Unlocking Opportunities: E2 Visa for Italians

Guide to E-2 Visa Applications for Italian Nationals

Are you an Italian citizen looking to start a business in the United States? The E2 visa may be the perfect option for you. In this article, we provide a complete guide to the E2 visa for Italians, including its requirements and the renewal process.

What is an E2 Visa?

An E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to enter and work in the United States based on either: (1) a substantial investment in a U.S. business; or (2) specialist employment in an Italian-owned business in the U.S. This visa is available to citizens of countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States, including Italy.

Benefits of an E2 Visa for Italians

The E2 visa offers several benefits for Italian citizens looking to start a business in the United States. Many of these benefits also apply to the Italian employees of Italian-owned business in the United States. These include:
  • The ability to live and work in the United States for as long as the business is in operation.
  • The ability to bring dependents, including spouses and unmarried children under 21, to the United States on a dependent E2 visa
  • The opportunity to travel in and out of the United States freely
  • The ability to renew the visa indefinitely as long as the requirements are met
  • The potential to eventually apply for permanent residency through other visa programs, such as the EB-5 investor visa program and EB1-C program for managers and executives.

Common Misconceptions about the E2 Visa for Italians

There are several misconceptions about the E2 visa for Italians that should be clarified:

  • The E2 Visa is Only for Large Investments

    While the E2 visa does require a substantial investment, there is no set minimum amount. The investment must be enough to support the investor and their family and generate income, but it can vary depending on the type of business and location.

    Our firm’s smallest Italian E2 investor visa case involved an independent film maker where his only investment was: (1) the value of his movie making equipment he used to start his US Business; and (2) about USD 30,000 in the bank.

  • The E2 Visa is Only for Certain Types of Businesses

    The E2 visa is available for a wide range of businesses, including retail, service, and manufacturing. As long as the business is active and operating, it can qualify for the E2 visa.

  • Qualifying for the E-2 Investor Visa Program as an Italian

    Broadly there are three types of Italian Nationals who can benefit from the E-2 treaty investor program:

    1. Business Owners, Entrepreneurs and Investors making a “substantial” investment in a business in the United States;
    2. Specialist Employees of Qualified Italian E-2 Employers; and
    3. The spouse and minor children and E-2 visa holders.

    The application process for these three visa categories is the same. As the requirements for these three E-2 visa categories vary we have addressed them separately below.

    Italian Business Owners, Entrepreneurs and Investors

    Italian Nationals starting or acquiring a business in the United States may be eligible for an E-2 visa allowing them to lawfully operate that business from within the United States.

    These requirements are divided into:

    • General Requirements
      • Source of Funds Requirements
      • Business Plan Requirement

    General Requirements for Italian E-2 Investors

    To qualify for an E2 visa, Italian citizens must meet the following requirements:

    • Be a citizen of Italy.
    • Have invested or be in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business.
    • Have control of the funds invested.
    • Intend to leave the United States when the E2 visa expires.
    • The investment must be in an active and operating business (passive investments, such as real estate, do not qualify).
    • The investment must be at risk (meaning there is a chance of losing the funds)
    • The investment must generate more than enough income to support the investor and their family.
    • The investor must have a controlling interest in the business (at least 50% ownership).
    • The business must be a real and operating enterprise (not a paper organization).
    • The investor must have the skills and experience necessary to run the business successful

    Source of Funds Requirements for Italian E-2 Investors

    In addition to the General Requirements, E-2 visa investor applicants are required to prove that the funds used to purchase or start a business in the United States were lawfully earned.

    • The funds can be earned in ANY country, including the United States. In the case of Italian applicants this usually means documenting that funds were lawfully earned in Italy.
    • If the funds used for E2 are form Italy then compliance with Italian law and banking regulations is required. Our Italian team in Rome and Florence can assist clients with this documentation and other relevant issues.

    Business Plan Requirements for Italian E-2 Investors

    A business plan is probably the most critical component of a successful E2 investor visa application for an Italian National.  The business plan is your chance to explain your business to the US government.

    Another E2 requirement is the business plan:

    • A business plan is completely critical for a successful Italian E-2 visa application.
    • The business plan must have five years of cash flow projections.
    • Avoid “canned” business plans. The US government have seen these before and are likely to view your case with skepticism.
    • Our firm’s review of denied E-2 cases referred to our firm for “rescue” confirms just how critical the E-2 business plan is.
    • We strongly advise clients to hire an E-2 visa lawyer who will have a very substantial and meaningful role in the PREPARATION and WRITING of the E-2 business plan.

    E2 Investor Visas for Employees of Italian-Owned E2 Businesses

    A U.S. business owned by Italian Nationals may hire certain specialist Italian employees to work in the United States in E-2 Status.

