My colleague, Oliver Yang, has been in China the last few weeks; and I am preparing for my next trip to China in May. The main focus of our meetings in China is to confer with agents and their clients interested in applying for E-2 visas based on acquisition of citizenship in Grenada.
Based upon our experience with our Chinese clients, the following are some of the questions that we are most frequently asked, together with our responses:
1. How much money do I have to invest to get an E-2 visa?
Although we have had success with E-2 visa applications based upon investments in the range of $100,000, we generally prefer to see investments in the $200,000 + range if possible. There are two reasons for this. One reason is that often the chances for the business being profitable increase as the investment amount increases. Also, although no exact amount of employees is required, a larger investment often is accompanied by an increase in the number of employees, which is helpful for the E-2 visa application process. Ultimately, the key issue is presenting a credible case that the amount of the investment is sufficient for the type of business in which the investment made to be successful.
2. Does the entire amount of the investment have to be made at the time of filing the visa application?
There are different answers to this question depending upon whether the application is based upon an investment in an existing business or in a new business. If the investment is being used to acquire part or all of an existing business, it is usually sufficient if the investment is deposited in an irrevocable escrow with the investment amount released from escrow upon approval of the E-2 visa application. If the investment is made in a new business, it is best if at least some of the investment has already been used to start up operations of the business. The remainder of the investment may be in irrevocable escrow. It is acceptable if the investment amount is refundable in the event that the E-2 visa application is not approved (some franchise agreements now include this provision). There is a difference among U.S. consulates around the world regarding the necessity that a new business actually has started operations, so it is often safer if the business is actually operating.
3. Does the Chinese identity of the E-2 visa applicant affect approvability?
In our experience, the answer to this is no. We have great experience with many E-2 visa applicants around the world who are dual citizens applying based on a second country citizenship. In the case of China, we have not seen any examples of applications for E-2 visas by citizens of Grenada (who also have Chinese passports) being denied for that reason. The U.S. recognizes dual citizenship and allows E-2 visa applications by citizens of a treaty country who are also citizens and residents of a non-treaty country.
4. Is it possible to convert an E-2 visa to a green card?
This is very possible, in most cases through the direct EB-5 process. The amount of the E-2 investment can be used as part of the direct EB-5 investment. In most cases, the direct EB-5 investment amount must be at least $500,000. If, for example, an E-2 visa applicant had already invested $250,000 for the E-2 visa, the direct EB-5 application could be based upon another $250,000 investment. Even though it is expected that the EB-5 investment amount is likely to increase in the coming months or years, the investor will likely be grandfathered at the $500,000 investment amount as long as the EB-5 petition is filed before the increase in investment amount becomes law. There are many issues involved in converting from E-2 to EB-5; we have extensive experience in dealing with these issues. It is best if we deal with these issues at the time of the E-2 visa application in order to prepare in advance.
5. Is it possible for two Chinese citizens to apply for E-2 visas in the same business?
Yes, it is possible, but it is more difficult. In most cases, when we are doing this, we have one of the applicants (who is a Grenada citizen) apply as the investor and the other applicant (who may or may not be a Grenada citizen) apply as the manager of the treaty investor company. If only one of the applicants is a citizen of Grenada, that applicant must own at least 50% of the business. It is best if that applicant invests most or all of the total investment.
6. What are the options for the child of an E-2 investor when the child is turning 21?
One option is for the child to change status to F-1, which can be done in the U.S. The other option is for the child to make his or her own investment and apply for his or her own E-2 visa.
7. Is it possible to obtain an E-2 visa if an EB-5 petition has already been filed or if some other permanent residence application has been filed?
It is possible, but there could be issues. A key issue is whether the EB-5 petition (or other immigrant petition) indicated that the applicant would be obtaining his or her immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate outside of the U.S. Whenever we file an EB-5 petition, we indicate this on the I-526 form. The reason that this is important is that the U.S. consular officer has to be satisfied that the applicant intends to leave the U.S. and apply for an immigrant visa (green card), if at all, outside of the U.S. We are very careful in preparing our clients for the consular interview on this issue, because the response to the consul on this issue is very important. Our success rate in these types of applications has been very high.
8. Is it necessary to apply for the E-2 visa at the U.S. Consulate in Barbados?
Most applications by Chinese applicants have been filed at the U.S. Consulate in Barbados, and the success rate has been high. However, it is not necessary to apply there. The application can be filed at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou (and has been done successfully), at the U.S. Consulate in any country where the applicant has a residence (such as Hong Kong or Singapore, for example) or at a third country consulate. We have been working with a variety of U.S. Consulates around the world which accept third country E-2 visa applications. Part of our service to our E-2 visa clients is choosing the best consulate for the purposes of the individual client and then preparing the client for the issues that may arise at that consulate.
9. What problems have arisen for Chinese citizens applying for E-2 visas based on newly acquired Grenada citizenship?
Although, to our knowledge, a high percentage of these applications have been successful, the biggest issue that we have seen relates to Chinese citizens who acquire Grenada citizenship based on the donation option (rather than the acquisition of property option) and who do not establish any nexus (connection) with Grenada. Although this is not a legal requirement, it has been a requirement imposed by some U.S. Consulates, including the U.S. Consulate in Barbados. For our clients choosing the donation option, we suggest that the client at least have visited Barbados and have an address in Barbados (for example, based upon a lease of property for one year). It is possible, and best, for the client to obtain a Grenada residence card at the same time as acquiring citizenship.
10. Is it necessary for the Chinese/Grenadian E-2 visa applicant to actively manage the E-2 business?
It is possible, but not necessary, for the E-2 visa holder to actively manage the business. If he or she will not actively manage the business, we will want to make certain that the E-2 visa application package makes clear that the E-2 visa applicant will be in a position to “direct” the manager and participate in the successful development of the business. This is a key focus in our vetting process for E-2 investment vehicles that we present as options to our E-2 visa applicants when requested.
11. Is it possible for the E-2 visa business to have been established prior to acquisition of Grenada citizenship?
This is possible, although we need to review the documents carefully. There is no problem if the business has been in existence for some period of time. However, issues may arise if we are relying upon investments made before acquisition of Grenada citizenship. These issues can usually be handled successfully with advance planning.
12. Have Chinese applicants who obtain Grenada citizenship been successful in applying for E-2 visas?
Yes, many applicants have been successful. The issues for Chinese/Grenadian E-2 visa applicants are the same as the issues that we have been working with for clients applying for E-2 visas from over 80 countries around the world. These are not new issues, and we have significant experience in dealing with these issues worldwide. The only issues that we have seen that specifically involve Chinese nationals applying for E-2 visas after recent acquisition of Grenada citizenship involve the issue of lack of “nexus” with Grenada discussed in response to a previous question above.