No physical office space required to qualify for an E-2 Investor Visa or E-1 Treaty Trader Visa starting July 17, 2020.
As of July 17, 2020, physical office space is explicitly not required in order to qualify for an E2 investor visa for US or an E1 visa for treaty traders. The U.S. Department of State has updated its Foreign Affairs Manual to include a provision regarding the physical office space for E1 visa and E2 investor visa categories for the United States. The Foreign Affairs Manual is used by Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad to review and decide E1 and E2 visa applications.
The change which comes in the mid of the COVID-19 pandemic, has likely been made in response to the Coronavirus in an effort to relax the regulation to help businesses and foreign investors cope with the effects of the pandemic.
Specifically, the Foreign Affairs Manual now provides that physical office space is not a requirement when applying for an E2 or E1 visa and the treaty investor or trader can qualify for an E2 or E1 visa, respectively, without having a physical office space in the United States. However, having a physical office space can be important to determine if the requirements of the E2 visa or E1 visa are met. The current Foreign Affairs Manual states that “an applicant does not necessarily need a physical office space to qualify for an E visa. Although having physical office space may be relevant in determining whether the requirements for an E visa have been met, it is not a requirement to qualify for the visa.”
In other words, the new regulation provides that while physical office space is not required for the E visas, having an office may be important in order to show that you meet the requirements of the E2 or E1 visa, which will depend on your specific circumstances. Depending on your situation it may be the case that at times a physical office space is required in order to satisfy the requirements for the E1 or E2 visa for the US.
Do you need an office space under the new changes of July 17, 2020?
Whether you need a physical office space under the new change depends on the type of business and your business plans.
While the physical office space is now optional when applying for an E1 trader visa or E2 investor visa for the United States, the change has minimal impact in practice.
One of the most important impacts the new change has is that it opens the possibility for businesses with virtual offices in the U.S. to apply for an E1 or E2 visa, provided that other requirements for the E visa classifications are met. In addition, the new change offers flexibility to businesses to save the capital invested in leasing office space and utilize the freed capital for operations, hiring, marketing and development of the business. However, this outcome is possible depending on the nature of the business and provided that the other E visa requirements are satisfied.
As not all businesses are made equal, the recommendation to have a physical office space or not depends on the company’s business activities and 5-year business plan. On one hand, certain businesses such as a plumbing company, a renovation business or a food truck do not require an office space because of the nature of the business – the location varies based on the customer and employees are on the go at different sites. Other businesses such as a producer and supplier of natural store or a producer of bolts also do not require a physical office space because these types of businesses need warehousing space and industrial machinery to operate and do not need a separate office. However, on another hand, there are businesses such as consulting businesses, travel agencies, brokerage firms or marketing agencies that may need a physical office space and under the new change they can have more flexibility regarding the office. The bottom line is that the you need to convince the Consular officer that the business is real and will do what it says it will do, especially if the business is a start-up in the United States.
How can Malescu Law help?
Our business and immigration lawyers in Miami, Florida successfully advise clients about E2 and E1 businesses and planning and assist clients with applying for the E2 Investor Visa and E1 Trader Visa for the United States. Contact us now!
Malescu Law P.A. – Business & Immigration Lawyers