E-2 visa helps brothers invest in Glass Guru
Julio, left, and Roberto Medrano, brothers and co-owners of The Glass Guru in Bowie, Maryland, looked at more than 30 franchises in multiple states before they found the window and glass repair company.
Julio and Roberto Medrano, two brothers hailing from Honduras, wanted financial independence and to start their own business.
“We don’t have as good of an environment in Honduras for investing, so we started looking overseas,” Julio said. With backgrounds in industrial engineering, manufacturing and experience working with supply chain and multinational businesses, they started exploring franchise concepts throughout the U.S.
The brothers looked at more than 30 franchises in multiple states until they found The Glass Guru, a window and glass repair company with unique moisture-removing technology to fix foggy windows. Though the brothers didn’t have much experience working with glass, they were attracted to the solid business model.
“That confidence level was something we were looking for that we didn’t find with other franchises,” Julio said.
The strength of Glass Guru’s business model proved helpful in their E-2 treaty investor visa process. An E-2 visa involves an investment of capital to either establish a new business venture or purchase a pre-existing business, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. An E-2 treaty investor visa is a non-immigrant visa reserved for foreign entrepreneurs of countries that have a Treaty of Trade and Commerce with the U.S., which Honduras established in July 1928.
After applying and interviewing for their E-2 visa, the brothers expected to wait anywhere from six to eight months for approval. They were pleasantly surprised when they got approved within one month. Julio and Roberto opened their doors in Bowie, Maryland, in October 2019.
“It helped us a lot to have the franchisor on our side,” Julio said.
Justin Klein, a franchise attorney and cofounder of Marks & Klein, said due diligence on both sides is critical to a successful investment outcome.
“Simply because you’re investing in a franchise doesn’t mean that franchise will be successful,” Klein said. “If you are either new to the country or not accustomed to operating businesses in the U.S., and if you are paying those fees to be part of a franchise system, and the franchise can’t support you, the likelihood that you’ll succeed isn’t good.”
Klein added that franchisors of emerging brands who have not withstood the test of time may not have the infrastructure or systems and controls to provide the necessary support.
Luckily, both Julio and Roberto feel taken care of by The Glass Guru.
“We were provided with an open book of the business—what to expect, the costs—that gave us a lot of confidence,” Julio said. “When you call, they are always available to advise us with any concerns or questions about jobs…they have been a great support to us.”
E-2 visa holders may travel freely in and out of the U.S., and stay on a prolonged basis with unlimited two-year extensions as long as they maintain E-2 qualifications. And unlike the H1B visa category, there is no set investment minimum for E-2 visas. The initial investment for a Glass Guru franchise ranges from $72,750 to $179,500.
“Anything that’s intended to stimulate the economy and create opportunities is a real pro,” Klein said. “The potential downside is that if it isn’t taken seriously, it can be a real disaster for both sides. The rush to get into the business or expedite the system sometimes takes precedence over responsibility to make sure both sides are appropriate for the investment.”
Though Klein has seen a trend of more franchises exploring the idea of bringing on E-2 investors, he hasn’t seen an overwhelming flood of activity.
“Just like it would be wrong for a franchisee to presume that using this program is a shortcut to a visa and not fully understand the impact of operating a business, it would be wrong for a franchisor to use the program to generate more franchisees if they don’t have a likelihood of success in the operation of the business,” Klein said. “That street is two-sided.”
Both brothers love going to the gym and working out in their free time, as well as spending time with family. Spouses and dependents of E-2 visa workers can also apply for visa status and will normally be granted the same period of stay as the principal visa holder. Julio and Roberto’s families, however, are still in Honduras and hope to move to the U.S. at some point this summer.
“That’s one of the hard parts,” Julio said. “We’re excited to move them in summer and we’re expecting them to start a new school year in the U.S. They’ll take soccer and music lessons to learn a little bit more about American culture before going to school.”