    General E2 Visa Requirements for Italian E-2 Specialist Employees

    To qualify for an E2 visa, Italian citizens must meet the following requirements:

    • Be a citizen of Italy.
    • Have a job offer from a U.S. business which is at least 50% owned by Italian Nationals or businesses who are not also U.S. Citizens.
    • Have specialist skills that are difficult to hire and needed for the U.S. business.
    • Intend to leave the United States when the E2 visa expires
    • The Italian-owned U.S. employer must be a real and operating enterprise (not a paper organization)

    Business Requirements for an Italian E2 Specialist Worker Visa

    • Make sure the U.S. business is “vetted”, see below.
    • Check that the U.S. business is listed with VIBE.

    What is the E-2 Visa Application Process

    The E-2 visa is unique in that the entire application process is handled by a consulate, USCIS is not involved. It is not possible to obtain an E-2 Visa form inside the United States.

    Since July 15, 2013 all Italian E-2 visas applications filed in Italy have been processed in Rome. Each applicant is required to attend an interview in Rome. Preparing a client for this interview in Rome is usually therefore an efficient and effective approach.

    Step One – Visa Submission

    Follow the guidelines issued by the US State Department and the US Consulate in Rome to prepare an E-2 visa application package. This work is typically done by an E-2 visa lawyer familiar with Italian E2 visa applications.

    Only electronic copies of all necessary forms and supporting documentation are accepted in Rome. You will need to evidence Italian ownership of the US business, your investment, that the business is either already real and operating or capable of immediately entering operation and that the business is not “marginal”.

    Step Two – Choice of Consulate

    Unfortunately, it can take many months for an E-2 interview to become available in Rome.

    Italians resident on other countries may choose to process their visa in their country of residence or return to Rome. Some other consulates may be willing to process an Italian E-2 visa application but a consulate where the applicant is not resident may refuse to process the application.

    With the delays in Rome many E2 clients do elect to process their E2 visa outside of Italy.

    Step Three – Consular Interview

    Once the US consulate in Rome have accepted your E-2 visa application for processing and have confirmed that it is complete they will schedule an interview.

    While there is no minimum visa validity period, consulates usually issue E-2 visas for a 5 year validity period. Irrespective of the E-2 visa validity period, upon every entry to the US Italian E2 visa holders are typically granted a stay of two years which can be extended from inside the US.

    Can I Apply for an E-2 Visa from within the United States?

    While it is not possible to obtain an E-2 visa from within the United States Italian Nationals are potentially eligible to “change status” to E-2 “status”. After entering the United States using a different type of visa Italian Nationals can apply to “change status” to E-2 visa status. Typically, Italian entrepreneurs and businesspeople enter the US on a B2 visa intending to only investigate setting-up their business. Later the client decides to remain in the US to make the business fully operational and applies to change status to E-2 status. “Changing Status” is a process that has very distinct and special considerations that need to be discussed with an Italy immigration lawyer experienced with handling this process. Our experienced E2 visa lawyers are ready to discuss this process with you.

    What are the Fees for an E-2 Visa Application?

    There are several fees associated with an E-2 visa application:

    1. US Government Visa Application Fee
      E-2 visa application fees can vary by country based on reciprocity.
      At the time of writing Italians applying for an E-2 visa in Rome are charged a visa processing fee of USD 198.00. There currently is no “reciprocity fee”. Please check the US government website for updates. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/Italy.html

    2. E-2 Visa Lawyer Fee
      An E-2 visa lawyer will charge you a fee for their work. In our experience these fees range from about USD 5,000 to USD 30,000.
      While many Italian Nationals have regretted going for the cheapest lawyer available you should be able to retain a quality E2 lawyer for a fixed fee of USD 10,000 or less.

    3. Business Set-Up
      If you are setting-up a new business in the United States you will need to ensure that it is properly set-up, documented and formed. You will also need to ensure that your business is properly licensed to conduct business.

    What is Davies & Associate’s Record with E-2 Visa Applications?

    Davies & Associates may be unique in terms of the success of our Italian E2 visa team. As of October 30, 2014 no E-2 visa application prepared by Davies & Associates has never been denied. We are also frequently called upon to assist clients whose E-2 visa applications have been prepared and filed by other law firms and denied, while it is not always possible to “rescue” these cases our firm does have a strong history of success in doing so.

    A Dual Presence in the U.S., Florence, Milan and Rome: The Optimal E-2 Visa Approach

    Davies & Associates has offices in the United States, Florence, Milan, Naples and Rome.  All US E2 investor visa applications filed in Italy are processed in Rome

    To our knowledge Davies & Associates is the only dedicated U.S.-based business immigration law firm to maintain a presence in Rome. This dual presence uniquely positions our firm to assist Italian E-2 visa applicants.

