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Understanding the Essential Employee Requirement in E-2 Visas

The E-2 visa is a valuable option for foreign nationals who wish to invest in and manage a business in the United States. However, not all E-2 applicants fit into these categories. The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) also allows E-2 applicants to come to the United States solely to work in the enterprise as an executive, supervisor, or essentially skilled employee. At Visa Business Plans, we have crafted hundreds of business plans focused on the concept of an "essential employee." Read our blog to learn more about what type of professionals we have helped and what factors determine whether an employee is considered essential for an E-2 visa.

What Is an Essential Employee?

An essential employee, in the context of the E-2 visa, is someone whose role within the business is vital to its success. They may not necessarily be a supervisor or a manager, but their contribution must be substantial and irreplaceable. The primary goal of the E-2 visa program is to encourage foreign investment in the United States and create job opportunities for U.S. workers. Therefore, essential employees play a critical role in achieving these objectives.

Key Factors that Determine an Employee's Essentiality

  • Specialized Skills and Expertise: To be considered an essential employee, the individual should possess specialized skills, knowledge, or expertise that is crucial for the success of the E-2 enterprise. These skills should be difficult to find in the U.S. labor market, making the employee indispensable.

  • Uniqueness: An essential employee may be unique in their ability to perform certain tasks or handle specific responsibilities. Their role should not be easily substituted by hiring a U.S. worker.

  • Significant Contribution: The employee's responsibilities and contributions to the business should have a direct and substantial impact on the enterprise's performance, growth, and profitability.

  • Long-Term Commitment: Essential employees are typically expected to remain with the enterprise for the long term, as their absence could disrupt the business's operations and hinder its growth.

  • The Business's Needs: The determination of whether an employee is essential can vary depending on the specific needs of the business. Different enterprises may have different requirements and roles that are considered essential.

Examples of Essential Employees

  • Skilled Technicians: In technology-focused businesses, skilled technicians with specialized knowledge or certifications may be essential to ensure the smooth operation of equipment or systems.

  • Culinary Experts: In a restaurant or food-related business, a head chef with a unique culinary skill set may be deemed an essential employee.

  • Research and Development Specialists: In research-driven companies, employees involved in innovative product development or cutting-edge research may be considered essential.

  • Key Salespersons: Exceptional salespeople with a proven track record of generating substantial revenue for the business can be essential contributors.

  • Language Specialists: In businesses that rely on specific language skills, individuals fluent in particular languages may be essential for expanding the enterprise's reach.


The concept of an essential employee in the context of the E-2 visa is essential to understanding the eligibility criteria for foreign nationals looking to work for E-2 businesses in the United States. While not all E-2 visa applicants are business E-2 investors, their contributions as essential employees are instrumental in the success and growth of the enterprises they serve.

When applying for an E-2 visa, it's crucial for both applicants and business owners to provide clear and compelling evidence of why the employee's role is essential to the business. This may include details of their specialized skills, contributions, and the unique value they bring to the enterprise. In determining whether an employee qualifies as essential, we strongly recommend you work with a qualified immigration attorney.

Navigating the E-2 visa process can be complex, and seeking legal advice from an experienced immigration attorney is advisable to ensure that all requirements are met and that the case is presented effectively to immigration authorities. With a clear understanding of what makes an employee essential, foreign investors and business owners can take full advantage of the E-2 visa program to grow their enterprises in the United States while contributing to the U.S. economy.


The information provided in this blog is intended solely for informational purposes. While we strive to offer accurate and up-to-date content, it should not be considered legal advice. Immigration laws and regulations are subject to change, and individual circumstances can vary widely. For personalized guidance and legal advice regarding your specific immigration situation, we strongly recommend consulting with a qualified immigration attorney who can provide you with tailored assistance and ensure compliance with current laws and regulations.

Visa Business Plans is led by Marco Scanu, a certified coach from the University of Miami with a globally-based practice coaching Fortune 1000 company executives, entrepreneurs, as well as professionals in four different continents. Mr. Scanu advises clients on turnaround strategies and crisis management.

Mr. Scanu received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Cum Laude) from the University of Florida and an MBA in Management from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Mr. Scanu was also a Visiting Scholar at Michigan State University under the prestigious H. Humphrey Fellowship (Fulbright program) with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital, and high-growth enterprises.

At present, Mr. Scanu is the managing partner and CEO at Visa Business Plans, a Miami-based boutique consulting firm providing attorneys and investors with business planning services in the areas of U.S. and Canadian immigration, SBA loans, and others.

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