E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Explained: Eligibility, Timeline, Application Process, and More

Do you want to live in the United States and run your business there? The E-2 investor visa for treaty citizens is an excellent way to accomplish this goal. The E2 visa addresses citizens of countries with a trade treaty with the U.S. By investing a considerable amount of money in a U.S. business, you can qualify to live in the U.S. and manage your investment. This visa may also extend to certain employees of qualifying businesses.

This guide provides the information you need to understand the E-2 visa application. We’ll cover everything from the specific E-2 visa requirements you must meet to qualify to the minimum E-2 visa investment amount, obtaining E-2 visa qualifications, period of stay, terms and conditions, and more. You’ll also learn about processing times and other essential details to consider before applying for the E-2 visa.

Let’s get started!

What Is the E-2 Treaty Investment Visa?

The E-2 treaty investment nonimmigrant visa is meant to attract foreign investment into the United States so they can establish a foothold in the American market and live there with their immediate family and certain employees under specific conditions. However, it’s important to remember that there are specific requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify for the E-2 visa, which we will discuss in a few moments. 

However, before we begin, we need to address some questions you might have to clarify everything and avoid E-visa confusion.

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa vs. EB-5 Investor Visa: What Is the Difference Between Them?

Choosing between the E-2 and EB-5 visa hinges on your long-term goals and resources. Let’s see some critical differences between the two investment visas.

Green Card vs. Temporary Residence

  • The E-2 visa is nonimmigrant, meaning it doesn’t directly lead to a green card
  • The EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa designed for those seeking green cards in the U.S.

Nationality and Treaty Requirements

  • The E-2 visa program is only for the citizens of specific countries with a trade treaty with the U.S.
  • EB-5 visa is open to everyone, regardless of nationality.

Investment Amount

  • The E-2 visa doesn’t have a strict minimum, but the investment must be “substantial” relative to the business and enough to ensure its successful operation.
  • For an EB-5 visa, the minimum investment should be around $1 million (or $500,000 in a designated area).

Job Creation Requirement

  • The E-2 visa program has no job creation requirement, but the business cannot be considered a “marginal” enterprise with minimal economic impact (more on that later).
  • The EB-5 visa requires creating at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

Processing Visa Time

  • The E-2 visa generally comes with faster processing times than the EB-5 visa.
  • Due to complex procedures and high demand, the EB-5 visa can take significantly longer.

Work Authorization Under These Visas

  • With an E-2 visa, as the primary investor, you can only work for the E-2 business itself. 
  • With an EB-5 visa, you can work for any company while still managing the EB-5 business.

Source of Funds Under the E2 and EB5 Investors' Visas

  • With the E-2 visa, the applicant has to undergo less stringent verification than the EB-5 visa, but they still need to demonstrate lawful funds.
  • The EB-5 visa requires extensive documentation to prove the legal origin of your investment funds.

Ultimately, the E-2 visa is a good option for treaty entrepreneurs seeking a temporary presence in the U.S. to manage their business. The EB-5 visa caters to those aiming for permanent residency and more work flexibility with no country restrictions.

And now, speaking of citizenship restrictions, let’s understand more about the E-2 visa countries eligible for this nonimmigrant visa!

Which Countries Are Eligible for the E2 Treaty Investor Visa in the U.S.A.?

The E-2 visa has a specific nationality requirement: you must be a citizen of a country with a qualifying treaty with the United States. There are a few things to unpack here.

First, your nationality is typically determined by your citizenship. If you have any questions about your nationality, referring to your home country’s nationality laws and the specific wording of the treaty with the U.S. can help clarify your eligibility.

Secondly, you have two ways to qualify for an E-2 visa based on nationality:

  1. You can invest in a U.S. business as an individual and be considered the “E-2 principal investor.” Here, your country of citizenship determines if you meet the nationality requirement. Even dual citizens can qualify, but, in this case, you must apply based on your nationality from the country with a commerce and navigation treaty with the U.S.
  2. If your foreign business is investing in the U.S., it becomes the “E-2 principal investor.” The nationality of the business depends on its owners. To qualify for E-2, at least 50% of the business ownership must come from nationals of a treaty country. If ownership falls below 50%, restructuring the business to achieve the minimum 50% treaty national ownership might be necessary.

