Can I Work from a Home Office on an E2 Visa?
Getting an E2 visa is a great option for business investors who want to begin a business venture in the United States. There are multiple requirements to get an E2 Visa, but are you required to lease a commercial office space, or can you work from a home office?
Can a Home Office be Sufficient for E2 Visa Approval?
A home office space is so convenient and comfortable and wonderful and … probably not right for the E2 visa. Although there is nothing in the Department of State’s guidelines that specifically forbids it (though many consulate websites indicate that you should include a signed lease with your E2 visa documents), a quick review of the “spirit” of the E2 visa and the realistic adjudication of the visa reveals that the home office may not be the best option for E2 visa hopefuls.
How E2 Visa Consular Officers Decide if Requirements Are Met
The requirements for the E2 visa are somewhat vague. There are only a few sentences to describe each requirement, and the Foreign Affairs Manual (the manual given to US consular officers who will ultimately approve or deny the visas at the interviews) emphasizes that the officer has discretion when determining if an E2 investor or employee meets the requirements. Specifically, it says:
“Although this classification mandates compliance with a lengthy list of requirements, many of these standards are subject to the exercise of a great amount of judgment and discretion.
… the burden of proof to establish status rests with the alien. If the alien’s qualification … is uncertain, you may request whatever documentation is needed to overcome that uncertainty.”
In plain language – it needs to be obvious to the officer that the E2 visa requirements have been met. Therefore, we must use common sense and put ourselves in the consular officer’s shoes. Think about it this way: This officer has never met you and has no idea about your industry. He or she will review your information for literally a few moments before determining whether you and your business meet the requirements. What does that mean? Keep it simple and over-prove the requirements.
The “Real and Operating” Requirement for the E2 Visa
One of the most ambiguous requirements for the E2 visa is that of “real and operating.” This requirement indicates that the business must be real, and it must be either doing business or on the verge of doing business. As with all E2 visa requirements, there are limitless ways to prove this. That said, there seems to be one universal document that goes to show that this requirement is met: the office lease.
A valid lease that indicates the address, the square footage, the dates of validity, the rent to be paid per month and the landlord and tenant names and signatures is an amazing way to show that this is a real business. It means that you have signed a legal document and spent money in order to have a place to conduct business. It shows that you are serious about this business and that you have every intention of directing and developing the business on a daily basis.
Let’s go back quickly to our officer: They have never met you and has no idea about your industry. They will review your information for literally only a few moments before determining whether you and your business meet the requirements. So, put yourself in the officer’s shoes. Do you think an office lease is critical? What if you had two E2 visa interviews back to back: one had a signed lease and one was going to work from a home office. Which would you say better meets the requirement? The one who has an official place of business? Or the one who may work out of his/her back bedroom? Seems clear when you think of it in these terms, right?
Are you still not convinced that you need an office lease? Let’s turn to the U.S. Consulate and Embassy “checklists.” Many of them include the office lease as a suggested (some consulates seem to require) document to prove that the business is real and operating.
The bottom line is that the office lease legitimizes the business in a way a home office doesn’t. Even in a world where most work can be done remotely, it’s important to show the officers (i.e. the decision makers) that your business is “real and operating.” It will only help your case.
- Does it have to be a big office? No.
- Does it have to be fancy? No.
- Does the lease have to have to be a full year term? No.
Just get something simple that makes sense for you and your business.