send money to your business account for one time for your whole investment or you will add money from time to time when you need to pay something. If you have enough money it is better to do it one time but it is not important.
In USA – you can get cash from your personal debit card in ATM (use ATM provided by big banks to avoid high fees) The fee of $3 in Bank of America and the limit is $1.000 per one day. In Wells Fargo, the fee is $5 and the limit is also $1.000. Once you get cash from your personal account. Just take the money and deposit it in the ATM to your business account (you will need your business debit card for that)
From Abroad – I always use Wise (TransferWise). It is a cheap and quick solution.
INVEST MONEY INTO THE BUSINESS AND PREPARE BUSINESS
Generally you can prepare many things before you have a legal company but most of the investments should be paid from the company and ideally from a business account. You invest money into the business through your company right? Hope it makes sense to you!
HAVE SOME RESULTS (IF POSSIBLE)
If possible it is always better if you can prove to embassy that you have already some results, some customer or some real demand from real customers or you had some meetings with potencial customers.
Absolutely best way how to prove your business qualify for E-2 is to show bank statements with payments from customers. But don’t worry in my application I said: I have to travel to our office in order to prepare everything for the start of the business. However I already had finished the website + software (Sign up process, Stripe account, customer account, and admin account) plus I ordered some equipment on Amazon to the office such as a computer, printer, and so on. I also showed some agreements with some service providers for example with one-year commitments. I think this very helped me.
Don’t expect, that you will create a cheap website and write a nice business plan and you will get an E-2 visa, maybe you will but I am telling you what I did in my successful journey for E-2.
PREPARE YOUR E-2 VISA APPLICATION
At this point please follow official requirements from the U.S. embassy in your country. You will have to prove many things and many papers. My application had almost 150 pages including all bank statements, transfers, and so on! My business plan included around 20 pages. Once you have all documents with all attachments in pdf with the proper size, you should be ready to apply for the visa!
APPLY FOR E-2 VISA
I recommend you have prepared for this whole morning or afternoon. You will have to fill some online forms and honestly, the forms are long. Then you will pay a $205 fee and you will send whole your application to the proper email at the U.S. embassy. Again I am talking about my experience. Please always carefully read all requirements and follow instruments step by step because my experience is my experience and your country may have slightly different requirements. It’s your visa and you have to take your full responsibility!
E-2 VISA APPOITMENT
You should print the invitation for the E-2 visa appointment and bring your passport and debit or credit card. You don’t have to wear any special clothes. I had jeans and a jacket. You can expect questions about your business, just don’t be nervous and try to explain in the best way what is your business about and why do you think it will be successful in the U.S. This is why I personally think it is the best option to prepare the whole application by yourself instead of pay some lawyer because if you can write and explain it in your application, you will most likely be able to explain it at the interview to the officer! The general rule is that they will tell you if your E-2 visa is approved or denied immediately at the time of the interview. If yes you will pay some extra fee for a visa with a debit or credit card and in a few days your passport will be prepared with E-2 Visa for pickup at the embassy! Congratulations!