Frequently Asked Immigration and Visa Questions

  1. Do I have the nationality to qualify for an E-2 visa?
  2. Is there a minimum investment amount to qualify for treaty investor status?
  3. Is the amount I invest the only factor for visa approval?
  4. Do I have to find the business before I make a visa application?
  5. Can I get an E-2 visa to start-up a new business?
  6. What kind of businesses qualify?
  7. Do franchises qualify for E-2 visas?
  8. Must I have all the money available prior to the application being made?
  9. Can my spouse and I both get visas to work in the business or elsewhere?
  10. Can I get a loan from a friend or relative for investment purposes?
  11. How do I go about applying for an E-2 visa?
  12. How long does the U.S. Embassy in London take to adjudicate applications?
  13. What are my chances of success?
  14. What happens to the funds I have invested if the application is refused?
  15. What happens if I later sell my business?
  16. Can my children and elderly parents come too?
  17. What if I have a criminal conviction?
  18. Will I ever qualify for a Green Card?
  19. Is the E-2 my only option?
  20. How much does it cost?
  21. I think I am eligible for an E-1 visa. How is "substantial trade" determined?
  22. I own a UK company which engages in numerous economic transactions with our U.S. subsidiary office. Would this qualify as trade?

1. Do I have the nationality to qualify for an E-2 visa?

Answer: An investor, whether an individual or company, must possess the nationality of a treaty country. If you are a citizen of one of the over 70 countries possessing a qualifying treaty of trade and commerce with the United States, then you have the requisite nationality for an E-2 visa. Click here to see Treaty Countries on the U.S. Department of State website.

For those who are citizens of other countries, please contact us to discuss your situation. If you are a U.K. citizen, you must be able to prove you are also a resident in the United Kingdom.
Top of page

2. Is there a minimum investment amount to qualify for treaty investor status?

Answer: An investor must make a substantial investment to qualify for E-2 visa status. While there is no minimum amount, an investment of less than $100,000 to $150,000 will face close scrutiny. In general, the larger the investment, the greater the credibility the application has. Note that for small businesses, you will be expected to have invested the great majority of the purchase price in cash. For further details, see How Much to Invest
Top of page

3. Is the amount I invest the only factor for visa approval?

Answer: Definitely not. The investment amount is only one factor. Equally important are the profitability of the business and its contribution to the local economy, normally through its employment of U.S. workers. It should generate more than enough income to support you and your family, and employ U.S. workers. For a new start-up business enterprise you must demonstrate through well-documented financial projections the stability of the business plan and the likelihood of a successful operation. For more information, see Business Profitability and Employee Requirements.
Top of page

4. Do I have to find the business before I make a visa application?

Answer: Yes, you do. The application is based on the specific business in which you are investing. If you are buying an existing business, this has to be identified prior to an E-2 visa application being made, and a purchase contract signed. It is always advisable to have a clause in the contract stating that the purchase is subject to you obtaining an E-2 visa.
Top of page

5. Can I get an E-2 visa to start-up a new business?

Answer: Yes, you can. You will need to show you have made the various expenditures required to set up the business before the visa application is approved. The Consular Officer will have to be convinced that your business will be profitable and employ U.S. workers. Unless you have a good track record in business in the U.K. or have firm evidence of prospective business customers in the United States, start-up business applications may be difficult to get approved.
Top of page

6. What kind of businesses qualify?

Answer: All kinds of businesses can qualify. What is critical is that the business generates more than enough income to support you and your family and creates employment. Choose a business you can run effectively and will enjoy! Remember, though, that there are restrictions on financing. For example, if you want to buy a motel with a small down payment, you could run into difficulties.
Top of page

7. Do franchises qualify for E-2 visas?

Answer: Yes, they can. The same requirements apply for a franchised business as any other, whether it is a new franchise or a franchised business already in operation.
Top of page

8. Must I have all the money available prior to the application being made?

Answer: Yes, you do. The Embassy will want to see funds deposited in escrow (trust) in the United States for the business purchase. This demonstrates that the funds are irrevocably committed to the business purchase, subject to visa issuance. From the visa perspective, it is prudent to deposit the full amount in an escrow account. Arranging escrow deposits is a relatively straightforward matter.
Top of page

9. Can my spouse and I both get visas to work in the business?

Answer: Embassy adjudication policies have varied over the years. Usually, as long as each owns 50%, it is possible for a married couple or a couple who live together both to obtain E-2 investor visas to work in the E-2 company. A parent and adult child, or two unrelated business partners may also be able to obtain work visas as joint 50-50 investors. This is at the discretion of the consular officer. If you decide to form a 50% partnership with an American citizen, only one British investor would obtain an E-2 investor visa to work in the business.

