Starting an Online Business and Applying for the E-2 Visa

What You Need to Know

The E-2 visa is a popular option for foreign investors seeking to live and work in the United States. But can you qualify with an online business? The answer is yes, but there are certain requirements and considerations you must be aware of. Let’s take a look at some of the important tips for those wanting to invest in an online business and apply for the E2 visa.

Substantial Investment is Mandatory

While the ownership, source of funds, and evidence of investment for your online business may seem straightforward, meeting the “substantial investment” requirement is sometimes a stumbling block for E2 investor applicants.

No matter what the type of business – we still recommend that you invest at least $100,000 USD or however much it takes to get your business operational, whichever is higher. Remember, this is an E2 investor visa – investment is in the title!  You must demonstrate a significant financial commitment to your U.S. enterprise.

Hiring U.S. Employees is Essential – Meeting the Marginality Requirement

Whenever you are thinking about the E2 investor visa, you should think about the intention of the visa – for the U.S. to benefit from foreign personal investment, and for the U.S. to benefit from created employment. 

In order to demonstrate that you will be creating jobs in the U.S. (the government uses the term “marginality”), we always recommend that E-2 visa applicants with online businesses have at least one part-time employee – either a U.S. citizen, or green card holder – at the time of application.

This helps establish your physical connection to the U.S. and proves the business is operational and creating jobs within the country. The specific role of this employee can vary depending on your business needs, such as a developer, warehouse manager, marketer, or customer service representative.

Having a Physical Office is Highly Recommended

While the E-2 visa regulations don’t explicitly require a physical office, it’s highly recommended to demonstrate your commitment to operating in the U.S. Having a lease agreement strengthens your case under the “real and operational” and “marginality” requirements. It shows you have a physical presence, regular work location, and a strong tie to the U.S. Remember, the goal is to avoid the impression that you could easily run the business from your home country. If the officer thinks you could run the office from another country – he or she may suggest that you continue to do that.

We know your next question – can’t we just get a WeWork office lease?  Yes, you can.  However, you should have an office with a desk and a door at a WeWork or Regus location.  You should not simply sign up for access to the lobby. 

Something else to remember about the office recommendation – it doesn’t have to be in the best area of town or in a really expensive building.  Any office should work – as long as you have a desk and a door and it is located within one hour of where you will live.

Additional Tips for Success

  • Consult with an E-2 visa attorney: An experienced attorney can guide you through the specific requirements, address your unique business model, and help you navigate the application process smoothly.
  • Network with other E-2 investors: Connecting with individuals who have successfully obtained E-2 visas for online businesses can provide valuable insights and support.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan: A well-crafted plan demonstrates your research, financial projections, and overall strategy, strengthening your application.  We can introduce you to business plan writers when you are ready for that step.
  • Stay informed about E-2 visa updates: Visa regulations and requirements can change, so stay updated through reliable sources to ensure your application adheres to the latest guidelines.

Remember, You Can Do It!

Starting an online business and applying for an E-2 visa requires careful planning and adherence to specific requirements. By understanding the investment minimum, employee requirement, and importance of a physical office, you can increase your chances of success. With expert guidance, sound planning, and a commitment to building a viable U.S. business, you can turn your online business dream into a reality.

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