You May Be Able To Move To The United States If You Purchase An Existing Business Or Franchise
There certainly are a great deal of people that would like to move to the United States, however that can prove to be difficult based on the recent rules and regulations that restrict immigrants from entering into the country. This tends to be an ironic situation due to the fact that this nation was built on the backs of immigrants. In fact, everyone that resides in the USA was either an immigrant himself or herself, or had family that moved to America at some point. That is unless you are Native American. The good news is that there are a few paths to citizenship that can be accomplished through an investment in an existing business or franchise opportunity.
The American Dream of owning your own business and working for yourself is alive and well, especially for people that are willing to leave their homeland for a better opportunity. The question that you may be asking yourself at this point, is how can you move to the United States by purchasing an existing business or franchise, as in how does the process work? The following information will provide you with the answers to that very question.
The E2 Treaty Investors Work Visa Program
By definition, an E2 treaty investor visa is a non-immigrant visa reserved for foreign entrepreneurs of countries that have a Treaty of Trade and Commerce with the United States. E2 investor visas allow foreign investors to enter and work inside of the United States based on a substantial investment in a bona fide enterprise. In essence, the E2 visa allows business people from certain countries to work in the U.S. for a business in which they invest.
The United States has entered into treaties with various countries and established the E2 visa in order to allow business people from those countries to work in the U.S. for a business in which they have invested. That being stated please do not confuse E2 treaty investor visas with green cards through investment. The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, meaning it is temporary.
When deciding to file for an E2 work visa, it is incredibly important for you to be fully aware of both the requirements for investors and the individual guidelines. In essence, an E2 investment is defined as "the investor's placing of capital, including funds and other assets, at risk in the commercial sense with the objective of generating profit. The investment may be for the purpose of establishing a new business venture, or purchasing a pre-existing business."
This includes purchasing a franchise. Furthermore, an E2 treaty investor visa is actually a non-immigrant visa that is typically reserved for foreign entrepreneurs that live in countries that have a Treaty of Trade and Commerce with the United States. In essence, E2 investor visas provide foreign investors with the ability to enter and work in the United States based on considerable investment in a genuine business enterprise. When you are issued an E2 visa, you are able to partake in the following activity:
- Work legally in a business that is an investment vehicle in the United States.
- Travel freely in and out of the United States.
- Stay in the United States on a prolonged basis with an unlimited amount of two-year extensions as long as you maintain all E2 qualification parameters.
- Be accompanied by any of your dependents under the age of 21 years old, relatives, and spouses. Your spouse may also work while in the United States, and your dependents may attend U.S. schools, colleges/universities without the need to apply for a separate student visa.
There are a few disadvantages that must be noted as well:
- E2 visas are only available to nationals of certain countries that have investment treaties with the United States.
- E2 visa holders are restricted to work only for the business that acted as the E2 visa sponsor.
- The application process is slow since E2 visas are approved for two years at a time.
Important E2 Visa Requirements For Investors To Qualify
The E2 visa minimum investment requirement states that a person must invest in a legitimate business enterprise. A legitimate business enterprise, as defined by the immigration authorities, is "a real, active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking which produces services or goods for profit." You may submit the following evidence in order to demonstrate that the business you are investing in is 100-percent legitimate:
- Notice of assignment of an Employer Identification Number from the United States Internal Revenue Service
- Tax returns
- Financial statements
- Quarterly wage reports or payroll summaries such as W-2 forms, or W-3 forms
- An organizational chart of the business
- Business Licenses
- The company's bank statements, utility bills, and directory listings
- Contracts and customer/vendor agreements
- Escrow documents
- Lease agreements
The key E2 visa requirements for investors as listed above will help you to properly prepare your petition, and also ensure that you are actually a qualifying applicant. You can review the status of your application after completing and submitting your petition.
The E2 Visa Applicant Must Be A Citizen Of A Treaty Country
The following nations are on the treaty country list:
Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Congo, Romania, Senegal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Yugoslav.
In order to qualify for an E2 visa, you must be a rightful citizen of one of the countries listed above. In essence, you cannot simply maintain legal permanent residency, your current passport must be from a treaty country. That being stated, you do not need to be currently residing in a treaty country as long as your citizenship is from a treaty country. For example, if Mr. Smith is a citizen of England, but has been living in France for the past 6 years, he still fulfills the E2 visa requirements.
