What is an E2 Visa?
An E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows nationals from an E2 treaty country to travel to the US after making a substantial investment in an existing business or franchise business, or by creating a business in the US. It is a lawful nonimmigrant status that shows your involvement in foreign business (in the USA).
Benefits of E-2 Visa For Singaporeans
Like other visas that confer nonimmigrant status, there are benefits an E visa applicant will enjoy once they have acquired an E2 visa. We have highlighted these benefits below:
You can legally work in the US for your E2 business
The treaty investor can do business in the US while also working for that company. It is required that you play a significant role in the business, whether it’s already existing or you have just created such a business.
You can invest a substantial amount of capital
As compared to other investment-based visas, the E2 visa doesn’t have a minimum investment amount. You are required to make a substantial investment, which is determined depending on the industry or type of the E2 business.
Your children can have access to US education
Your dependent family members can accompany you to the US under your valid E2 visa. Moreover, your unmarried children under the age of 21 can study anywhere in the US. Once they reach 21, however, they would need to apply for another visa to pursue work or have access to higher education in the US.
Your spouse can work in the US
Previously, your spouse would need to secure an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to be able to work in the US. However, with the recent update on USCIS policies, spouses under the derivative E2 visa don’t need to secure an EAD and they are considered employment authorized based on their status.
You can travel freely in and out of the US
As long as your treaty investor status is valid, you and your dependent family members can travel in and out of the US.
You can stay in the US indefinitely
E2 visa holders can extend their visa indefinitely as long as they remain qualified. With such extensions, you can live in the US and continue doing your business worry-free of any restrictions.
E2 Visa Eligibility For Singaporeans
E2 visa applicants need to meet certain criteria to become eligible for the visa. As such, the principal applicant must possess the following qualifications during their application:
You are a national from an E2 treaty country, which is a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation or a bilateral agreement with the US or is otherwise qualified by US laws. Singapore is part of the treaty countries, so Singaporean Citizens are fine here.
You have invested or are in the process of investing in a bona fide enterprise, which is any for-profit enterprise. It means that the business must not be a dormant investment.
You invested in a business that’s not marginal, meaning that it must have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide minimal living for you and your family.
You will be going to the US to direct and control the business
You have lawfully acquired sufficient funds you have invested or will be investing.
E2 Visa Requirements For Singaporeans
There are certain requirements that you must meet to qualify for an E2 visa, and failure to satisfy one is a ground for a denial of your visa application. We have highlighted them below for your reference:
You must be a national of an E2 treaty country. An E2 treaty country is a country that has an existing treaty of commerce and navigation or a bilateral agreement with the US or is otherwise qualified by US laws.
You must have an intent to depart the US once your E2 visa expires.
You must make a substantial investment in an existing or franchise business, or create a new business in the US. The Foreign Affairs Manual doesn’t specify the minimum investment amount needed to qualify as substantial, but the proportionality test is used to determine. This means that the amount of money you invest must be proportional to the total value of the business.
Your E2 business must be active and for-profit.
Your E2 business must not be a marginal enterprise.
You must be entering the US to direct and develop the E2 business, which can be shown that you own and have operational control of at least 50% of the business.
Your investment funds must come from a lawful source, be irrevocably committed to the E2 business, and be at risk.
Documents Singaporeans Needed for E2 Visa
During your visa application, you would need to submit certain documents to prove your visa eligibility. We have provided you with a list of these required documents below:
Two photographs that must be in colour and taken within the last 6 months with a plain background
Proof of payment of the required fees
Proof that you’ll return to your country once your E2 visa expires
Property deeds or leases
Business documents, licenses, and registrations
Office lease agreements
Personal and business tax returns
Employees and client contracts
Please take note that this is not an exclusive list. If you engage the services of a US immigration lawyer in Singapore, they can help you with the list of the documents you would need to submit based on your circumstances and help you increase your chances of getting approved.
E2 Visa Processing Time
The processing time of an E2 visa can vary depending on where you have initiated your application. There are US Embassies or Consulates that can complete the application in a few weeks, while others would take months.
If you are currently staying in the US under a valid visa, you can opt for premium processing wherein your application can get expedited within 15 days after a payment of $2,500.
Fees and Costs for E-2 Visa
As we have said above, the payment of the right fees is crucial for your visa application. Here are some of the additional costs you would need to pay during your application:
Form I-829 – $460
DS-160 – $205
Biometric services $85
Key Features of the E-2 Visa for Treaty Investors
With your E2 visa, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can stay with you in the US. Your children can have access to US education, while your spouse can work anywhere in the US.
Compared to other investment-based visas, there’s no minimum investment amount required to acquire an E2 visa. You would just need to make a substantial investment in a US enterprise.