IMPORTANT! The second requirement is simpler: a valid E-2 treaty between the U.S. and your country of nationality needs to be signed. More than 30 countries are on this list, and you can find yours on the U.S. government’s E-2 visa treaty countries page

If you think these E2 visa eligibility criteria and requirements are all there is, we must stop you here: there is much more than this. So, naturally, the next stop in this E-2 treaty visa guide is answering the following question: who qualifies and how for an E2 treaty investor visa?

What Are the E-2 Visa Requirements for Investors?

The E-2 visa presents a path to the U.S. for foreign investors, but there are specific requirements you need to meet, the first one being related to nationality and treaty country.

1. E-2 Eligibility Concerning Nationality and Treaty Country

So, your first hurdle is to check if your home country has such a treaty. If not, you can consider other investor visas (namely, the EB5 discussed above).

The next hurdle is the investment.

2. The E-2 Visa Minimum Investment

You must actively invest a “substantial amount of capital” in a legitimate U.S. business. This means putting your money (and potentially other assets) at financial risk to make a profit. The key here is that the funds must be legitimate – no criminal activity can be involved (as outlined in 8 CFR 214.2(e)(12) of the immigration regulations).

There’s no magic number for a “substantial” investment. It’s a relative term that considers two factors:

  1. The money you invest shouldn’t be random. It should be significant compared to the cost of buying the business (if existing) or starting it from scratch. Imagine buying a small bakery for $50,000. Investing $5,000 might not be enough to convince the authorities you’re genuinely committed. According to some, you should be prepared to invest at least $100,000 – $200,000 to build a strong E2 treaty visa case.
  2. The amount you invest also shows your commitment to the business’s success. The lower the overall cost of the business, the bigger the percentage of that cost you’ll need to invest to qualify as “substantial.” For example, if you’re buying a $1 million company, investing $200,000 might be considered substantial. But for a $50,000 bakery, $200,000 would be excessive. In that case, you might need to invest closer to $30,000 or more to meet the “substantial” threshold.

Basically, they’re looking for evidence that you’re investing enough money to be genuinely invested in making the business work. A small investment in a cheap business raises questions about your commitment, while a significant investment in a more expensive business shows you’re serious.

3. The Bona Fide Enterprise E-2 Visa Requirement

This one is no no-brainer. The business you’re investing in must be a legitimate, active commercial venture that provides goods or services for profit. It must also comply with all applicable legal requirements for doing business in its location.

In this context, we must discuss what USCIS defines as “marginal” enterprises, as your investment business MUST NOT BE MARGINAL.

USCIS's Definition of Marginal Enterprises

USCIS has a term for businesses that wouldn’t qualify for an E-2 visa: “marginal enterprises.” These businesses simply don’t have the potential to generate enough income, even in the future. They wouldn’t bring in enough money to support the treaty investor (you) and your family with a basic standard of living.

IMPORTANT! There is a little wiggle room here. For new businesses, USCIS might consider them non-marginal even if they can’t currently support a family. However, there’s a catch: your business plan must show a clear path to profitability within five years of your E-2 visa being granted. In short, your business idea needs to demonstrate strong potential for growth, not just enough to scrape by.

4. Developing and Running the Enterprise Eligibility Criterion

The E-2 visa is for people who will actively manage the investment. You must show that you intend to enter the U.S. solely to develop and run the business. You can easily prove this by owning at least 50% of the enterprise or holding a managerial position that gives you operational control.

5. The Legality of Funding Sources E2 Visa Requirement

Just like proving the business itself is legal and above board, E-2 visa applicants must demonstrate that their investment has a clean source. In other words, you need to prove beyond any doubt that you didn’t obtain the funds through illegal activities.

What Are the E-2 Visa Requirements for the Business?

There are a few crucial things to consider for your U.S. company to qualify for an E-2 visa:


  • As mentioned above, at least 50% of the company must be owned by citizens of the treaty country (e.g., Austria, Switzerland, Germany, etc.) from which you’re applying. This rule applies even if U.S. citizens are also involved.
  • If someone involved in the company already has a U.S. green card, they are not considered a citizen of the treaty country for E-2 visa purposes.

Investment of Funds

  • The money you invest in the company (especially for buying shares) needs to be used for the company’s growth and development, not simply go to the seller.
  • You should be able to show a plan for the company’s future, not just continuing existing operations. This is especially important if you’re buying the entire company.