A spouse who obtains an E-2 dependent's visa rather than an E-2 investor visa can apply to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Once the spouse is in possession of an EAD, he/she can work anywhere as long as the principal E-2 investor remains in valid E-2 status. The E-2 investor, however, can only work in the E-2 company.
Top of page

10. Can I get a loan from a friend or relative for investment purposes?

Answer: Yes, you can. Any loans not secured by the business assets are permissible. There are restrictions, however, on loans secured by the business assets.
Top of page

11. How do I go about applying for an E-2 visa?

Answer: Your visa application must be submitted to the U.S. Embassy in London if you reside in the U.K. The application will be based on a particular business, whether new or existing. If you are establishing a new business, you must document that the necessary expenditures have already been made. If buying an existing business, you must provide a signed purchase contract. A significant number of documents are required for an application. As well as submitting the necessary forms, each E-2 requirement has to be thoroughly documented with supporting paperwork, and a comprehensive explanatory letter enclosed.
Top of page

12. How long does the U.S. Embassy in London take to adjudicate applications?

Answer: Processing times vary throughout the year but as of 2010 the total processing time for a routine application is approximately 3-4 months.
Top of page

13. What are my chances of success?

Answer: Your chances of success depend on the careful selection of your business and preparation of your application. There is no guarantee of the successful outcome of the application. However, an expertly prepared application in which all of the issues have been thoroughly addressed will improve your likelihood of success.
Top of page

14. What happens to the funds I have invested if the application is refused?

Answer: If you have a contingency clause in the purchase contract, stating that the purchase is subject to obtaining an E-2 visa, the funds in escrow should be refunded to you under normal circumstances. You should, however, check precisely what is stated on the purchase contract.
Top of page

15. What happens if I later sell my business?

Answer: If you sell the business without previously buying another qualifying business, you are no longer eligible to remain in E-2 status. You must either leave the United States, or apply to change to a different status, for which you do qualify.
Top of page

16. Can my children and elderly parents come too?

Answer: Yes. Children under 21 receive E-2 dependents' visas. On reaching 21, they must change to a different status, independent of their parents, to remain in the U.S. This can be, for example, based on full-time student status, employment, or marriage to a U.S. citizen. Elderly dependents can normally come with you on B-2 tourist visas, and remain with you in that status as long as you remain in valid E-2 status, and they continue to be considered temporary visitors.
Top of page

17. What if I have a criminal conviction?

Answer: If you have a conviction this must be stated in the visa application and you will need to submit a U.K. ACPO police clearance as well as a Memorandum of Conviction obtained from the Court in question. Visa eligibility will depend on the nature of the conviction. You must disclose any caution, arrest, or conviction to Hodkinson Law Group at the initial stage of the process to determine the effect your record will have on your application.
Top of page

18. Will I ever qualify for a Green Card?

Answer: There are a number of routes to a Green Card. The E-2 visa does not, in itself, lead to a Green Card (nor does any other non-immigrant visa). However the E-2 visa does not close options either. For instance if you have a business in the U.K. that continues to trade once you have moved to the U.S., you may qualify for a Green Card as a Multinational Manager. Alternatively, if you have a close relative in the U.S., they may be able to sponsor you. If you invest $500,000 - $1 million in certain types of businesses, you may be able to get a Green Card through the green card investor program - see E-2 visa requirements section for further discussion.
Top of page

19. Is the E-2 my only option?

Answer: If you do not have a business in the U.K. or in another foreign country, and want to buy a business in the U.S., the E-2 is likely to be your only option, unless you have at least $500,000 to invest. If you do have a U.K. (or foreign) business, you may consider also the L-1 option - see Which Visa
Top of page

20. How much does it cost?

Answer: Fees for an E-2 visa application may vary a little depending on the nature of the business and the circumstances of the application. Our fees are competitive. Contact us for an individual quote.
Top of page

21. I think I am eligible for an E-1 visa. How is "substantial trade" determined?

Answer: The E visa office will look at the existing international trade of your business, as opposed to domestic trade, in determining whether trade is substantial. More than 50% of total volume of international trade must be between the United States and United Kingdom.
Top of page

22. I own a UK company which engages in numerous economic transactions with our U.S. subsidiary office. Would this qualify as trade?

Answer: It could qualify as trade provided the U.S. office is a separate legal entity and not a branch office.
Top of page

U.S. immigration attorneys at Hodkinson Law Group, based in London, England, UK, help individuals and corporate investors apply for a US visa. Our U.S. immigration lawyers assist with E2 visa applications (E-2 visas), EB5 immigration (including EB-5 US visas and EB5 green cards), nonimmigrant visa petitions, U.S. citizenship, work permits, naturalization, permanent residency, and expatriation issues. Contact a US immigration lawyer at our London office today.