What are E-2 Visa Requirements for a South African citizen?

E-2 Visa requirements include being a citizen of a country that has a treaty with the US and making a “substantial investment” in a US enterprise.

As South Africa doesn’t maintain relevant treaties with the US, its citizens aren’t automatically eligible for the E-2 Visa.

For more details, please see the article E-2 Visa Requirements — A Detailed Guide.


Benefits of an E-2 Visa

There are multiple benefits of the E-2 Visa. For example:

  • You can legally live in the US, work and operate your business.
  • Your immediate family (spouse and unmarried children under 21) is included in the visa. Your children can also study in the US.
  • You can travel freely to and from the US, without restrictions.
  • You can renew the visa indefinitely, if the enterprise remains viable and renewal requirements are sustained.
  • There is no set minimum investment. An investment will qualify if it’s considered to be a substantial amount and it’s approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

While South Africa isn’t a treaty country, there are pathways for its citizens to apply for this visa. For example, they can secure citizenship of countries that have relevant treaties.

Disadvantages of the E-2 Visa

  • Non-immigrant status: The E-2 Visa is a non-immigrant visa, meaning it doesn’t lead directly to permanent residence. If permanent residency in the US is your goal, other visa categories may be more suitable.
  • Investment and active involvement required: To maintain visa status, you must maintain a substantial investment in an actively operating business and be actively involved in its management.
  • Limited to treaty countries: The E-2 Visa is available only to citizens of countries with a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US.
  • No direct path to citizenship: The E-2 Visa doesn’t offer a direct pathway to US citizenship. If your goal is to become a US citizen, you can explore other visa options that lead to permanent residency and citizenship.

Obtaining Citizenship to an E-2 Country

Some South African nationals have acquired citizenship in nations that have established treaties with the US. 

However, there have been efforts to reduce the number of individuals applying for an E-2 Visa after acquiring citizenship in a treaty country. 

As of 2023, if you have gained citizenship in an E-2 treaty country via a citizenship-by-investment program, you will also need to demonstrate that you have been a resident of that country for at least three years. 


Grenadian citizenship

South African citizens can become eligible for an E-2 Visa by obtaining Grenadian citizenship, which they can do via a citizenship-by-investment program. This can be done either via a National Transformation Fund or an Approved Project.

The National Transformation Fund is designed to attract foreign investment and contribute to Grenada’s economic development. To be eligible, you must make a non-refundable contribution of $150,000 to the Fund.

The Approved Project option entails a real estate investment: You can either purchase $220,000 in shares of real estate projects or buy a property worth at least $350,000.

The properties involved must be approved by the government. After five years, you can sell the shares or the property.

For more details on this option, please see our article Grenada Citizenship by Investment — The Ultimate Guide by Experts.

Canadian citizenship

Canadian citizenship also offers a pathway to an E-2 Visa for a South African citizen. There are several options for this route.

The Start-Up Visa is a pathway for investors to establish themselves in Canada. To qualify, you must secure a commitment from a designated Canadian venture capital fund (minimum of CAD$200,000), an angel investor fund (minimum of CAD$75,000), or a business incubator.

You must also meet the language requirements, with proficiency in English or French mandatory.

Finally, you must demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any accompanying family members.

For more information, please see our article Canada Start-Up Visa: The Ultimate Guide by Experts.

The Express Entry system is a streamlined pathway for skilled workers aspiring to become permanent residents of Canada.

This program assesses candidates on factors including age, education, work experience, language proficiency, and adaptability.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allows Canadian provinces and territories to nominate foreign workers with skills and experience that align with their economic needs. Each province has its own PNP streams and criteria.

For more details, please see our article Canadian Citizenship: Your Key to Global Opportunities.

E-2 Visa process for South Africans

Determine eligibility

Plan your investment

Establish the enterprise

Submit the visa application form

Schedule and attend your visa interview

Provide biometric information

Visa issuance

Maintain E-2 status

Determine eligibility: Ensure that you have qualifying citizenship of a treaty country. Plan your investment: Decide on the business you want to invest in, whether it’s purchasing an existing business or starting a new one. Calculate how much money you need to invest, and develop a business plan.

Plan your investment: Decide on the business you want to invest in, whether it’s purchasing an existing business or starting a new one. Calculate how much money you need to invest, and develop a business plan.

Establish the enterprise: make the investment.

Submit the visa application form: Prepare all the necessary documentation, and complete the online DS-160 form if you’re applying from outside the US. If you’re applying from within the country, file Form I-129 to request a change of status to E-2 classification. If you’re an employee, your eligible employer must file Form I-129 on your behalf. Visa applicants or employers must send the forms and documents to the USCIS immigration office.