Moreover, the processing time for an E2 visa takes less than 3 months and it can be extended indefinitely as long as you meet the requirements.
Your key employees can also come to the US under your valid E2 visa, and they can work in the E2 business.
Limitations/Disadvantages of E2 Visa
If your E2 business is barely successful, there is a chance that your E2 visa extension can be denied. Moreover, you are only allowed to work for the E2 business where you have invested and if the business fails, you must leave the country even if the period of your stay hasn’t yet expired.
Finally, since an E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it doesn’t lead to permanent residency nor does it provide a qualifying basis. To become a US citizen or to acquire permanent residency, you would need to apply for another visa.
Business and Investment in E2 Visa
When you apply for an E2 visa, it’s required that you have invested or are in the process of investing in a US business. An escrow agreement is possible in certain circumstances, for example, if you are investing in an existing business, it could be held in escrow to only be invested once you’ve been granted the visa. Moreover, you should have a realistic business plan.
E2 Visa Application Process
You can apply for an E2 visa in two ways, depending on whether you’re already lawfully staying in the US or not.
If you are already lawfully staying in the US
You can apply directly to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via Form I-829 if you are already staying in the US lawfully under a valid nonimmigrant visa. Aside from the form, you would also need to provide your investment plan.
This process can take around 5 months, which may shorten or lengthen depending on your situation or circumstances.
If you’re filing as an individual investor, you would need to file the form yourself, but if you’re a part of a company, your employer must file Form I-829 for you. Once the USCIS approves your application, they’ll give you a Form I-797.
If you’re outside the US
The most common method for applying for an E2 visa is through US Embassies or Consulates abroad. The consular officers will review your application and will set up an interview with you. Once your visa is approved, you’ll receive your E2 visa within a week. The processing time, however, depends on the consulate handling your application.
When applying through a US Embassy or Consulate, you would need to first complete and submit the online visa application (DS-160). Once you have completed the form, you will be directed to a confirmation page and code, which you will need to show during your interview.
After that, you need to pay the right application fees. There may be extra fees depending on the consulate, so make sure to be aware if the US Embassy or Consulate where you initiated your application has one. If you’re unsure, you can also engage the services of an E2 visa lawyer to help you file the right application fees and relevant documents throughout your application.
After the previous steps, you need to set up your interview. Once it’s scheduled, you’ll be given an appointment letter which you’ll need to show during your interview. Take note that before you go to your interview, you need to make sure that your documents are completed.
After that, you just need to visit the US Embassy or Consulate for your interview. Please take note to arrive on time and show all the required documents to prove your visa eligibility. After the interview, the US Embassy or Consulate will then process your request.
Change of Status and Consular Processing
E2 investors and workers face a choice of changing status from another non-immigrant visa type from within the United States or filing for an E2 visa from the US consulate in Singapore.
Changing status from another non-immigrant visa has the disadvantage that when the individual on E2 status next leaves the United States he or she will have to obtain an E2 visa in a US consulate.
Note: It is not possible to “change status” from visa waiver status/ESTA from within the United States.
Overview of E-2 Visa Application Process in Singapore
1 – Understand your business
Prepare a Business Plan
This is the single most critical part of the process. Allow a professional to prepare your plan.
2 – Financial Planning
Plan the Funding for your Business
You need to show how you will obtain the required funding as outlined in your business plan.
3 – Structure your Business
Set-up or restructure your US Business Entity (if needed)
Your immigration lawyer will advise you if your current business structure meets applicable legal standards.
4 – Corporate Legal: Compliance
Ensure you have met all applicable licensing and required Federal, State and local compliance for your business
Work with a good corporate lawyer who can assist you with this work.
5 – Corporate Legal: liability protection
Ensure you and your business are properly protected with employment agreements, trademark registrations and other items.
Your corporate lawyer can assist you with this,
6 – Fund Your Investment
Place required funding in escrow or spend E2 investment funds. The US Consulate in Singapore have issued gridlines that specifically reference the use of escrow accounts.
A common fallacy is that the E2 investment has to be spent. Our firm typically places all investment into escrow form where it is spent over time, we have never had a case denied or a question on this strategy.
7 – Photographs
Ensure you have photos for all family members applying that meet DOS requirements.
Carefully reviews photo requirements at https://www.ustraveldocs.com/sg/sg-niv-photoinfo.asp
8 – Prepare Supporting Application Package
The US consulate in Singapore have published distinct instructions for E2 visa applications filed in Singapore.
Allow an experienced immigration lawyer to complete this step for you.
9 – Prepare for DS 160
While your lawyer will prepare this document for you it is your declaration. You need to read it and be familiar with it.
10 – File your E2 Application
Your lawyer will complete and file form DS 160 and your E2 visa application package at the US Consulate in Singapore.
