What Visas are Available to Entrepreneurs in the United States?

While there are many different types of visas available for businesses looking to invest in the United States market, two types appeal the most to noncitizens: the E-2 visa and the EB-5 visa. We look at both in detail below.

What is the E-2 Visa?

An E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that is offered to investors, entrepreneurs, and others who are interested in pursuing a business in the United States. An E-2 visa allows recipients to start or invest in a United States business and to work for that business. To qualify for this visa, the applicant must invest a substantial amount of capital into the U.S. market, either through an established company or by establishing and operating a new business. This visa is only available to citizens of certain countries that are known as treaty countries. An official list of treaty countries can be found here.

Who is Eligible for the E-2 Visa?

The requirements for this visa are as follows:

  • The applicant’s country of origin must have an E-2 treaty with the United States.
  • The applicant must intend to leave the United States once the visa expires.
  • The applicant must intend to make a substantial investment in a United States company.
  • The business must be active and for-profit.
  • The business must not be considered a marginal enterprise
  • The applicant must be entering the United States in order to direct and develop the business.
  • The source of the substantial investment funds must be lawful.
  • The investment must be irrevocably committed to the business and must be at risk.

What are the Benefits of the E-2 Visa?

There are a number of benefits that may make the E-2 visa a more appealing option for beginner entrepreneurs, such as:

  • Allows the applicant to start and work for a business within the United States.
  • Allows the applicant’s spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 to also qualify for visas.
  • Allows the applicant’s spouse to apply for work authorization to work in the United States.
  • Allows the applicant’s children to go to U.S. schools.
  • Does not enforce a set minimum investment amount to qualify for this visa.
  • Does not limit how many extensions may be requested.
  • Does not require maintenance of a foreign residence to qualify.

How Long is the Application Process for the E-2 Visa?

While timelines may vary, an applicant applying from outside the United States may have to wait several months for consular processing.

An applicant within the United States may wait several months for a Change of Status unless they choose to use Premium Processing to expedite the process.

What is the EB-5 Visa?

The EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa available to investors, entrepreneurs, or anyone else interested in starting a business in the United States. This type of visa requires applicants to invest a minimum of $1,050,000 into a United States business unless the investment is in an economically depressed area, known as a targeted employment area. Investments in targeted employment areas have a lower minimum requirement of $800,000. Real estate investments and non-profit ventures do not qualify for this type of visa. 

Investments may be made directly or through a regional center, which are specialized companies that collect investment funds from investors to fund large-scale projects.

Who is Eligible for the EB-5 Visa?

The requirements for this visa are as follows:

  • The applicant must invest in a new commercial enterprise.
  • The applicant must invest a minimum of $1,050,000 in the new enterprise or $800,000 if the investment is located in a targeted employment area.
  • The investment must lead to the creation of a minimum of ten full-time jobs for United States workers.
  • The investment funds must be at risk
  • The funds for the investment must be lawfully obtained.
  • The applicant must engage in the management of the new business.

What are the Benefits of the EB-5 Visa?

One of the main benefits of this type of visa is that it is an immigrant visa, meaning the applicant may be able to get a green card and United States citizenship. Other benefits include:

  • The applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may qualify for green cards.
  • The applicant’s children may attend United States schools.
  • The applicant is not required to work for a sponsor company and is free to work in any lawful capacity.
  • The applicant can work and live anywhere within the United States.
  • The applicant is eligible to work in the United States without having to apply for work authorization.

How Long is the Application Process for an EB-5 Visa?

Processing times for visa applications may vary. The initial petition, Form I-526, may take up to 71 months to process. Then, the applicant must ensure that a visa is available.

If the applicant lives outside of the United States, it may take up to six months for a green card to be approved through consular processing. An applicant within the United States applying for a Change of Status may wait up to 45 months for a decision.

Do I Need an Attorney?

The importance of hiring a qualified immigration attorney for entrepreneurs looking to relocate to the United States cannot be overstated. Here at Stelmakh & Associates, LLC, we know immigration law and will make this process as easy for you and your family as possible. Call us today at 206-558-6288 or fill out a contact form for a consultation.

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