Shareholder Changes

  • If the company’s ownership structure changes in the future and no longer meets the 50% ownership requirement from the treaty country, any previously issued E-2 visas become invalid. This can even happen if the visa’s printed validity date hasn’t expired yet. Employees with those visas would then be illegally present in the U.S.

Qualifying Business Ideas for an E-2 Visa

Not all business ideas will qualify you for an E-2 visa. Here’s what won’t work:

  • Buying land for potential future resale.
  • Buying a luxury apartment for rental income.

An E-2 visa is for businesses that:

  • Produce goods or offer services.
  • Require your daily presence (the E-2 visa holder) to succeed.

Adding Value to the U.S. Economy

The company you invest in should do more than just support your living expenses. Here’s how it can show it benefits the U.S. economy:

  • The company should create jobs for U.S. citizens or green card holders.
  • The company should use products or services from other U.S. companies whenever possible.

While profitability is good, it’s not the only factor. Fulfilling these additional conditions can significantly improve your chances of getting an E-2 visa:

  • Hire U.S. citizens or green card holders whenever possible.
  • Use products or services from other U.S. companies to run your business.

IMPORTANT! Even if you can’t hire employees immediately, focus on how your business will benefit other U.S. companies. It’s recommended always to show an intent to hire U.S. staff in the future, if possible.

Document How You Meet These E2 Visa Business Requirements

You’ll need to present a business plan that outlines how your company meets these requirements. This can be part of your initial E-2 visa application or included in a renewal application. You may also need to provide additional documents to support your claims.

What Are the E-2 Visa Requirements for Investors' Employees?

We said above that, in certain circumstances, the E-2 treaty investor visas also address investors’ employees. Since the E-2 visa isn’t just for the investors themselves but for some of their experts, let’s move on to the next section of this guide concerning employees’ eligibility criteria and requirements.

The Nationality Criterion for E-2 Visa Investor's Employees

The first eligibility criterion is nationality, just like for the investor. Employees must share the same nationality as the principal investor (who owns the business). Remember, the investor must be a citizen of a country with a treaty agreement with the U.S., so this also applies to employees.

The Job Duty Requirement for E-2 Visa Investor's Employees

There are two main categories of qualifying job duties for E-2 employee visas:

Executive or Supervisory Roles

These positions give E-2 visa employees the ultimate control and responsibility for a major part of the business’s operations.

Special Qualifications

If your role doesn’t fall under executive or supervisory duties, an employee can still qualify for the E2 investor’s visa with “special qualifications.” These are unique skills or knowledge essential for the efficient operation of the business. Here are some factors USCIS might consider when evaluating “special qualifications”: 

  • Expertise: The degree of proven expertise the employee has in their field.
  • Unique skills: Whether others possess the specific skills the employee brings to the table.
  • Salary: The level of compensation the employee’s skills can command in the job market.
  • Availability in the U.S.: How readily could someone else in the U.S. fill an employee’s role with the same qualifications?

IMPORTANT! While fluency in a foreign language and cultural understanding can be valuable assets, they alone won’t qualify you for an E-2 visa under “special qualifications.” Remember that USCIS considers that some skills can evolve. A skill that was once unique and critical for the business might become more commonplace as technology advances or the industry landscape changes. Therefore, what was once a special qualification might not be considered so. For a complete definition of “executive or supervisory character” and “special qualifications,” you can refer to 8 CFR 214.2(e)(17) and 8 CFR 214.2(e)(18) of the immigration regulations.

Can Family Members of E-2 Visa Holders Get E-2 Visas Too?

Your spouse and minor children (under 21, unmarried) can apply for E-2 visas as dependents. There’s no requirement for their nationality to match the primary visa holder.

How E2 Investors' Family Members Apply for an E-2 Visa

They can apply for E-2 dependent classification simultaneously with the main E-2 visa application or later.

However, suppose the family is already in the U.S. and wants to change their status to E-2 dependent or extend their existing E-2 dependent status. In that case, they can all file a single application together using Form I-539: Application to Change/Extend Nonimmigrant Status.

What Happens After The E-2 Investor's Family Gets Approved?

Generally, approved family members will receive the same stay in the U.S. as the primary E-2 visa holder (investor or employee).

If the E-2 investor has a valid E-2, their spouse is automatically authorized to work in the U.S. by getting a work permit and an E-2 dependent visa. No separate application is needed!

There is one exception, however. This automatic work authorization doesn’t apply to everyone. If you are an E-2 CNMI investor, your spouse must submit a separate work permit application.

