Acquiring a franchise under the E-2 Visa – An alternative to EB5 enabling mobility into US?

Jun 16,2017

Applying for a green card under the current EB5 program will become longer and longer and inevitably more expensive this year (all professionals agree that the minimum investment could be raised at any time in 2017 up to 1.6 mil. USD while the current stream starts at 500,000 USD). What are the alternatives?

The E-2 visa allows nationals from a treaty country and their family to be admitted into United States when investing a “substantial amount” of capital in a U.S. business, the applicant having the choice of investing into a new business, acquiring an existing one or, in most cases, opening a franchise business.

While the term “substantial amount” is not defined, an investment of USD 300,000 is usually enough to be accepted.

Unlike the EB5 program, the E-2 visa processing is a matter of weeks. The E-2 visa can actually be an interesting option for investors to go into U.S. while waiting for the EB-5 application acceptance.

The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, which means that it allows selected investors to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis and they do not become permanent resident (without being subject to worldwide taxation). Qualified treaty investors and employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of two years. Requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to two years each. There is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E-2 non-immigrant may be granted.

A treaty country

A treaty country is a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. As of today, there are more than 80 jurisdictions which has the appropriate treaty allowing, among other things, their nationals to go into the U.S. under the E-2 visa. Grenada, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and United Kingdom are some examples.

General Qualifications of a Treaty Investor

To qualify for E-2 classification, the treaty investor must:

  • Be a national of a treaty country
  • Have invested, or be actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States
  • Be seeking to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise. This is established by showing at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.
Investment Options

Diverse and experiencing a rapid growth, U.S. franchising is a valid option for a treaty investor willing to apply to the E-2 visa. Despite this type of investment remains an investment by definition, it presents a lower level of risk, since a franchise has normally a well-established model, a recognized brand, and the franchisee has support from the franchisor regarding the training, site selection, development, opening, vendor relations, marketing and operational support.

Currently in the U.S., there are approximately 5,000 brands offering franchises (795,000 units), representing 21 million jobs and about USD 2.3 trillion. While the E-2 visa request the applicants to invest a substantial amount of capital, the franchises’ investment amount vary considerably from one to the other due to a wide range of variables, including the location and type of operation.

For more information about the E-2 visa and franchise opportunity, please do not hesitate to contact HLG Partners Jean-François Harvey or Mr. Bastien Trelcat for a complete assessment.

Mr. Jean-Francois Harvey
Managing Partner

Mr. Bastien Trelcat
Managing Partner


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Founded in 1992 by Jean-François Harvey, the Montreal based Harvey Law Group (HLG) has maintained a strong presence throughout Asia, South America and the Middle East since its early beginnings, and has evolved into the leading multinational Law Firm. With offices in Montreal, Hong Kong, Xiamen, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, Bangkok, Yangon, Singapore, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis & Grenada, along with a regional and international network, Harvey Law Group can provide exceptional legal representation to businesses and individuals around the globe.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.