B-5 Investor Visa FAQ

Are Israeli and American citizens eligible to apply for the investor visa immediately after the government reaches a decision?

Prior to implementation, the government must create and document the proper procedures and regulations. Only upon completion, can citizens of both countries apply for the investor visa.

Which visas existed prior to the introduction of the investor visa in Israel and/ or the U.S. for Israeli citizens?

Israeli entrepreneurs who are, at present, required to operate their businesses in the U.S. can apply for the following visas:

  • H-1B– This visa type is for professional experts based on skills or circumstance ( H-1B non- immigrant specialty occupation visa)
  • L-1– This visa type is for executives and specialists in companies with American branches. This visa is used to transfer a high ranking manager or a skilled employee to a company’s American branch (L-1 non-immigrant intra-company transfer visa).
  • E-1– Treaty trader visa (E-1 non- immigrant treaty trader visa).

The ruling seeks to enable Israeli citizens to apply for an E-2 visa. The current list does not include Israel and contains almost 80 countries which enable the country’s citizens for apply for an E-2 visa, including: Australia, Switzerland, Norway, Thailand, Turkey, and Egypt.

American citizens, who requested to work in Israel through a foreign investment, were able to do so through a professional visa (B-2 work visa).

What is an investor visa?

The United States considers an E-2 visa holder to be an “investor with no intention of immigrating.” This allows investors to expand their business activities to the American market, and temporarily reside in close proximity to their investments. The investor must be in the United States in order to develop and manage his business investment. If the person applying for the E-2 visa is not the main investor but instead a representative, he must be employed in a managing supervisor position or have high level, specialized skills, crucial to the company’s operations in the U.S.

The investor must be someone who invested, or is in the process of investing, in a functioning business. Additionally, the investment must be substantial and provide more than minimal income to the investor. The investment must also significantly impact the United States, i.e. through generating employment opportunities.

American investors who wish to work or send employees to Israel on their behalf in order to develop their investments must prove that the investment is substantial and that the purpose of the visit is to develop the investment or work in a high ranking position.

Specialists must possess specialized knowledge and have a specialized job that will impact the investment stage.

When is the best time to invest?

Before being granted an E-2 or an investor visa, the applicant must verify that his investment meets the permit requirements (conditions listed below).

The intended investment – in the form of money or property – must be real and final. While the objective is to generate profit, the investment must be initially of minimal risk.

The United States government protocol also notes that, “The investor must be ready for actual business activities and not just at the beginning stages of signing contracts (which may be annulled) looking for suitable locations and properties. Mere intentions of depositing money in a bank account that is not in any way connected to the development, or even related to future plans to invest, won’t suffice.” Additionally, Israeli permit terms state that during the application process, the applicant must prove that the money transfer was indeed completed.

What is a “substantial investment”?

A substantial investment is a specific sum of money, in dollars or shekels, which must be invested in order meet the requirements of “substantial investment”. However, this sum is not set and varies from business to business. Generally, the investment must fit one of the following criteria:

  1. If the business already exists, the investment must be of a significant percentage from the overall value of the business; or
  2. For a new business, the investment must be large enough to build a profitable and durable (stable for a substantial period of time) business, as intended by the investor.

However, according to the rulings, “A clear line in terms of percentages which define the investment as substantial does not exist.”

When is an investment considered minor?

An investment is considered minor when the entrepreneurship does not currently or will not have the ability to generate a profit larger than an amount fit to support the investor and his family and when it does not have the capability to significantly contribute to America’s economy. A significant contribution is defined, among other things, by generating employment opportunities in the United States.

What is a real and active business enterprise?

Investments in undeveloped real estate or in stocks will not be accepted. Additionally, the investment “must be a business enterprise, meaning, with the goal of generating profit. This takes out of considerations non-profit organizations or any organization that seeks to promote a certain cause without any intention of gaining profit.”

Examples of situations in which an E-2 visa will be relevant to Israeli entrepreneurs:

An Israeli company developing medical technology is interested in investing money and equipment in a company that produces medical equipment based in the United States. This company wishes to send a deputy director of operations so he can supervise the transfer and the implementation of the technology.

– A CEO of a software development company, whose main headquarters are in Israel, is interested in opening a sales and marketing office in the United States. The CEO plans to invest 1.5 million dollars for renovation of an appropriate building and to start employing marketing and administrative teams.

– An Israeli research group that specializes in performing clinical trials is interested in opening a subsidiary company in the United States. The group plans to send a manager to manage and supervise the clinical trials that will ultimately be performed at the United States location.

Is it possible to change the investor visa holder’s status to that of a permanent resident?

In the United States, the E-2 visa is meant for a nonimmigrant and by its nature, is temporary. Should an Israeli wish to apply for permanent residency, he cannot have the intent to immigrate to the U.S. at the time of the E-2 application. It is more difficult to change the status from an E-2 visa to a Green Card as opposed to a number of other work visas available to Israeli citizens today.

How long is the duration of stay for an investor visa?

The E-2 and investor visas are issued for only two years at a time. If after two years the visa holder continues to fulfill the conditions for the visa, it is possible to receive an extension for up to 2 years (U.S.) or one year (Israel) at a time. While there is no limit to the number of visa extensions, the investment must continue to meet all the requirements.

If the business weakens to the point that the investor can no longer meet the visa requirements, the visa holder will lose his right to stay in the country.

How many E-2 visas does the U.S. grant annually?

There are no specifications regarding the number of E-2 visas available per year. Between the years 2007-2010, an estimated 26,500 E-2 visas were granted per year; about 33% of which were given to Japan. In addition, during the years 2007- 2010, Ireland, Holland, and Switzerland each received about 220 E-2 visas per year.

Similarly, the number of investor visas granted per year in Israel is not limited.

Are family members entitled to accompany the investor visa holder?

Spouses and single children under the age of 21 are entitled to accompany the investor visa holder (or professional traveling on behalf of an investor). These family members are entitled to apply for an investor visa as travel companions and if granted, will typically receive the same duration of stay as the visa holder.

Furthermore, the spouse of the visas holder is entitled to apply for a special work permit for the purpose of working in the United States or Israel.

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