Can a foreign investor begin employment in the United States without an E-2 visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate?

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Yes. If the foreign investor entered the United States in a different nonimmigrant visa category (i.e. visitor); was present in the United States in valid nonimmigrant status when the E-2 petition was approved; and a request for a change of status from the nonimmigrant status to E-2 status was requested, then the foreign investor could begin employment on the first date of validity of the E-2 status.