The E-2 treaty investor’s spouse can show their employer a few different documents as proof of their work authorization:

  • Form I-94 that acts as proof of their immigration status. If issued after January 30th, 2022, it will have a note saying “E-2S”. An older version of the I-94 might say “E-2,” along with a separate letter from USCIS mentioning the new E-2S code.
  • Employment Authorization Document: Sometimes, the spouse might have Form I-94 saying “E-2” and the EAD.
  • EAD alone: The spouse could also simply show her EAD by itself and prove their work authorization.

How To Apply for the E-2 Treaty Visa: The Step-by-step Guide

There are two main ways to obtain an E-2 visa, depending on whether you’re already in the United States:

How to Apply for the E-2 Visa While in the U.S.

If you already legally reside in the U.S. with a different visa type, you can apply to change your status to E-2. You can do this by filing Form I-129: Nonimmigrant Worker Petition with USCIS (the same petition used for H-1B visas).

Remember that your I-129 petition should be accompanied by a comprehensive set of documents that prove your eligibility for the E-2 visa. Here is an overview:

Required Document Explanation
Proof of nationality
Documents demonstrating your citizenship in a country with a valid E-2 treaty with the U.S.
Investment evidence
Documentation that verifies your investment in a U.S. business. Consider including financial statements, bank records, purchase agreements, contracts, or other relevant materials.
Business details
Documents outline your business's nature, financial health, and role in its operation. Consider a business plan, tax returns, and ownership structure information.
Financial ability
Evidence that you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself and any dependents in the U.S.

If you’re investing in the U.S. business, you’ll be responsible for filing Form I-129 yourself. As an E-2 employer, you should also submit the I-129 petition for the employee(s) that qualify for your E-2 business.

How to Apply for the E-2 Visa from Outside the U.S.

If you’re not currently in the U.S., the process is a little different:

1. Submit the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application

The first step is to complete Form DS-160 electronically. This online form gathers your biographical information, travel details, and visa application purposes.

2. Attend the Visa Interview

Once you’ve submitted the DS-160 form and paid the visa application fee ($315.00), you must schedule a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your. At the interview, the officer will assess your documents, ask questions about your qualifications and plans, and ultimately decide whether to grant you the E-2 visa.

Here is a summary of the required documents for your E-2 visa that you might have to show during the application process and interview:

Required Document Explanation
USCIS-required evidence
DS-160 Form
Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (completed electronically)
Valid passport from your home country
Two photographs
In color and taken within the last six months, with a plain background.
Payment receipt
Visa application fee proof
Form DS-156E (Optional)
Required if you're applying as an Executive/Manager/Essential Employee
Proof of return intention (optional)
Documents demonstrating your ties to your home country (e.g., property deeds, leases)
Business-related documents (if applicable)
Business licenses & registration documents
Proof of your business's legal existence
Financial statements
Documents reflecting your business's financial health
Office lease agreements
Documentation of your business's physical location
Organizational chart
Visual representation of your business's structure and hierarchy
Tax returns
Business tax filings
Bank statements
Business bank account records
Employee & client contracts
Agreements with employees and clients (if applicable)
Business registration documents (for new businesses)
Documents establishing your business's legal existence
Business plan (for new businesses)
Comprehensive document outlining your business strategy

After the interview, you must wait for your E-2 visa approval. For how long? Let’s see the next chapter of our E2 treaty investor’s visa guide!

E-2 Visa Processing Time

There’s no guarantee on how long it will take to get your E-2 visa approved. The wait time can vary depending on which U.S. embassy or consulate you apply through. It could be as quick as two weeks, but some consulates take up to four months to process applications.

Once they’ve reviewed your initial documents, they’ll schedule the interview.

If everything goes well and your visa is approved, you might need to wait another week or so to receive the actual visa in your passport.

How Much Does the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Cost?

As we mentioned earlier, there’s a base filing fee of $1,015 plus additional fees for every I-129 petition, regardless of whether it’s an initial application, extension, or amendment.

If you’re applying from outside the U.S. through an embassy, there’s a separate $315 fee for your DS-160 visa application.

Additionally, depending on your situation, other fees might be involved, like the premium processing fee for the I-129 petition of $2,805.

You can also include Form I-539 to extend/change nonimmigrant status for E-2 visa family members in your budget, as the fee is currently $470 (for paper filing).

