The United States has treaties with certain countries allowing nationals of those countries (“treaty countries) to obtain temporary visas (E-2) to live in and develop a business in the U.S. Click here for a list of treaty countries. Unlike the O-1 and H-1B visas, the E-2 visa does not require U.S. employer sponsorship.
What Physicians Can Qualify for the E-2 Visa and Open Their Own Practice?
To qualify as an E-2 treaty investor, a foreign born physician must be national of a treaty country must intend to work full-time to develop his own business in the U.S. He can't enter the country to work as an employee for another and develop a part-time business “on the side.” The physician must invest his full attention to development of the business.
In addition, the physician must own at least 50% of the business and make substantial cash investment into the business. To determine if an investment is “substantial,” authorities will compare the amount of the investment to the total cost of purchasing or creating the business. If the business is relatively inexpensive to purchase or create, then the physician will be expected to invest most, if not all, of the required capital. On the other hand, if the business is capital intensive, then a lower percentage of cash investment may be accepted.
Finally, the physician must provide a five-year plan demonstrating that the business will generate enough revenue to support the physician and his family and employ others as well. If the business will only support the physician, then it does not qualify for E-2 status.
How Long Can a Physician Work With an E-2?
Under this visa, the physician may reside in the United States so long as he is running the business, e.g. medical practice. The initial approval period is for two years. Each approved extension is valid for two years and an E-2 visa may be extended an unlimited number of times.
Interestingly, each approved extension request or entry into the U.S. will be valid for two years at a time, even if the E-2 visa will expire earlier. For example, let's suppose that an E-2 physician travels internationally and enters the U.S. with less than 30 days left before his E-2 visa expires. In this case, the USCIS will admit the physician and give him a two-year stay on his I-94 entry document. However, if the physician travels outside the U.S. again, he must obtain a new E-2 visa before he can re-enter the U.S.
The E-2 does not automatically “convert” to permanent residence (“green card”). The physician must pursue green card options separately from the E-2 visa.
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The information provided in this article is intended to help you understand basic issues involved in the immigration process for foreign physicians, and are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. This information is not offered as, nor does it constitute legal advice or legal opinions. You should not act or rely upon the information in this article without first seeking the advice of an immigration attorney.