Schedule and attend your visa interview: Be prepared to answer questions about your investment, the nature of your business, and your intentions while in the US.

Provide biometric information: You will need to provide biometric information, such as fingerprints and passport photos.

Visa issuance: If successful, you will receive a positive decision on your application and the E-2 Visa, allowing you to enter the US. The visa allows you to work only for the business you invested in, and your family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can accompany you to the US.

Maintain E-2 status: You have to maintain your treaty investor status by actively managing and operating the business. You can renew your E-2 Visa (usually every two years) for as long as you continue to meet the visa requirements.

Document checklist

Below is a list of the comprehensive set of documents you need to submit to support your application.

Please note that additional documents may be required, depending on your circumstances.

  • DS-160 confirmation page: A completed and printed DS-160 confirmation page.
  • Passport: Your valid passport with a minimum of six months’ validity beyond your intended period of stay in the US.
  • Photograph: One passport-sized color photograph that meets the US visa photo requirements.
  • Business plan: A detailed business plan outlining your investment, the nature of the enterprise, and its potential for profitability.
  • Proof of investment funds: Documents demonstrating that the funds underpinning the investment are legitimate and legally acquired.
  • Proof of bona fide enterprise: Documentation proving that the business you plan to invest in is a real, active, and operating commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking.
  • Articles of incorporation/registration: If the business is already established, provide the articles of incorporation or registration.
  • Lease agreement or property ownership: If you have already secured a location for your business, include the lease agreement or documents showing property ownership.
  • Financial statements: If applicable, provide the enterprise’s financial statements for the past two to three years (is balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements).
  • Market research and projections: Any market research or projections that support the potential success of your business.
  • CV/resume: Your curriculum vitae or resume, highlighting your relevant experience and qualifications.
  • Employment details: Information about any employees you plan to hire in the US, along with their roles and responsibilities.
  • Proof of managerial role: If you will be managing the enterprise, provide evidence of your managerial position.
  • Proof of treaty country citizenship: Documentation of your citizenship in a country eligible for the visa.
  • Payment receipt: A receipt confirming payment of the visa application fee.
  • Corporate documents (if applicable): If the enterprise has multiple owners or shareholders, provide corporate documents showing ownership percentages.
  • Additional supporting documents: Any documents that can strengthen your case, such as contracts, licenses, or permits.

If obtaining citizenship in an E-2 treaty country isn’t viable, there are alternative pathways to obtain other visas.

Consider the following two options:

L-1 Visa

The L-1 Visa is designed for professionals seeking legal employment in the US.

This visa is granted to individuals already employed by a foreign company who wish to transfer to a US-based office.

Visa holders who intend to engage in a long-term assignment at a US site or facility are also eligible.

  • L-1A Visa: This category is designated for managers and executives. Applicants must demonstrate their executive or managerial position within the company.
  • L-1B Visa: Reserved for individuals with specialized knowledge capacities.

Benefits of the L-1 visas include:

  • Temporary residence and work permit in the US
  • Travel to and from the US with a valid L-1 visa.
  • Eligibility for your dependents to reside with you.
  • Permission for your spouse to work in the US

Similarities between L-1 and E-2 Visas

There are several similarities between the L-1 Visa and the E-2 Visa. For instance, both visas allow your spouse and dependent children to accompany you in the US and provide avenues for spousal work authorization.

Additionally, both visas are temporary and non-immigrant; they don’t directly lead to a Green Card. However, they can potentially later be converted into a Green Card, subject to meeting specific conditions.

EB-5 Visa

The EB-5 Visa offers another alternative to the E-2 Visa for South African investors. It requires a significant investment in a commercial enterprise in the US, along with job creation requirements for foreign investors seeking an EB-5 Visa.

The EB-5 Visa allows high-net-worth individuals to obtain permanent residency in the US and provides a direct pathway to a Green Card.

EB-5 Visa requirements

  • Investment amounts are $1,050,000 for direct investment and $800,000 for investments in a Target Employment Area (TEA).
  • Evidence of lawful sources and the path of your investment.
  • Investments must be made in for-profit commercial entities in the US
  • EB-5 investments must create a minimum of ten American jobs (directly or indirectly) within the first two years of conditional residency.

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions?

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

  • We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top Residency by Investment and Citizenship by Investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance. We have a team of immigration lawyers, and immigration advisers specialized in US immigration.
  • Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100 percent approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and guarantees that you can expect a successful application.
  • Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
  • Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
  • The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.

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