In this post/video, I discuss E-2 Visas for Professional Services. In doing so, I will explain why my professional services business would absolutely not have qualified for the E-2 visa when I initially set it up.

So before I jump in, I am going to talk about what I mean by “professional services” and give a brief summary of the E-2 visa and its requirements.

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What are Professional Services?

First of all, what are professional services?

These types of businesses would include law practices, accounting services, marketing consultants, design and creative services, etc. Basically, you can think of professional services as any service requiring specialized knowledge that a business would typically outsource.

What is the E-2 Visa?

For anyone who is not familiar with the E-2 visa and its requirements…it is a visa that enables foreign nationals from certain countries to run a business in the US if:

1) They have made a substantial at risk investment in that business. And

2) The business will create jobs.

There are some other requirements that you absolutely need to know, but those are the major ones that you need to know for the purpose of this discussion.

The E-2 Visa for Professional Services Businesses?

So, with these requirements in mind, can entrepreneurs obtain E-2 visas for businesses that provide professional services?


A professional services business can absolutely qualify for the E-2 visa. But there is a catch. You may have to set up your business differently than you initially planned to put yourself in a position to make a successful E-2 visa application.

The best way to illustrate this point is to share my own startup story.

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Why My Business Would Not Have Qualified for the E-2 Visa 

I have a professional services business. And I did not have to apply for an E-2 visa. But, let’s imagine that I needed to apply for an E-2 visa to run my law practice. Had I tried to obtain an E-2 visa based on the business that I initially established, I would have been laughed out of the consulate. There is absolutely no way that I would have been approved for an E-2 visa. 

So I’m going to discuss the reasons why my E-2 visa application would have failed and explain how I would have done things differently, had I been trying to position myself for a successful E-2 visa application…

#1: My Investment Was Too Low

For my business, the bulk of my initial investment consisted of:

  1. Co-working membership 
  2. Insurance
  3. Google business account
  4. A domain(for my website)
  5. Webhosting
  6. Business registration fees

The grand total for all of this couldn’t have been more than $750 which was great. I remember thinking that I was so grateful to live in a period of time when such a modest investment would be sufficient to create a business. But if I was setting up my business with an eye towards qualifying for the E-2 visa, I would have invested more since my paltry investment of $750 would not have come close to qualifying as a substantial investment.

How I Would Have Done Things Differently

Had I started my professional services business with the E-2 visa in mind, I would have invested in the following:

Office Space:

Instead of working from my wobbly kitchen table with my dog by my side, I would have invested in professional office space and furniture. Also, I would have prepaid for my office for at least one year. 

Depending on how fancy I wanted to get, this move would have boosted my investment by $15,000-$20,000.

Professional services:

Additionally, I would have invested in professional services. Instead of designing my own logo and creating my own website, I would have hired a branding agency and a web designer to complete these tasks.

Also, instead of having a vague idea of how I wanted my business to run and grow, I would have hired a professional business plan writer to get me on track.

The grand total for these professional services would have easily reached $20,000.


When I launched my practice, I had an old MacBook Air and an iPhone with a cracked screen. This worked just fine. But had I needed to up my investment, I would have gladly purchased a new phone and laptop. Also, I would have purchased a desktop computer for my fancy new office along with a scanner and a printer.

These expenditures could have increased my initial investment by $5,000-$7,000.

Through all of this lavish spending, I could have boosted my initial investment from a laughable $750 to an estimated $47,750. Tack on an additional $10-$15k to cover initial operating expenses and I would have a respectable E-2 investment.

It would likely be seen as substantial since it was more than I needed to establish the business. Also, this amount would have been sufficient to demonstrate my commitment to the business and support the likelihood that I would succeed.

why my business would not have qualified for the e-2 visa_real and operating

#2: My Business Wasn’t Real and Operating

The second reason why I would not have qualified for the E-2 visa is that my business wasn’t real and operating for several months after it was formed. 

Initially, I created a website and slowly started to implement some marketing strategies. I didn’t expect to have clients for at least a couple of months. This was fine by me since I wanted to take things slowly in order to understand every aspect of my business and be deliberate about the types of cases I would handle.

If you are attempting to qualify for an E-2 visa, you don’t have this luxury since you must be in a position to show that your business is a real and operating commercial enterprise at the time that you apply.

How I Would Have Done Things Differently

In order to meet this requirement, I would have had everything established prior to making the application. The website would have been live, the office would have been set up, social media accounts would be in place, the logo and branding would have been completed, etc. Having these tasks completed would have put me in a much better position to show that my business was ready to begin operations.

#3: I Wasn’t Planning to Create Jobs

In order to qualify for the E-2 visa your business can’t be marginal which essentially means that your business must create jobs. 

I launched without any specific personnel projections. In fact, my unwritten informal plan(if you can call it that) was to leverage technology and paralegal services so that I would not need to hire any permanent employees in the foreseeable future. In my opinion this is a rational plan. But again, if you are seeking an E-2 visa, such a plan would likely result in a denial on the basis that your business is marginal.

How I Would Have Done Things Differently

If I were applying for the E-2 visa, I would have a solid-five year business plan that projects revenue, expenses and personnel. My goal would be to grow my client base to the point where I would need at least three full time or six part time employees by the end of the fifth year of operations.

Key Takeaway

When I opened my business, I had the freedom to decide how to start. However, as someone who is starting a US business in the hopes that you will get an E-2 visa, you may have to make some compromises. You may have to spend more and project more jobs than you initially anticipated.

This is unfortunate. But if you can structure the business in a way that makes sense from a business perspective and an E-2 perspective, then the E-2 visa may be the best vehicle that allows you to build a profitable and fulfilling professional services business in the United States.

I hope this information was helpful. 

Thanks for your time!

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Benjamin Frear, Esq.

Immigration Lawyer for Entrepreneurs

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