The E-2 visa category is for investors and related managerial or professional employees. It is treaty-based, and so is available only to citizens of countries with which the U.S. has a treaty of commerce and navigation (click here for a list of eligible countries). China and India are notably absent from the list, meaning Chinese and Indian citizens are ineligible for an E-2 visa unless they also have citizenship of a treaty country.
To qualify as an E-2 investor, a foreign national must be a citizen of a treaty country and must invest a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide U.S. enterprise at least 50% owned by the investor. The investment cannot be marginal, meaning it must generate enough income to employ individuals other than the investor and his/her family. The investor must also show that the investment funds were lawfully obtained.
To qualify as an E-2 employee, a foreign national must be a citizen of a treaty country and must be applying for employment by a bona fide U.S. enterprise owned at least 50% by citizens of the same treaty country. The offered job must be either executive or supervisory, or the foreign national must have special qualifications.
The E-2 category allows for an initial 2 year period of stay, which may be extended indefinitely in 2 year increments for as long as the foreign national and the U.S. employer continue to meet the E-2 requirements.
The E-2 category can provide a natural transition to the EB-5 green card category.