We have filed dozens of E-2 visa applications for entrepreneurs opening businesses in the United States. When speaking with prospective clients we often hear an urban myth that $100,000 investment is needed to get an E-2 visa. Of the dozens of applications we have filed it is rare that we have a client who has invested $100,000. It seems that many attorneys are wary of filing an application they are not sure will be approved or have a much more conservative estimate of how any particular consulate may act.
The answer to the question of whether $100,000 is needed is unequivocally “NO”.
The E-2 requires a substantial investment, but whether an investment is substantial is really dependent on the nature of the business. Many entrepreneurs opening tech companies and professional services businesses (such as consultants, software development agencies, and accounting/law firms) have very low overhead and cannot figure out ways to invest anything close to $100,000 in the short term.
When creating a tech company or professional services firm, generally an investment of $15,000-$20,000 is necessary. Entrepreneurs we advise usually invest in the following:
- Cost of creating the new business entity
- Legal fees, including immigration fees
- Rent for an office space
- Phone service
- New website for the business, including domain name
- Marketing materials
- Software necessary to run the business
- Online services such as Gmail, Quickbooks, Slack, and Box
Of course when starting a tech company or professional services business the expense that costs businesses most is staff. When establishing a new business in the US and applying for an E-2 visa, businesses that can hire staff prior to submitting an E-2 application are in the best position. When paying staff you can count expenses including:
- Payroll provider expenses (such as Gusto or a bookkeeper)
- Payroll taxes (for W-2 employees)
- Benefits, if any are provided
Even having part-time employees or outside contractors can provide a major boost in investment, as well as demonstrating that the business will likely generate additional US jobs.
However, even a business that can demonstrate a sizable investment may not be able to get approved without demonstrating that the business is viable (more than marginal). For any business that does not have an investment in tangible goods such as machinery or inventory, success depends on how well you can demonstrate that your business will have clients. With this in mind any tech company or professional services firm will need to demonstrate customers or contracts in order to get an E-2 approval.