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E-2 Investor Visa: What Is The Price Of The American Dream?

As a US immigration lawyer, I speak to many British citizens and nationals of other countries who want to live and work in the USA. Many have travelled to the US for holidays and, while taking in the sights of Disneyland, New York, San Francisco, or Florida, have fallen in love with the American way of life. Some have even bought properties in the US, spurred by the recent strength of the British pound against the US dollar. So the question for such individuals becomes, how can I move to the USA?

There is a plethora of US non-immigrant (temporary) visas, as well as some options for immigrating to the USA, and only a qualified US immigration lawyer can help you select the one most appropriate for your circumstances. In this blog, I will discuss one of those visas which has proven very popular with British nationals who don't have close family members who are American citizens and who don't qualify, or prefer not to pursue, US employer-sponsored visas.

The E-2 (Treaty Investor) visa allows British citizens (and citizens of other countries who have a qualifying treaty with the USA) to live and work in America if they make a "substantial" investment in a US business. There are additional requirements that must be met for a successful E-2 visa application, but today's blog will focus on would-be investors' common first question and, often, most pressing concern: How much do I need to invest?

US immigration laws do not indicate a specific figure which must be invested in a US business. Instead, the regulations specify that the investment must be "substantial", begging the question: "substantial" to whom? Arguably, many would view savings amounting to $70,000 to be "substantial", but would this satisfy US immigration requirements?

The answer is, it depends on the business that a would-be investor is seeking to establish in the USA. If an investor is seeking to launch a luxury hotel chain valued at one (or several) millions of dollars, then an investment of $70,000 would very likely be insufficient. If a person wished to invest in a small convenience store, then this amount may be sufficient. In practice, investments of at least $100,000 have a greater chance of meeting this requirement.

However, there is no set dollar figure. Instead, the amount of each investment is examined under the "proportionality test". According to the US Department of State, an investment will be substantial if it is:

"(1) Substantial in a proportional sense . . . substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise, or creating the type of enterprise under consideration;

(2) Sufficient to ensure the treaty investor's financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise; and

(3) Of a magnitude to support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise."

This means that an aspiring investor must ask him or herself: How much does the business that I am purchasing or creating cost? And what percentage of such costs does my investment cover? If a business was likely to need $100,000 to run successfully and the investor was able to invest $100,000, then the investor would have provided 100% of the investment; his or her contribution will be considered 'substantial' in this case.

Not all businesses require the investor to provide 100% of the funds needed. The needed amount will vary depending on the nature of the business (as in our earlier example, a luxury hotel chain will require a lot more money to set up than a convenience store) and the projected costs of running the business successfully. The lower the cost of a business, the higher the percentage of the investor's contribution to the business should be for a successful E-2 visa application. At any rate, the investor must demonstrate that he or she is committed to successfully running the US business.

If money is not a factor for a potential investor, he or she may wish to look into obtaining a 'green card' through the EB-5 programme. Unlike the temporary E-2 visa, the EB-5 programme allows a person to live and work in the USA on a permanent basis. Investors who are fortunate to be in a position to invest $1 million (or $500,000 if the funds are invested in a "targeted employment area") and meet other specified requirements can seek a green card in this manner.

Would you like to obtain an Investor visa? The American Immigration Law Office provides legal assistance with the preparation and filing of E-2 visa applications at the US Embassy in London and would be delighted to help you realize your American Dream. Contact the US immigration law firm in London today!