The Investment Must Be Substantial
Although there is no minimum requirement, in order to qualify for an E2 visa, the business investment must be substantial. In essence, it must be adequate enough to help ensure the successful operation of the organization. This may be a bit confusing, however, the percentage of investment for a low-cost business must be higher than the percentage of investment for a high-cost business. For example, some investments that are less than $100,000 are approved, the investment capital and reserves should total at or over $100,000.
You can use evidence to prove that the investment is substantial such as an itemized list of goods and materials purchased, corresponding financial accounting documentation, and corresponding personal and business bank statements.
The Business Cannot Be Marginal
The business enterprise must generate a significant amount of income over and above simply providing a living tot he investor and his or her family. In essence, the business must have a significant impact on the United States. A marginal company will not project enough of a return on investment to make a noteworthy economic contribution.
The E2 Applicant Must Have Control Of The Investment Funds
The applicant must be at risk, meaning they are irreversibly committed. For example, if you are able to walk away from the investment without losing much or even anything at all, you will not qualify for an E2 visa. The applicant must have already invested in an existing business or franchise. Loans that are secured with the assets of the investment enterprise are not allowed. The investment must actually be at risk of being lost based on the fate of the business enterprise.
If you are purchasing an existing business or franchise, you should be well aware of everything that there is to know about the organization. Familiarize yourself with all of the components of the company, determine how well they are doing currently, and figure out how successful the business can be in the future.
Speculative Investments Do Not Qualify
Speculative investments, otherwise known as idle investments, such as real estate investments, undeveloped land investments, or investments in stocks that are held by an investor who has no intent on managing the business are not allowed. In addition, depositing uncommitted funds into a bank account or similar type of security is not considered to be an investment and is not allowed under the E2 visa program.
The Applicant Must Be Moving To The United States In Order to Help Direct Or Develop The Business
If the E2 visa applicant is not the principal investor in the business, he or she must be employed by the company in either an executive, supervisory, or highly specialized role. The bottom line is ordinarily skilled employees and unskilled employees will not qualify. The United States government must believe that you will actually play an important role in the business. You must either prove that you own 50% of the company, or have operational control in the form of a managerial position.
Can Your Employees Qualify For An E2 Visa?
The answer to this question is yes, however, there are stipulations. In order for one of your employees to apply for an E2 visa, there are a series of requirements that must be met. For example, your employee must be a citizen of the same treaty country as you are. Your employee must also qualify under the definition of an employee as outlined in the U.S. Legal Code. Last but certainly not least; you must be able to prove that your employee is instrumental to the successful operation of your business.
Including A Business Plan Is Smart
Although a business plan is not required, it is always a good idea to include one with your E2 visa application. The person reviewing your application will want to see that you have the experience to invest in and operate a business within the United States. In essence, they want to ensure that your business enterprise will both stimulate the economy, and create jobs within the country. Make it perfectly clear that your organization will have a high likelihood of success, and back that up with solid, and realistic calculations.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program
In addition to the E2 treaty, investors work visa, there is another option for people that would like to live and work in the United States. The EB-5 visa is a way to obtain your green card and permanent residency through investment. The EB-5 investor visa program enables foreigners who make an investment in a U.S. business to obtain a green card and become lawful permanent residents, and potentially citizens, of the United States. The investment can lead to a green card for the investor to permanently live and work in the United States with their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21.
The EB-5 visa program is operated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The program was established by the United States Congress in 1990 to facilitate increased investment in the U.S. economy. If you would like to obtain a green card and have ever considered either starting a business, purchasing an existing business, or investing in a franchise in the United States, an EB-5 investor visa could be perfect for you. In essence, the EB-5 immigrant investor visa requires that you invest either $1,800,000 in a city setting or $900,000 in rural settings.
