A question I am often asked by a client or potential client interested in applying for an E-2 treaty investor visa is, how much do I need to invest? Often the client or potential client is expecting a "magic" number that will signify that the investment will meet the requirements for the E-2 visa. However, such an answer does not really exist. Instead, the answer is "it depends."

The key to a successful E-2 visa application is demonstrating that you are making a substantial investment in your business that is not marginal. Whether an investment will be considered substantial and not marginal will depend on the costs to operate the business and the revenue that is expected from the operations of the business.

For example, let's say that a foreign national wants to invest $50,000 in a new business. If the costs to operate the business are approximately $50,000 for the first six months, and it is expected that the business will grow within the first two (2) years to have an operating revenue of $150,000, then it may be possible to demonstrate to the examiner that the initial investment of $50,000 was a substantial and not marginal investment for the E-2 visa application. For such an investment, it will be vital to include a properly drafted business plan that demonstrates with a degree of reasonable certainty how the business will grow over a period of five years, and most importantly that the business will be able to add additional workers.

If on the other hand the foreign national's business investment is only $50,000 and the expected revenue from the business in the first few years is expected to be less than $100,000, then the examiner may make a determination that the investment is not substantial enough, or that the investment is marginal. In such a circumstance, the E-2 visa application may be denied as it appears that the business investment was only created to support the E-2 applicant and his or her family.

In general, investments that are at least $75,000 - $100,000 tend to have a higher chance of success, when compared to a minimum investment of $50,000.

Remember, for the proposes of the E-2 visa, the foreign national should be investing in a business that he or she plans to grow, and hiring other employees (other than the foreign national's family) should be part of the foreign national's business plan. When an E-2 Visa application is being evaluated, examiners are keen to see that the foreign national's business will benefit the U.S. economy. Although it is not expected that a new business will be robust enough to have a large work force, the amount the foreign national invests in the business should provide a reasonable expectation that the business will be able to hire employees in the future.

All of the costs to start the business, including the legal expenses to apply for the E-2 visa itself, should be included as part of the investment total. In many instances this can raise the total investment several thousand dollars. In many instances a foreign national may make an incorrect assumption that these types of expenses do not actually count as part of the investment.