What Needs to be Covered in an E-2 Visa Business Plan

05-February-2018 22:03
in US Immigration Business Plans
by Admin


My role as Lead Project Manager for Continuous Business Planning has meant that I have been directly involved in the production of over 800 business plans since 2012.  All of those business plans have contained common elements, but every single business plan we have produced has been unique in some important ways.  This is a reflection of key points of difference between even ostensibly similar businesses and the fact that our business plans are carefully adapted for the intended audience. 

A traditional business plan that is written with a view to secure a loan will have the needs of the loan officer and underwriters that will review the plan in mind and will tend to focus on the financial aspects of the business.  It would typically include explicit references to a set of key financial ratios (e.g. leverage ratio, loan to value ratio and debt service coverage ratio) that provide to an underwriter a snapshot of the financial health of your business and of your ability to successfully repay the loan that you are asking them to approve. 

On the other hand, a strategic business plan would focus predominantly upon the short, medium and long term goals of the business, detailing for the entire leadership/management team the specific strategies and tactics that will be used to achieve those goals.  It would also include a clear breakdown of roles and responsibilities within the organisation and incorporate a review schedule to ensure accountability for implementation.  These details, although absolutely essential to a successful strategic business plan, would not be of much interest to a loan officer or a passive equity investor.         

Business plans that are created in support of visa applications differ substantially from business plans that are intended for loan officers, investors or company managers.  The purpose of an immigration visa business plan is to show to the USCIS officer evaluating your application that the business in which you are investing either has or will be able to satisfy the criteria by which each visa is approved.  Each of the major US business visa categories, including E-2, EB-5, and L-1, are governed by different criteria and it is crucial that whoever writes the business plan makes it crystal clear to the USCIS officer reviewing the visa application exactly how the business satisfies the specific criteria of the visa for which you are applying. 

I experienced first hand the anxiety associated with putting together an immigration visa business plan when I applied for my own E-2 visa about eighteen months ago.  A business venture that I co-owned was expanding operations in Nevada, Utah and Southern California and I needed the requisite visa to ensure that I had the right to temporarily reside in the US to personally supervise day to day business operations.  The business plan was critical to the success of my E2 visa application and there was no room for errors.  Even having had the experience of writing hundreds of business plans, I approached the task with some trepidation as this was only the second time I had written a business plan for an E-2 application.   

As you can see below, I was ultimately successful in my efforts of drafting a business plan that was fit for purpose, receiving a five year E-2 visa in response to my application.

Redacted E-2 Visa

(I know, I know...Not the greatest picture!)

After the visa had been granted, I paused to reflect upon why writing a business plan for my E-2 application that had been so different from all the other business plans that I had written up to that point.  Having had a chance to really think through the differences between a traditional business plan and an E-2 visa business plan, I decided I would make it the subject of this article in the hope that other people in a similar situation to the one I found myself in might be able to glean some insight that will help them with their own E-2 visa application.

Although it would be difficult to distill everything I learned during the E-2 visa application process and from the dozens of E-2 visa business plans that I was subsequently involved in creating, some of the differences between a traditional business plan and a business plan written for USCIS officers with the purpose of obtaining an E2 immigration visa are detailed below:

The Format of an E-2 Visa Business Plan is Different

Whilst an E-2 visa business plan will contain many of the sections commonly found in other business plans such as an Executive Summary, Business Description (including a history of the business to date and an overview of the products and/or services it offers), Market Analysis, Industry Analysis, Competitor Analysis, Management & Personnel Summary, Strategy and Implementation Planning and Financial Analysis, there will be a particular focus upon the applicant, their background and the future role that the applicant will play in the business. 

The point of placing as much emphasis on the applicant as on the business is to establish that the applicant is indispensable to the future success of this business.  The E-2 business plan must effectively say to the USCIS officer considering the application that the potential economic benefits to the US of the business growth outlined in this business plan are 100% contingent on the grant of the E-2 visa and the job creation and tax revenue detailed are highly unlikely to occur without the applicants direct involvement in day to day business operation in the United States.      

Explicit Reference is Made to the E-2 Visa Criteria

In the sections that are commonly found in other business plans, specific emphasis needs to be given to how the business will meet the criteria for the E-2 visa.  For example:

  • Business Description - The business plan will need to show that the business is a "bona fide" enterprise, that it operates using a permissible corporate structure and that the applicant owns at least 50% of the business.  It must also outline specifically how, in the context of the personnel and management plan for the business, they intend to "direct" and "develop" the business once they arrive in the United States.  E-2 visa holders are authorised on the basis that they will be directing and developing the business rather than simply in a relatively junior role in the overall business operation.
  • Personnel & Management Summary - This section of the business plan must clearly show the potential that the business has to create jobs.  Showing in the visa application that you will hire or have hired full-time employees (W-2 employees) greatly increases the probability of success of an application, especially since President Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American executive order in April 2017.  The business plan must also show the immigration status of both current and future employees.  Demonstrating the ability of the business to support W2 employees and not only the applicant and their immediate family is also important in satisfying the "marginality" requirement, which we will touch upon below.
  • Financial Analysis - There are several specific things within the Financial Analysis which an E-2 visa business plan must detail that a traditional business plan will most likely not mention.  Not only will this section provide financial projections like any other business plan but it must also elaborate on how the business will achieve sufficient success and profitability to support you (the investor), your dependents and employees, and create new jobs within the duration of the E-2 visa.  There is a fine balance to strike here between wanting to show an optimistic future business outlook to the USCIS officer and an awareness of the need to be somewhat realistic as the projections from this initial business plan will be revisited as part of a renewal application once the initial period of the E-2 visa is over.  Meanwhile, the financial section will also need to show that "substantial" investment has and will continue to be made into the business.  A substantial investment is determined by the proportion of funds being invested compared to the total cost to develop the business to the point of being operational.  No minimum investment amount is specified in the regulations but the investment must be “at-risk” and dedicated to the development and growth of the U.S. enterprise. More often than not, the majority of the required investment funds have already been invested or otherwise "irrevocably committed" at the time of application and this must be detailed in the plan and must match precisely the information submitted as part of the visa application.       

Since an E2 visa petition has very stringent requirements, the E2 immigration visa business plan should be written by a professional business plan writer who is familiar with business immigration rules as well as the legal business guidelines of the United States.  A well-written business plan is how you will provide USCIS with all of the information that they need in order to ascertain that your E-2 Visa petition meets the criteria for approval. 

At Continuous Business Planning, we understand the USCIS’ E2 visa requirements intimately.  Not only have we created dozens of E-2 Visa compliant business plans for clients but I have successfully been through the application process myself, securing a five year E-2 visa with a total investment of just under $80,000, largely as a result of the comprehensive, USCIS compliant business plan I submitted in support of my application.         

Don't entrust something as important as the creation of the key document in your visa application to a "here today, gone tomorrow" business consultant of the kind you find on Fiverr, Upwork or one of the other freelancer platform.  Whilst they may be slightly cheaper than a professional visa business plan writer and may be able to put together the information you provide into something that looks like a decent business plan, they most likely do not understand the difference between a traditional business plan and an E-2 Visa business plan

Besides that, it is very important that you hire someone that will support you throughout the entire process.  The E-2 visa application process can last several months and ultimately the business plan will need to be amended so that it precisely mirrors the other information submitted with the visa application.  We will work with you and your lawyers for as long as it proves necessary, continuously updating your business plan as required right up to the day you receive E-2 visa approval. 

If you are looking to hire a professional business plan writer to support your E-2 Visa application, contact us today and take the first steps to live your own American Dream.