By: Attorney, Valerio Spinaci
The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is designed for investors from a list of countries with which the United States have entered into a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation (“Treaty Countries”). In addition to being a Treaty Country national, investors who desire to apply for an E2 Visa must invest a substantial amount of money or assets in a real American enterprise that is either existing or to be established in the United States.
How much is Enough?
How much money should be invested in the US enterprise is a very debated question. The Foreign Affairs Manual explains that the purpose of the “substantial” amount is to ensure that the business would not be too marginal and that the investor will be truly committed to the business.
However, there isn’t a magic number to automatically qualify the investment as substantial. In fact, the “minimum amount” to be invested is determined by the nature of the business, so that the greater is the capital required by the business the higher will be the amount necessary to obtain the E-2 Visa.
For example, a company offering marketing services could merely invest in a lease and some good IT products. On the other hand, a manufacturer in the steel industry will require a huge amount of money or assets invested to have credible expectations of success. The task of an E-2 Visa attorney is to argue the suitability of the capital committed to the enterprise as outlined in the business plan.
Investment Amount per the Business Plan
Generally, it is not necessary to invest all the funds projected in the business plan. For a business of several million dollars, an investment as low as 10% of the total stated in the business plan would be sufficient. On the other hand, the percentage of investment should increase for smaller businesses. Thus, a $100,000 investment will typically require the investment of the entire amount of capital stated in the business plan: this example is even cited in the Foreign Affairs Manual.
Focus on the Business Itself
In my experience, the focus of the investor should not be whether the investment is sufficient to obtain a visa, but to make the business profitable. Consulates are generally applying good business judgment and common sense. In some cases, they approved investments as low as $55,000, when the business could survive with those funds. However, if the investor speaks little English and does not want to work every day in the business, there would be additional labor costs for the business. Therefore, the amount could increase to $180,000+.
In any event, the last word rests on the Consular officer reviewing the E-2 Visa application. The expertise of an E-2 Visa attorney should help the investor by guiding him to the point that the funds actually invested are reasonable to purchase the business or to start up a new venture and make it operational. Sometimes it can take more than once: an applicant may be rejected by the consulate if the investment is considered too small and be granted a Visa after a few weeks and more money spent on the business. And the best part? Legal fees can be counted in the total investment.