The article discusses the particularities of E2 visa for UK citizens. The United States is an attractive investment destination for UK citizens, who represent the third-largest group of foreign investors in the US. The UK is also the third-largest investing country in the US, with over $600 billion invested by UK citizens yearly. Conversely, the United States is the largest foreign investor in the United Kingdom.
The United States and the United Kingdom have a long history of close economic ties, and the US is a popular investment destination for UK citizens. Several factors make the US an attractive destination for UK citizens, including shared language, a large and affluent consumer base, a well-developed infrastructure that facilitates trade and investment between the two countries and the lifestyle benefits of warm weather.
In addition, the US also has a number investment-friendly policies, such as a favorable tax regime and a strong legal system.
The E2 visa is especially popular with UK citizens who are looking to invest and do business in the US. The E2 visa allows UK citizens to live and work in the US for as long as they maintain their investment and business operations and comply with the terms of their visa.
Before we dive into the details of E2 visa for UK citizens, we need to answer some important general questions about the E2 visa.
What is an E-2 visa?
The E2 Visa for USA is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign investors or entrepreneurs to come to the United States to develop and direct the operations of a US business in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital.
To qualify for an E2 visa, an individual can:
- Start a new business in the US,
- Purchase an entire existing business or franchise, or
- Invest in an existing US business.
In addition, the E2 Visa allows foreign investors to bring essential employees to the United States on E-2 Visas to assist them in running the business.
The E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, which means that it does not automatically lead to a green card (permanent residency). However, as discussed below, you can apply for a green card if you qualify under any of the available green card categories while holding an E2 visa.
The E2 Investor Visa allows nationals of treaty countries to live and work in the United States with their spouses and children. The E2 visa is available only to citizens of certain countries that have an E2 treaty with the United States. United Kingdom is one of these E2 visa treaty countries.
Who is eligible for E2 visa for UK citizens?
To be eligible for E2 Visa for UK, you must be a citizen of the United Kingdom, either by birth or naturalization. Permanent residents of the United Kingdom do not qualify for E2 Visa, but they may qualify under their country of citizenship if it has an E2 treaty with the US. The full list of E2 countries can be found here.
What are the requirements for E2 visa for UK citizens?
UK citizens must meet the following requirements to apply for E2 visa:
- Investor has invested or is in the process of investing in a US business. For UK investors, the purchase price of a US business or franchise qualifies as an irrevocable investment for the E2 visa. Investors who choose to start a new business can invest in premises, technology, personnel, equipment, marketing, inventory and professional services. The investment must be at risk, meaning that the investor could lose all or part of the money if they do not receive the E2 visa.
- Business is real and operating. This means that the business is active, producing goods or services, and is not a passive investment in land, stocks, bonds or real estate.
- Investment is substantial. There is no set amount of capital that UK investors must spend in order to obtain an E2 visa. The amount invested must be sufficient to give the business a good chance of success to employ US personnel. For example, a consulting business may require a smaller investment than a manufacturing business. While an investment of $60,000 could be sufficient for an online business that does not require much equipment, an investment of $1 million might not be enough to start a manufacturing business. Typically, an investment of $100,000 or more is considered substantial, but this is not a requirement or a guarantee that the E2 investor visa is approved.
- Business is not marginal. The business must be viable, meaning that it has the potential to generate enough income to support the investor, employ US staff and contribute to the US economy. For a startup, an E2 business plan is required to show that the business is not marginal. In other words, the business must have the potential to generate substantial profits and employ US staff, rather than simply providing a living for the investor.
- UK applicant is in a position to develop and direct the business. The UK investor must own at least 50% of the US business they invest in. They must also hold a position in the business that allows them to actively participate in developing and directing the business.
- UK applicant intends to depart the United States when the E2 status ends. The UK investor must intend to leave the United States when the E2 status ends and not stay in the US illegally. This does not preclude the investor from renewing the E-2 visa as many times as they wish, as long as the business is working and employing US workers. Moreover, it does not preclude UK investors from applying for a green card under any of the green card categories.
E2 visa is also available to employees from the same E2 country as the owner of the company, regardless of whether the company owner has obtained an E2 visa. In this case, if a company has a UK owner, the company can bring a manger or executive or essential knowledge employee who is a citizen of the UK to work in the United States under E2 visa.
What is the E2 visa application process for UK citizens?
UK citizens can apply for the E2 visa at the US Embassy in London. The application process typically takes several months. Once the US Consulate receives the E2 visa application, it takes 60 working days to review it for completeness. After the case has been reviewed, US Consulate London notifies the applicant of interview appointment availability. The interview must be attended within three months (90 days). It is not possible to expedite the E2 visa application at the US Consulate in London.
Currently, UK E2 visa applicants do not need to pay a reciprocal fee.
The E2 visa can be issued to a UK citizen for a maximum of five years. In London, the initial E2 visa is typically issued for three years and renewed for five years. However, large companies with high turnover and many US employees may be granted initial E2 visas for five years.
Unique feature of E2 visa for UK citizens
The treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States contains a unique provision that requires UK E2 visa applicants to be residents of the United Kingdom. This has raised questions about the eligibility of UK passport holders who are not resident in the United Kingdom.