E visas are unique in that they are filed at the US consulate and not at USCIS. This saves substantial processing time.
Attend interview in Singapore with a lawyer from our Singapore office.
The US consulate in Singapore is one of the few consulates in the world that allow a lawyer to attend your consular interview with you.
Notes on Certain Steps in E2 Visa Application Process
Step 1 – Prepare a Business Plan
The US Consulate in Singapore will want to be convinced that you have a genuine business which is either already operational or capable of immediately commencing operations. The business plan is the single most important part of the E2 visa application process. This is your opportunity to present and explain your business to the US consular officer.
Step 2 – Financial Planning
You will need to determine the funding needed for your business. Your E2 visa investment must be “substantial” in relation to the overall funding required for the business. While there is no minimum investment prescribed by law a minimum investment of USD 100,000 is generally advisable for E2 visa purposes.
Step 3 – Structure Your Business
For E2 visa purposes any form of lawful business formation will suffice for E2 visa purposes so long as the E2 investor owns 50% or more of the business. Lawful forms of businesses include:
(1) Limited Liability companies LLCs;
(2) Limited Partnerships (LPs); and Corporations (Inc.).
While the choice of LLC, LP or Inc. is not meaningful for E2 purposes you will want to consider taxation, liability and other non-immigration issues.
Step 4 – Corporate Compliance
An E2 visa will not be issued unless the US business is capable of lawfully operating. Accordingly, you will need to ensure that your US business has all necessary licenses and permits. Our firm represents a number of Singaporean financial services and other entities which require licenses in order to lawfully operate in the United States. Fortunately, our US corporate lawyers are able to assist clients meet this need.
Step 6 – Fund Your Investment
Before obtaining your E2 visa you will need to place your investment “at risk”. Funds placed in a business checking account which have not been spent will not be counted as being “at risk”. Clients often report being told that funds must be spent ahead of an application for an E2 visa. Unfortunately this is false and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the E2 visa process.
According to the US Consulate in Singapore’s guidelines and US State Department Guidelines in 9 FAM 402.9-6(B)(d) you are able to satisfy this requirement by placing funds in escrow.
Step 11 – Consular Interview
Proper preparation for your E2 visa interview is essential. Key interview preparation tips include: Having a practice interview with our firm’s Singapore E2 visa team. Considering having an E2 visa attend your interview with you. Reviewing the latest list of questions which our clients report being asked at the consulate in Singapore. Make sure you are familiar with every detail in your business plan and are ready to answer questions on it.
Location of the US Consulate in Singapore
US Consulate in Singapore
The US Consulate in Singapore is located at:
27 Napier Road
The consulate accepts visa related questions via e-mail at: [email protected]
E-2 Visa For Singaporeans FAQs
Can I work in another business as an E2 visa holder?
No, one of the requirements of an E2 visa is that you should be coming to the US to develop and direct the operations of your E2 business. Due to this, you are not allowed to work for someone else or another business apart from your E2 business.
How long is my E2 visa valid?
Your E2 visa can be issued for up to 5 years depending on the country issuing the visa, which can be extended indefinitely as long as you meet the requirements. Take note that if your business fails, your stay can but cut and you would need to go back to your country.
Can I bring key employees with me on an E2 visa?
Yes, you are allowed to bring staff members but they must be nationals of the same country as you, and they must be going to the US to work for your E2 business. Moreover, they must meet the requirements of an executive, management, or an essential skill employee.
Am I eligible for an E2 visa even if I’m in the US under the Visa Waiver program?
No, you are ineligible to change your status if you are under the Visa Waiver Program. You must first leave the United States to submit your application to the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
Am I eligible for an E2 visa even if I’m a dual citizen of a treaty country and a non-treaty country?
Yes, if you are a dual citizen of a treaty country and a non-treaty country, you may still be eligible as long as you use the passport of the treaty country when applying for the visa.
How can I acquire a green card from an E2 visa?
Since the E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it doesn’t directly lead to a green card. To be able to acquire immigrant status, you would need to apply for an immigrant visa. For example, you can opt to apply for an EB5 visa instead, since like the E2 visa, it’s an investment-based immigrant visa but instead, the EB5 lets you acquire a green card.
Can my lawyer accompany me to the consular interview?
Yes, Singapore is one of the few consulates that allows this
How long is an E2 Visa valid for?
An E2 visa may be issued for any period of time up to the maximum period given in the visa reciprocity table. The visa reciprocity table is given two tables published by the US State Department. We have amalgamated these two charts for convenience.
How much investment is required for an E2 Visa?
There is no minimum investment amount but the investment must be “substantial” in relation to the size of the business. While the US State Department recommends a minimum investment of USD 100,000.00 this is only a guideline and a smaller investment may qualify.