    Processing Location

    While “changing status” to E-2 status involves filing a Petition with USCIS in the United States, obtaining an E-2 visa involves working with the U.S. Consulate in Rome.

    Consular Knowledge: Unique Procedures in Rome

    The U.S. consulate in Rome maintains E-2 visa application procedures that are unique to the U.S. consulate in Rome. Further, the identity of the specific officers working on the “E-2 desk” in any consulate can heavily impact E-2 visa processing. Maintaining direct local knowledge of the U.S. consulate in Rome is therefore essential.

    Local Interviews

    The ability of a law firm to work both in Rome and in the United States is therefore highly beneficial.

    Applying for a U.S. Passport as an Italian E2 Visa Holder

    Ultimately many Italian non-immigrant visa holders obtain Permanent Residency in the United States and go on to obtain a US Passport.  As the US and Italy both allow dual nationality Italians can also hold a US passport.

    There are several ways for an Italian National in E2 status to apply for permanent residency (a “Green Card”). Italian Nationals who have held a Green Card for five years may be eligible for U.S. Nationality. Ways for an E-2 visa holder to obtain a Green Card include but are not limited to applying as:

    • An international executive (“EB1(c)”)
    • An outstanding individual (“EB1(a)”)
    • Work based (“EB2/EB3”)
    • Investor visa program (“EB5”)

    Our U.S. office frequently provides clients with advice on these and other processes.

    Applying for Italian Nationality: The only Route to an E-2 Visa?

    Nationals of non-E2 treaty countries, such as Brazil, are unable to obtain E-2 visas. For applicants from these countries the ability to obtain Italian Nationality can sometimes be the only route to an E-2 visa. A surprisingly large number of Brazilian Nationals do qualify for Italian Nationality.

    Our Italian lawyers can also assist eligible U.S., Brazilian and other Nationals obtain Italian Nationality.

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    Eranjan Venura Parua
    Eranjan Venura Parua
    2 months ago

    "After finding D&A through an internet search in 2020, my wife and I had several free consultations with David Cantor. Despite our initial attempt at filing for our E2 visa independently ending in failure, we decided to hire D&A for their expertise and support. Over the course of four long years, Verdie and Cristina were incredibly patient as we took our time to prepare for the E2 submission. Verdie became our E2 Attorney in 2021, and from the start, Verdie and Cristina's patience was evident. Despite our intermittent engagement over the years, they always treated us with the utmost attention. Working with Verdie and the D&A team was a pleasure; their professionalism and support were unwavering. Verdie's calm demeanor and succinct communication style made navigating the process much smoother, even during complex discussions. I wholeheartedly recommend Verdie and D&A - Davies & Associates, to anyone seeking an immigration law firm who can efficiently handle their case with precision and without unnecessary fanfare. Their ability to get things done speaks volumes about their dedication to their clients' success."

    Jeremy Abernathy
    Jeremy Abernathy
    4 months ago

    I had the pleasure of working with Verdie and Nessa to obtain my E2 Visa. Their in-depth knowledge and experience allowed me to be fully prepared in my application and they were able to answer all questions leading up to the Visa interview.

    Saeed Muhammad
    Saeed Muhammad
    5 months ago

    Verdie was an amazing attorney, providing exceptional client care throughout the process. He had a great depth of knowledge in all areas on business visas in the US.

    Satyabrat Chowdhury
    Satyabrat Chowdhury
    8 months ago

    I had a great experience with Davies & Associates. They are very thorough in the approach and their have experts in this field who know the domain very well.I would certainly be leaning onto them for any future needs as well.

    Christine Envall
    Christine Envall
    a year ago

    Getting my E2 Visa was a very in-depth process that took just over a year from when I committed to it, but 8 months from when I found a business I wanted to purchase. The only reason I'm giving 4 and not 5 stars is because the timeframe was a lot longer than expected from the initial information. Aside from the timing, Verdie and his team led me through the Visa process, providing all the guidance I needed to be successful, including advising me on the RIGHT type of Visa to suit my goals. Within the process I purchased a business and the greater Davies team included lawyer Rinat who helped me put the deal together. One of the biggest parts was my Business Plan which created from my info by Ana Ortiz, who did an incredible job. The process is certainly tedious and Verdie & Christina were always there to answer my questions, provide suggestions and advice and ensure I had all the documents I needed to support my application. I appreciated their patience with my questions and their advice and in the end, the application was so thorough the interview process was quick and easy. I highly recommend Davies & Associates and look forward to working with them again when it's time to renew my Visa.

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