This means that UK citizens must prove residency in the UK at the time of E2 visa application. You can submit the following documents as proof of your UK residence:
- Ownership of primary residence
- A current lease
- Mortgage for the primary residence in the UK, most recent mortgage payment
- Payment of local utilities bills such as gas, water, electricity, and local council taxes
- Most recent UK pay stubs
- Pay slip showing Tax and National Insurance paid in the UK
- Payment of Inland Revenue taxes
- Bank statements for a current account reflecting local direct debit charges or transactions
Please note that the US Consulate in London may request additional documentation to prove residency, as needed.
UK passport holders who are not residents in the UK at the time of the E2 visa application may still be eligible for the visa if they have strong ties to the United Kingdom and intend to return home in the UK.
Can UK citizens apply for E-2 visa in USA?
No, UK citizens cannot apply for an E2 visa from within the United States. However, UK citizens may be able to change their status to E2 while in the US, but only if they have travelled to the United States with a visa and not under ESTA. In other words, a UK citizen travelling to the United States on an ESTA cannot change status to E2, but if they are travelling on a B1/B2 or other visa issued by a US Embassy or Consulate, then they are able to apply for an E2 status in the United States with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through a process called change of status.
It is important to note that change of status is NOT a visa and certain limitations apply. If you have any questions about applying for E2 visa in USA as a UK citizen, you can contact us to consult with our experienced E2 visa lawyer.
What is the minimum investment for E2 visa for UK citizens?
As discussed above, the size of the investment must be sufficient to give the business a good chance of success. Therefore, the minimum investment amount varies based on the type of business and its location. The location of the US business matters because the cost of living and the business environment vary significantly from state to state and region to region. For example, to open a bakery in rural Texas, a UK investor may need less than $60,000, while to open a bakery in a popular Miami, Florida neighborhood can cost $300,000 or more.
How to get an E-2 visa for UK citizens?
We recommend that UK investors and entrepreneurs seeking an E2 visa engage an attorney at the beginning of the E2 visa process. An experienced E2 visa lawyer can advise the applicant on:
- How to structure the transfer of funds to the US
- How to prove the legal origin of the investment funds
- What investments are counted for E-2 purposes
- Prepare and file the application
The first step for a UK citizen seeking an E2 visa in the US is to decide whether to purchase an already established business, purchase a franchise, invest in an existing business with a partner, or build a new business from the ground up.
As part of the E2 visa application, a UK investor may need assistance with business formation, asset purchase agreements, joint venture agreements, franchise agreement, franchise disclosure documents, E2 business plan and other related matters.
Once the investment process is complete, the E2 visa lawyer will prepare the application with all accompanying documents and evidence and submit it to the E2 visa unit in London.
The E2 applicant will then have to attend an interview where they may be questioned about their US business, the investment, the business plan, and the origin of their investment funds. The main E2 applicant can also bring their spouse, and/or children under 21 to the interview. If the main applicant is approved, the spouse and children also receive E2 visas.
How long can a UK citizen stay in the US on an E2 visa?
For UK citizens, the E2 visa can be granted for up to 5 years. The E2 visa unit in London typically grants initial E2 visas for 3 years and renewals for 5 years. However, consular officers have discretion and can decide to approve an initial E2 visa or renewal for more or less time than the typical three-year initial visa and five-year renewal. Large companies with high turnover and many US employees may be granted initial E2 visas for five years.
UK citizens have the flexibility to enter and exit the United States as many times as they wish during the validity period of their E2 visa. Upon each entry, UK citizens are typically admitted in E2 status for two years. This means that UK citizens on E2 visa can stay in the United States for up to 2 years without leaving the country. When E2 visa holders reenter the US after a trip outside the country, they are generally granted a new 2-year status.
How can a UK citizen renew an E2 visa?
E2 visa for UK citizens can be renewed at US consulate in London or through extension filed with USCIS. The renewal process is similar to the application process for the initial E2 visa. If the business is successful, meaning that it has hired US employees, provides goods or services, and generates revenue, the US Consulate will renew the E2 visa for the maximum period of 5 years. For businesses that have been less successful, the investor can show additional steps they plan to take to eventually achieve the proposed goals for the business.
Extension of status requests at USCIS can be granted in increments of up to two years each, with no maximum limit.
Can a UK citizen on an E2 visa apply for a green card?
Yes, a UK citizen on an E2 visa can apply for a green card. However, you cannot automatically qualify for a green card by simply having an E2 visa. Some of the most popular green card options are:
- EB-5 Investor Green Card – A UK citizen can qualify with an investment of $1,050,000 or $800,000 if the business is in rural or high unemployment area. The business must create 10 full-time jobs for US workers.
- EB-2 NIW – Green card for UK citizens with an advanced degree or exceptional ability in arts, science or business. The proposed endeavor must be in national interest of the United States.
- EB-1 – Green card program for UK citizens with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, professors and researchers or multinational executives or managers.
- PERM employment-based visa – A UK citizen on an E-2 visa may be eligible for employment-based green card from a US employer. This type of green card requires a job offer from a US employer and a PERM labor certification.
- Family-based immigrant visa – A UK citizen on an E-2 visa may be eligible for family sponsorship if they have a spouse, child, or parent who is a US citizen or permanent resident.
If you are a UK citizen on an E-2 visa who is interested in applying for a green card, you should consult with our experienced immigration lawyer to determine the best option for your particular situation.
Malescu Law can assist with E2 visa for UK citizens
Malescu Law P.A. – Business & Immigration Lawyers