What Are Immigration Options for Tech Startups?

Free-Photos.  Pixabay

Free-Photos. Pixabay

If you are in non-immigrant status and are looking for a way to run your tech start-up in the United States, the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa could be a good option!

What is an E-2 visa?

The E-2 visa is a renewable nonimmigrant visa that enables people running companies which they have invested in to continue developing and directing their business in the United States.

Who is eligible for an E-2 visa?

You must have nationality with a treaty country. If you have dual nationality, so long as one of your nationalities is included in this list, you may be able to qualify. Each country has a different length of time the visa is valid for based on reciprocity, but in all cases so long as your company continues to be operational, you can renew it. Please click here for the list of treaty countries and their visa validity periods

Do I have to own the E-2 company?

To qualify for an E-2 visa, you must have at least 50% ownership of the company. For start-ups, it is important to remember that the E-2 visa holder cannot fall below 50% ownership and this has to be considered when seeking other investors who want a percentage of ownership in your company.

Does my E-2 company already have to be operating?

The E-2 visa requires a showing that your company is either operating or is about ready to begin operations. For a tech start-up, this would mean ideally showing proof that you have developed an application and are beta testing. You would also have to show that you made substantial investments so that the company is ready to begin operations, which can include office space, equipment, employee payments, and other expenses associated with opening a business.

What do I have to show to prove I made a substantial E-2 investment?

You need to prove that the money that was invested in the company was personally yours. This can be money that was gifted to you or it can be from your personal earnings—however, you cannot count money from outside investors into this amount. There is no specific amount needed but you do need to show it’s enough to begin operations.

What if I’m not from a treaty country or I don’t have sufficient personal capital to qualify for an E-2?

While the E-2 visa lends itself very well to tech start ups, there may be other visa options available to you. Depending on the magnitude and nature of your business, as well as your past achievements and education, you could qualify for an O-1 visa of extraordinary ability, an H-1B visa for a temporary worker, or even potentially a national interest waiver visa which leads to a green card. Depending on the visa, you may have to structure the company differently. If you have questions, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.

Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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