In return, the United States Government will issue you a green card. The process can move very quickly, however, it is complex, requires extensive documentation, and a large investment. There are five (5) main components that you will need in order to obtain an EB-5 visa. They are as follows:
- Applicants must invest or be actively in the process of investing either $1,800,000 in a city setting, or $900,000 in a rural setting
- The applicant must prove that the funds come from a legitimate source
- The entire amount of the investment must be active and at risk, meaning the applicant must actually invest capital that could be lost
- The applicant must make the investment in either a new or existing business enterprise
- The applicant must demonstrate that the investment either directly or indirectly results in the creation or preservation of ten (10) full-time jobs
If you can meet the criteria as listed above, you are well on your way to obtaining an EB-5 visa. That being stated, the process is not an easy one, and you may very well benefit from working with a business broker and immigration attorney that are well versed in the EB-5 visa application process. When filing your petition, you must apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS for short. There are a number of documents that are required. They including immigration forms, personal financial information, business plans, a legal brief summarizing how you have met all of the elements of the Statute, and other supporting evidence.
The EB-5 Immigration Process
There is actually a sequence of steps in the EB-5 immigration process for an EB-5 investor to earn a permanent green card. The applicant must file an I-526 petition requesting conditional residency. The USCIS and the Department of State will ultimately determine whether the EB-5 participant qualifies for the conditional EB-5 visa. Due diligence during this part of the process includes a detailed review of the sources of the applicant's funds, family history, and other representations of the EB-5 investor. This may include your spouse and children under the age of 21 years old.
This petition also includes a detailed description of the EB-5 investment and any economic models that are utilized to determine job creation. If approved, the EB-5 investor applies for a conditional green card through a consulate interview or an adjustment of status (if he or she is already in the U.S. on another visa). If approved, the EB-5 investor will receive a conditional green card that is valid for two years. Within the final 90 days of the two-year period of conditional residency, the applicant must file the I-829 petition to remove the conditions on the green card.
This petition demonstrates that the EB-5 investor's capital was fully invested and at risk during the two-year period and that the requisite ten (10) qualifying jobs have been created. Upon approval of the I-829 petition, the EB-5 investor, and his or her qualified family members become lawful permanent residents. From this point, you can ultimately choose to become a citizen of the United States after a five (5) year period of time.
The Investment Options
EB-5 visa applicants actually have two main investment options. You can either invest directly into an enterprise or through an EB-5 Regional Center. Direct investors must find their own investment situation, and take on a direct managerial role in overseeing that project. For example, the applicant could start or purchase an existing business or franchise. This is the perfect option for applicants who really want to come to the United States in order to own and operate a business. It is also the preferred option for investors that would like to have more control over their investment, and potentially realize the largest returns on their investment as possible.
EB-5 investor visa applicants can also make their investment in an EB-5 Regional Center. This option may be best for those who are more interested in the immigration goals of EB-5 rather than operating a business or obtaining a maximum return on their investment. Regional centers receive designation from USCIS to administer EB-5 investment projects. Regional centers are responsible for adhering to USCIS EB-5 program regulations. This takes the strain off of the investors so that they are not solely responsible for meeting program requirements.
As a result, investment through regional centers suits those who want a more hands-off approach, where they are not responsible for the direct management of their investment. Once the applicant decides which route to take, they must invest the required investment amount in the project that they have chosen. These investments are typically deposited into an escrow account, where the funds are held until the application has been accepted. The time frame for this is typically anywhere from four to six months.
It must be noted that an EB-5 visa petition is an incredibly complex, document-intensive formal request. Many applicants are starting a new business enterprise from scratch. This means that the exact nature or basis of the financial data, or even the business strategy may not be apparent to immigration officials. That is why it is important to work with a professional business broker, immigration attorney and accountant team that has your best interests in mind. You will certainly find that the process will go considerably smoother, and your odds of being approved will rise in a significant manner.
How Many EB-5 Visas Are Issued Each Year?
USCIS reserves about 10,000 visas for EB-5 investors each fiscal year. There has been a drastic increase in the number of EB-5 program participants since 2011. This growth can be attributed to increased confidence in the program due to USCIS transparency, efficiencies in the application process, and growth in the number of regional centers established across the United States. If you are considering applying for an EB-5 visa for 2020, it is highly suggested that you start the process as soon as possible. That way you can greatly increase your odds of being one of those ten thousand people who have the incredible opportunity to live and work in the United States and to truly live the American Dream.