Over the years, the United States has signed treaties with most of the other countries in the world, in particular treaties of “Friendship, Commerce and Navigation.” These treaties are designed to promote trade and investment between the U.S. and the other contracting state, thereby encouraging good relations and peace. More recently, the U.S. has entered into a number of Bilateral Investment Treaties with mainly former communist states, designed to promote investment but not generally conferring any trade-related immigration privileges.
Nationals (individuals or companies) of countries with such Treaties with the United States can obtain visas to work in the U.S. in order to develop and direct their investment in and/or trade with the U.S. Such visas are called E-visas, and come in two types:
The E-1 Treaty Trader
Nationals of qualifying Treaty countries who undertake a significant amount of international trade with the United States may qualify for this type of visa. The volume of such trade must be sufficient to justify the trader or his/her employee(s) being in the United States to manage the trade, and must constitute the majority of the trader’s international trade (i.e. at least 50% of the Trader’s exports/imports must be to/from the U.S.). There is no set minimum level of trade that is considered sufficient, but obviously the lower the volume of trade the less likely one is to qualify as a Treaty Trader.
The E-2 Treaty Investor
Nationals of qualifying Treaty countries who have made a significant investment in the United States may qualify for E-2 Treaty Investor status. Like the E-1 visa, there is no set minimum level of investment that may qualify for E-2 status, but the lower the investment the less likely one is to qualify. Again, the level of investment must be sufficient to justify the treaty national (or his/her employees) presence in the United States. The investment must be in an operating business – i.e., simply buying property or stocks and bonds do not qualify. Also, a substantial part of the investment must have been made before applying for E-2 status.
E-1 Visa Countries
The following countries have treaties with the United States that allow qualifying nationals to apply for Treaty Trader status:
Nationals of qualifying countries may apply for an E-1 visa in order to ‘Develop and Direct’ import/export trade (of goods or services) between their own country and the US. They may also apply for E-1 visas for key managerial and specialist employees. Unlike the L-1 visa, there is no requirement for such employees to have worked for the Trader for at least one year in the last three.
E-1 visa registration applications center on the volume of trade between the U.S. and the Treaty country. The prospective Treaty Trader must demonstrate that:
- There will be a substantial number of trade transactions between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- There will be a substantial dollar value to the trade between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- The majority of international (i.e., not including transactions within the Treaty country or within the U.S.) trade transactions undertaken by the applicant (have been and) will be between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- The majority of the dollar value of trade (has been and) will be between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- The trader (or his/her employees seeking E-1 visas) has sufficient business acumen and experience to develop and direct the trade.
- The trader and any other E-1 staff are able and willing to leave the US upon termination of their E-1 status.
- The trader has a past history of conducting trade between the U.S. and the treaty country.
E-2 Visa Countries
E-2 visas may only be applied for by people or companies from the following countries:
|Austria||Costa Rica||Honduras||Luxembourg||Poland||Trinidad and Tobago|
|Bangladesh||The Czech Republic||Iran||Mexico||Romania||Tunisia|
|Belgium||Egypt||Italy||Moldavia||The Slovak Republic||The Ukraine|
Unratified but signed treaties exist with: Albania, Azerbaijan, Haiti, Jordan, Nicaragua, and Russia.
Investors from qualifying countries may apply for an E-2 visa in order to ‘Direct and Develop’ their investment. They may also apply for E2 visas for key managerial and specialist employees. In contrast to the L-1 visa, there is no requirement that such employees have worked for the Investor for at least one year in the last three, nor is it necessary for the Investor to continue operations outside the U.S. while the Investor or his/her employees are in the U.S.
E-1 and E-2 Employees
Once the principal applicant has obtained registration as a Treaty Investor or Trader, it is a relatively straightforward task to obtain E visas for qualifying employees. Obtaining the registration usually takes 4 to 6 weeks, and obtaining subsequent employee visas usually takes 10 to 15 working days.
Two types of employee qualify for E Visas:
Executives & Managers:
Executives and Managers should be going to develop and direct the trade or investment of the principal investor/trader in the US. Such personnel should be able to demonstrate their executive or managerial pedigree, though there is no requirement that they have worked for the principal trader or investor for at least one year, as there is with the L-1 visa. Generally, a resume and supporting letter from the principal is all the evidence required.
Specialist or Essential Skilled Workers:
Visas for this type of employee are somewhat more difficult to obtain. One must demonstrate that:
- A U.S. resident worker could not fill the position;
- The employment of the treaty national is necessary for the running of the principal trader or investor’s business in the US;
- US workers will be trained to replace the treaty national (details of the proposed training must be given).
If the above criteria are met, then an E-visa can be obtained, but is considerably more difficult to renew than an Executive/Managerial E visa. Note that, a ‘visa issuance fee’ is often required in addition to the usual visa application fee for E visas. This usually amounts to $100-200. Also E-visa employees must be of the same nationality as the principal investor or trader. Dependents of E-visa workers are also issued E visas. However, these are not authorized for employment, though such dependents may engage in study.
Frequently Asked Questions about E-1 and E-2 Visas
What are the Advantages of an E-1 Visa?
A visa holder may:
- Travel freely in and out of the U.S.
- Stay in the U.S. on a prolonged basis with unlimited two year extensions as long as you maintain E-1 qualifications
- Bring dependents to the U.S. and a spouse can also work in the U.S
What are the Limitations of an E-1 visa?
- The visa holder is restricted to working only for the specific employer or self-owned business that acted as the E-1 visa sponsor
- Visas are available only to foreign nationals of countries having trade treaties with the U.S.
- Visas are approved for two years at a time which can make the application or extension process burdensome.
What are the Advantages of an E-2 Visa?
The visa holder can:
- Travel freely in and out of the U.S.
- Stay on a prolonged basis with unlimited two year extensions as long as you maintain E-2 qualifications.
- Bring your dependents or accompanying relatives and a spouse may also work while in the U.S.
What are the Limitations of an E-2 visa?
- E-2 visas are available only to nationals of countries having trade treaties with the U.S.
- The visa holder is restricted to work only for the specific employer or self-owned business that acted as your E-2 visa sponsor.
- E-2 visas are approved for two years at a time which can makes the application/extension process burdensome.