The E-2 investor visa allows an individual to enter and work in the United States based upon a controlling investment in a business enterprise.

The E-2 visa is valid for up to 5 years and can be extended indefinitely. The investor’s spouse and children under the age of 21 may also be included in the investor’s application.

E-2 Visa, Explained

The number of E-2 visa holders granted in the U.S. is significantly growing year after year.

The U.S. government during 2023 approved approximately 91% of E-2 Visa applications. This implies a 9-to-1 chance of approval for applying for this type of US visa.

What is the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa?

The E-2 visa is a type of visa that allows people from eligible treaty countries to live and work in the United States if they do one of the following:

  1. Invest a significant amount of money in a US business or entity (E-2 investor)
  2. Work in the US as an executive, manager, or essential employee of a company owned by someone from their country (E-2 employee)

To qualify for an E-2 visa, the person’s home country must have a special trade agreement with the United States.

Do South Africans qualify for an E-2 visa?

No, South Africa is not a qualifying country. South Africans wishing to apply for an E-2 visa are required to obtain a second-country passport from a qualifying such as Turkey.

E-2 visa key points

  • The investment can be in a new U.S. business or an existing one.
  • E-2 visa holders can work for the business they’ve invested in.
  • E-2 visa investors can also bring employees from a qualifying treaty country to work for the business

E-2  visas are a specific category of non-immigrant visas granted based on treaties between the U.S. and other countries.

When your E-2 visa is granted, the applicant can stay in the US for a maximum of two years at a time, but the stay can be extended in two-year increments from within the US, or E-2 visa holder may travel and re-enter with a valid visa, to extend the authorized period of stay. No limits is set on the number of times an E-2 can be renewed.

E-2 Visa Eligibility

The E-2 visa has several requirements that apply to all applicants, although slight variations may apply based on the country of origin.

What is the treaty of commerce as required for E-2 visa applications?

A treaty of commerce is a formal agreement between the US and certain countries that establishes and regulates trade relationships. Its primary purpose is to promote both countries’ economic growth and job creation.


It is required to invest or be actively investing a significant amount of money into a real business in the US. This investment must be fully committed. It should be enough to make a business successful and earn substantially more than just a living wage.

Active Management

Entering as an E-2 investor typically requires the investor to play an active role in the management of the US business. This means having control and ownership of at least 50% of the enterprise, being involved in making major decisions, and overseeing day-to-day operations by travelling to or residing in the US.

Business Type

The E-2  business must be a real, bona fide enterprise, and the business should not be marginal, meaning it has to show potential for growth and job creation in the U.S. The enterprise must have the capacity to generate more than a marginal income, meaning it has the ability to generate more than a minimal living for the investor and their dependents.

Source of Funds

To evidence that the business is a legitimate and legal venture, the E-2 visa applicant must prove that the funds invested in the U.S. business have a legitimate source. This helps to ensure that the money used for the investment was obtained legally. This source of funds consideration requires tracing of how the funds were generated and showing the funds moving from the investor, or investment entity, into the US business.

Criteria for US Business Ventures

Typically E-2 visa criteria
Investing in an active business
Funds are fully committed and at risk
Investment is substantial enough to make the business successful
Business earns more than a living wage for the investor
The investor has a key role in running the business; or any employees can prove their essential or qualifying role
Money could be lost if the business fails

E-2 Visa Timeline

Getting an E-2 visa typically takes several months, whether applying abroad and submitting to the U.S. Consulate or submitting a change of status from within the U.S. with the USCIS. Of course, timelines can vary. That’s primarily because the process differs from one U.S. consulate to another.

If the E-2 visa application is made from outside the US

The waiting time depends on where the application is made. It takes several months. Every US consulate has its own set of requirements, methods of submitting the E2 visa business case, as well as overall processing timelines and steps. Individual consulate websites normally provide visa processing information through the US Department of State website.

How to Apply for an E-2 Visa

If you’re applying from outside the U.S. (Consular Processing):

Although the exact steps vary per U.S consulate and require careful consideration, these are some typical steps:

  • Ensure that all E-2 requirements are met, including nationality, business requirements, and E-2 role requirements.
  • Completion of required online non-immigrant visa application forms.
  • A Consular officer then reviews the application and a visa interview is arranged at the applicant’s home country’s US. Embassy or Consulate.
  • The passport then will be stamped with the E-2 visa, often valid for 5 years (if approved) ready for presentation at a US port of entry for admission to the US.

Can an E2 visa lead to a Green Card?

The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, meaning that there is no direct path to lawful permanent residency or a Green Card. Additionally, the E-2 does not allow for the dual intent to enter the US on an E-2 visa whilst intending to apply for a Green Card.

E-2 Visa Cost

When considering the cost of a new E-2 visa as an investor, it’s important to remember the two following major expenses:

  • Investment Cost: The amount you invest in your US-based business, whether starting a new business, buying a franchise, or purchasing an existing business. The investment must be substantial.
  • Application Costs: This includes government filing fees and may also include costs for the professional services of designated lawyers and preparing a suitable business case.

What does the government consider a “substantial” investment?

There’s no exact amount that defines “substantial investment” for an E-2 visa. But generally, the lower the cost of the business, the higher the percentage of investment needed.

Small service-based businesses, for example, may require a higher investment percentage than capital-intensive ones. Additionally, the business can’t be designed simply to provide a living but is required to show the potential to make a significant economic impact.

US Embassy & Consular Processing

  • Visa Issuance: The US consulate stamps the passport with the E-2 visa.
  • Travel to the US: With the E-2 visa, the E-2 investor can travel to the US and enter upon inspection by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a US port of entry.
  • The CBP officer records the E-2 status and duration of stay.
  • Work Authorization: Work authorization is granted for employment in the invested business subject to US tax laws.
  • Thereafter, an application is then made in the US for a Social Security number.

Types of businesses acceptable under the E2 visa application?

Setting up a brand new business is feasible as well as purchasing an existing business or even a franchise. Purchasing a franchise, for example, can be viable, especially with its proven business models and brand recognition.

Most business types can qualify for an E-2, including personal service providers or businesses such as restaurants, hair salons or even consulting firms. Legal professionals possessing the necessary qualifications can also establish their professional practices.

The E-2 even extends to commercial ventures, encompassing import/export businesses, manufacturing, retail storefronts, and many other sectors where significant investment and a true commitment to developing the business are demonstrated.

Contact us today to assist with qualifying for an E-2 visa by obtaining citizenship and the issue of a passport in Turkey. Thereafter we will introduce the E-2 applicant to designated immigration lawyers and service providers.

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