Have you seen a restaurant for sale with the words "E2 Visa Qualified' and wondered what it means? We'll take you through the ins and outs and frequently asked questions on investment visas for buying a restaurant or any other business.
What is an E2 Visa?
This refers to a foreign Investor Visa. This allows foreigners to live and work in the U.S. if they buy a qualifying U.S. business or create one and are a national of a qualifying treaty country. With the current immigration climate, it's a way to gain access to the U.S. as the State Department literally puts those with visas at the front of the line.
How do I know if the U.S. has a treaty with my client’s country?
Check this link on the State Department website for a list of countries. Some countries such as Canada, Colombia, and Austria issue a five-year Visa. Others issue them for a shorter period of time. Countries like Ecuador, Jordan, Ukraine, and Thailand, issue only a 12-month visa however, these are renewable.
How do I know if the business qualifies for an E-2?
- The price must be right. The process requires that you make a "substantial investment"
- You must have employees. It cannot be a one person business.
- It must be an active not a passive business investment like real estate.
- The funds must be invested from a legal source
- The funds are invested or will be actively invested shortly
- The restaurant buyer must be seeking to come to the U.S. to develop their business
- Ownership must be at least 50%
- The business can be unprofitable but it must have "potential" to make a profit in future as demonstrated by a business plan.
The Certified Restaurant Brokers at We Sell Restaurants screen the restaurants for sale that qualify for an E2 Visa. They can help you with the ones that will meet the criteria when buying a restaurant. One additional caveat, not all franchise brands will allow for visa candidates. They will require proof of residency prior to buying a restaurant.
How long can you investors stay in the U.S. after buying a restaurant?
The depends on the country's treaty agreement with the United States. Typically they are 5-year visas, but when you initially enter the U.S. you get a 2-year status. There is no limit to the amount of extensions, but if a visa expires and you need to travel, you will usually need to renew it six months before the date that it expires.
When do the E-2 investors get social security numbers and driver’s licenses?
Those buying a restaurant with an E2 visa can apply for a social security number after they enter the U.S. Once they get a social security card, they may apply for a driver’s license. Spouse and children can get social security numbers but without a work permit, their cards may say not valid for work.
Why go for an E-2 Visa when buying a restaurant?
- The ability to travel freely in and out of the U.S.
- The ability to work legally in the U.S. with the E-2 company only
- The opportunity to remain in the U.S. for a prolonged basis in E-2 visa status if you qualify
- Dependents can accompany you while working in U.S. and spouses and children under 21 an apply for a work permit
- Dependents can attend school in U.S. However, once they are 21, they will need an F-1 visa
What are the Disadvantages of an E-2 Visa when Buying a Restaurant?
- Limited to specific treaty countries
- Must work for E-2 business
- Approved in two years status increments and some countries have 1 year E-2 treaty visas
- E-2 beneficiary must always have intent to be in the U.S. temporarily during E stay
Overall, buying a restaurant and acquiring legal residency in the United States through a visa is a great opportunity for those seeking to relocate to our great nation. If you need more assistance on this topic, contact one of our Certified Restaurant Brokers, or see the listings that qualify when buying a restaurant at this link.
Robin Gagnon, Certified Restaurant Broker®, MBA, CBI, CFE is the co-founder of We Sell Restaurants and industry expert in restaurant sales and valuation. Named by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the “Most Influential Suppliers and Vendors” to the restaurant industry, her articles and expertise appear nationwide in QSR Magazine, Franchising World, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and BizBuySell. She is the co-author of Appetite for Acquisition, an award-winning book on buying restaurants.