Foreign inventors seeking an E-2 visa real estate investments can do so by owning short term rentals (STRs), commercial properties, or property management companies, or by developing or redeveloping real estate properties. So long as the investor is from a treaty nation and is the enterprise’s owner. Among other requirements, his or her proposed venture must be bona fide, create jobs in the United States market and produce a non-marginal income.

E-2 Visa Real Estate Investment Opportunities

Short Term Rentals (STRs)

It seems more travelers prefer staying in privately owned STRs than in previous years. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) website gives a more in-depth look at what travelers generally expect to see when staying in an STR, which includes some of the following aspects:

  • Locations
  • Interior decor styles
  • Parking
  • Preferred rent rates
  • Attention areas for landlords
  • Top apps for landlords

Commercial Properties

Commercial real estate is a property with the potential of generating a profit through capital gains or rental income. Some examples of commercial real estate properties are the following:

  • Hotels
  • Multifamily, such as duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, and up
  • Retail
  • Restaurants
  • Industrial or warehouses
  • Offices or office buildings
  • Special purpose, like self-storage, amusement parks, student housing, etc.

In this scenario, the foreign investor or owner typically does not work directly with tenants, but in a business-to-business relationship (B2B).

Property Management

Property managers usually establish the rent rate, collect the rent, often set the budget for the property, handle maintenance requests, fill vacant units, etc. This also includes the employment of superintendents, maintenance personnel and a leasing staff.

Property management companies usually require at least $80,000-$110,000 as a minimal investment for E-2 visa purposes. Of course this is on the lower end, but it is doable. Property management enterprises are both profitable and scalable.

Real Estate Development

Real estate developers:

  • Actively develop a property or redevelop an existing one
  • Oversee architecture, planning, demolition, construction management\
  • Oversee the team involved in the building or the renovation of homes, offices, retail centers, student housing, warehouses or other industrial sites
  • Develop or convert vacant land or empty buildings
  • Forms a property management company

Properties Cleaning Services

E-2 investors can own property cleaning services for the following:

  • Commercial buildings
  • Foreclosures
  • Professional housekeeping
  • Other real estate contract cleaning

Property Maintenance

Property maintenance companies usually involve entities who do the following:

  • Respond to maintenance requests from tenants
  • Maintain the landscaping around homes or offices 
  • Servicing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Perform pest control services
  • Paint or clean commercial common areas

E-2 Investor Requirements

The foreign investor must be:

  • A foreign national of a treaty country to the United States
  • The owner or an executive, supervisor or otherwise essential employee
  • Able to develop and direct his or her business
  • Moving to the U.S. to either develop their E-2 proposed endeavor
  • The owner of the business, or it must be owned by at least 50% of nationals from the same country as the E-2 visa applicant
  • Intend to reside in the U.S. while on an E-2 visa
  • Intend to depart the U.S. when his or her E-2 visa expires

Similarly, the foreign investor must have:

  • Made an investment of a substantial amount into the business
  • An investment source proven to be lawful and in good faith
  • An investment to have been, or to be put at-risk
  • An investment to be irrevocably committed to his or her business 
  • A business which is lawful and bonafide

Additionally, the applicant’s business must:

  • Create jobs for U.S. citizens
  • Stimulate the United States economy
  • Bring a substantial profit, not just to make a living for the applicant and their family
  • Be operational at the time of application, else be close to being operational 

Foreign investors who want to get an E-2 Treaty Investor visa, and invest specifically in real estate must be aware their investment cannot simply be passive. Their investment in a U.S.-based business must be an active one. E-2 visas are not granted to investors who wish to purchase a rental property(ies) in the U.S. who expect only to perform minimal managerial tasks. The adjudicating officers at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not qualify such applications for an E-2 visa with this basis. 

Additionally, E-2 foreign investors are required to demonstrate that their business is lawful, and that he or she has possession and control of the capital investment. As all funds must be from legal sources, USCIS officers review the sources of funding as far back as 10, 20 and 30 or more years. This includes savings accounts, sales of properties, inheritances, gifts, loans, etc.

Furthermore, investors must prove their investment was or will be placed at-risk and

irrevocably committed, for the purposes of generating a profit. If the business is already operational, foreign investors should proceed with their contracts and commitments. 

Proportionality Test

Proportionality tests compare the total amount invested in the business against the cost of establishing a feasible and similar one. Especially, the amount of capital typically required to purchase a similar business already in existence.

USCIS officers use proportionality tests to determine the investment into the enterprise, the valuation of the enterprise, and whether the investment is:

  • Proportionally substantial
  • Sufficient to ensure the foreign investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of their business 
  • Of a “magnitude to support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully direct and develop the enterprise”
  • Being purchasing or owned solely for their E-2 visa
  • Is non-marginal
  • Is able to generate a substantial profit within five years of receiving the E-2 visa

It is important to note, the investment funds for the real estate business are measured against the cost of comparable and already-established real estate businesses. 

More information about treaty investors and business marginality can be found on the USCIS treaty investors website.

E-2 Real Estate Investment Advantages 

Investing in real estate brings liquidity to the investor, cash flow, is recession resistant, and tax efficient. 

Compared to many other E-2 investments, properties can be sold quicker and therefore bring a quicker profit. The strongest types of properties resistant to recessions are middle income rental properties, as they do not depend on customers spending their disposable income on goods or services. Furthermore, it is the 1031 Exchange Benefit, Opportunity Zone tax benefit deductions for depreciation, mortgage interest, repairs, etc.

Other advantages to investing in real estate as an E-2 investor are the following:

  • No need to show any foreign employment history
  • Opportunity for self-employment
  • Indefinite visa renewals 
  • Quicker process than other visas
  • Access to the U.S real estate market
  • Spouses are permitted to legally work in the U.S.
  • Children can go to U.S. schools
  • Pathways to residency in the U.S.

Another advantage is the E-2 business owner can petition for his or her foreign employees (from their same country) to obtain an E-2 visa as well. Such employees would be executives and supervisors, or any other essential employee with special qualifications. The USCIS E-2 Treaty Investor website gives more information about the requirements for the employees.

Conclusion about E-2 Visa Real Estate Investments

E-2 investors working, or who plan on working in real estate in the United States can obtain an E-2 treaty investor visa in any of the following sectors:

  • Short term rentals (STRs)
  • Commercial properties
  • Property management
  • Real estate development
  • Properties cleaning services
  • Property maintenance

Owning such real estate has many advantages, such as tax benefits, cash flow, protection against inflation, as well as resistance to economic inflation. Additionally, E-2 visas are usually much quicker of a process than other visas.

E-2 investor visa applicants must meet the follow requirements, though:

  • Own and direct the real estate business
  • Move to the U.S. for the sole purposes of running the business
  • Create jobs for U.S. citizens (or permanent residents)
  • Provide evidence for past or future income generation
  • Provide documentation for legitimate sources of the E-2 business Investment
  • Etc.

Frequently Asked Questions about E-2 Visa Real Estate Investments

Do real estate investments qualify for E-2 treaty investor visas?

Yes, as long as the sources of funds are lawful, the business is bona fide, the investor is moving or living in the U.S. solely to direct the business, and the business creates jobs for U.S. citizens. The rest of the E-2 investment requirements can be found on the USCIS E-2 website as shown above.

Can I petition for an E-2 visa for my employees?

Yes, though the employees must be from the same country, and must be executives, supervisors or other essential employees with specialized skills.

Can my wife and kids join me in the U.S. when I get an E-2 visa?

Yes. Furthermore, spouses are permitted to work, and children can go to U.S. schools.

What is a marginal enterprise?

It is a business that does not have the capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the investor and their family.