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August 4, 2016
A noncitizen of the U.S. can come to this country and start a business under an E-2 treaty investor visa for an investment as low as about $50,000. And that business owner, as well as members of his or her family, can live here legally as long as the business is a going concern.
First of all, the visa applicant must make a "substantial" investment in the planned business, according to the U.S. State Department, that is "sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise."
Denmark native Mia Pedersen went through the process in order to start up an ice cream store, Paradis, in the Montrose Shopping Park in 2009.
"You have to have your business almost 80% ready to go before you can apply," said Pedersen, who with her husband and brother spent several hundred thousand dollars to open Paradis.
And even a small business, such as a single ice cream shop, has to prove it will provide some benefit to the local economy by creating jobs or by other means.
"The U.S. government is not interested in what they call marginal investments — businesses that are too small to make any meaningful contribution to the American economy," said Bobby C. Chung, an El Monte-based immigration attorney who specializes in E-2 visa law.
An E-2 visa can be renewed every two to five years, but every time it comes up for renewal the business owner may be called upon to show that his or her enterprise is providing economic benefits.
The E-2 is not the only visa that allows a person to come to the U.S. to start a business, but it is less expensive than others. The amount of investment depends on the type of business that's being started, and although there's no set rule, immigration attorneys said $100,000 is often enough and $50,000 could be sufficient.
"E-2 is really for small businesses," said attorney Louis Piscopo, who spoke on the topic at a recent meeting of Orange County business brokers.
— Thierry Pauquet de Villejust