Beyond the application fees we’ve discussed, you might encounter additional expenses. They can include travel to the U.S. embassy or consulate for your interview, translation fees for documents not in English, and costs associated with obtaining supporting documents like certified copies of your passport, birth certificate, marriage license, bank statements, financial documents, contracts, etc.

The total cost of obtaining an E-2 visa can vary significantly depending on your situation. However, you should expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars when you factor in all the application fees and other related costs.

How Long Is the E-2 Visa Valid?

Now it’s time to discuss E-2 visa length of stay and extensions briefly. 

When you’re first approved for an E-2 visa, you’ll be granted an initial stay of up to two years in the United States. This gives you time to settle, establish your business operations, and demonstrate your ongoing commitment to your investment.

The good news is that this two-year period is just the beginning. You can apply for stay extensions in increments of two years at a time. There’s no limit to the number of extensions you can be granted if you continue to meet all the E-2 visa requirements.

IMPORTANT! Remember that the E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa. This means you must intend to return to your home country when your E-2 status expires or is terminated for any reason. USCIS will consider various factors when evaluating your intent, such as maintaining property or financial ties in your home country.

Can You Travel Abroad While in the U.S. with an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa?

Even with an E-2 visa, you might need to travel outside the U.S. for business or personal reasons. If you temporarily leave the U.S. while your E-2 visa is active, you generally won’t need to go through the entire application process again. As long as a U.S. Customs officer determines you’re admissible, you’ll be granted an automatic two-year period of readmission upon your return. This process allows you to maintain your E-2 status and continue running your U.S. business without unnecessary disruptions.

However, if you stay outside the U.S. for an extended period or fail to maintain your E-2 status, you might face challenges re-entering the country.

Does the E2 Visa Lead to a Green Card?

The E-2 visa application process is focused on demonstrating your commitment to a specific business venture in the U.S. USCIS isn’t primarily concerned with your long-term immigration goals. As such, the E-2 visa doesn’t serve as a stepping stone toward permanent residency.

Let’s consider a different scenario. Suppose you have a qualifying family member who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder. In this case, they can petition for you to immigrate to the U.S. This process typically involves waiting for a priority date to become current. You’ll have to manage the complexities of USCIS forms and procedures specific to family sponsorship.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this E-2 visa guide, you can also try the EB-5 program. It offers a green card path for foreign investors who invest substantially in a U.S. commercial enterprise. Remember that the required investment amount is significantly higher than what is typically required for an E-2 visa. While both involve investment, the EB-5 program has stricter requirements and a different focus.

The Most Attractive Benefits of the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa: A Conclusion

The E-2 visa is a dream come true and quite a straightforward process for many foreign entrepreneurs (from treaty countries) seeking to establish a business presence in the U.S. Here are some of its key benefits:

1. Work Legally and Run Your Business

Unlike some other visa categories, the E-2 allows you to own a U.S. business and work for it directly. This flexibility is crucial for entrepreneurs who want to participate in their venture’s day-to-day operations actively.

2. No Minimum Investment Barriers

There’s no rigid investment amount set for E-2 visas. You could be eligible if you can demonstrate a “substantial” investment relative to your chosen business type. This is a major advantage compared to other investor visa options with much higher minimum investment requirements.

3. Education Opportunities for Your Dependents

If you have children under 21, they can attend U.S. schools on a dependent visa. It opens doors for them to receive a valuable American education, potentially leading to future work or higher education opportunities in the U.S.

4. Travel Freedom

The E-2 visa doesn’t restrict your travel. If your visa remains valid, you and your dependents can freely enter and leave the U.S. as needed.

5. Potential for Long-Term Stay

With timely extension requests and continued adherence to E-2 requirements, you can stay in the U.S. indefinitely on an E-2 visa. It lets you build your business over time and establish U.S. roots without needing a green card.

Are You Ready to Tackle the Challenges of Obtaining an E-2 Visa?

The E-2 visa process comes with specific requirements and ongoing maintenance considerations. Don’t do this alone! Our experienced immigration attorneys and consultants at ImmigrationDirect can help you decipher eligibility criteria, ensure your application package is comprehensive and persuasive, and address any questions you have regarding requirements for the business, yourself, your employees, and your family members.

We offer clear guidance throughout the E2 application process to increase your chances of success. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss how our expertise can help you make your E-2 visa idea a reality!

Scroll to Top
immigration direct logo