E-1 and E-2 Visas

Visas for Traders and Investors from Treaty Countries

E-1 and E-2 Visas

E-1 and E-2 visas are used by businesses of countries that have trade treaties with the US. E-1 traders live in the US to grow trade between their US and overseas business. E-2 investors can buy businesses in the US.

E-1 and E2 Visa

Basics of the E-1 & E-2 Visas

E-1 and E-2 visas are used by existing businesses in treaty-counties to expand into the US. The E-1 trader comes to the US to grow their existing US-to-home-country trading business. The E-2 investor usually wants to open a completely new business that may or may not have any ties to the home country business. E-2 visa holders may live and work in the US by investing a substantial amount in a US business.

Both the E-1 and E-2 visas are issued under treaties the US has signed with a number of countries. Only nationals of the treaty countries qualify.

Employees of the E visas can also qualify for an E visa.

The Department of State maintains an up-to-date list of treaty countries which can be viewed here: Treaty Countries (state.gov).

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Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for either the E-1 or E-2 visa, you must be a national of a country that has a trade treaty with the US. In addition:

  • For an E-1 Trader visa:
    • Both the foreign company and the US company must have continuous trading
    • Over 50% of the US company’s buying and selling is with the treaty country
    • Trade could be either buying or selling goods, or performing services. These also include tourism, insurance and technology transfers
  • For an E-2 Investor visa:
    • You must be investing in a US business
    • The investment must be substantial
    • You must be coming to the US to manage the US business
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The Filing Process & Duration of the Visa

Requests for E-1 and E-2 visas are filed directly at the closest US consulate if the applicant is overseas. If they are already in the US on another visa, they file with the USCIS to request a change of status to an E-visa.

  • Duration of an E visa:
    • Initial E visas are issued for 2 years and can be extended indefinitely in 2- year increments.
  • An E visa holder may only perform the work for which the E visa was approved. The visa holder may work for the foreign company as well as the US entity.
  • Family members enter the US on a derivative E-1 or E-2 visa. The spouse is allowed to work without having to file for a separate work permit.
  • Obtaining a green card. E-1 and E-2 visas are single intent visas. This means that when the applicant applied for the E visa, they confirmed they were going to return to their home country after a brief stay in the US. This makes it a little harder to get a green card for permanent stay.
  • E visa holders usually file for green card using the EB-1 or EB-2/NIW categories.
To read additional details about the government’s filing process and fees for the E-1 visa and E-2 visa category, please visit the USCIS website here.
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How We Can Help

Problems When Filing the E-Visa

When filing for an E visa, there are several careful steps you need to take.

  • The visa is only available to countries that have treaties with the US.
  • You must be a “national” of the treaty country. “National” is not the same as “citizen”. Just owning a country’s passport does not make you a national of that country.
  • To get an E visa, you have to meet the “substantial business” test.
    • For the E-1 visa, the foreign business and US business should expect continuous buying and selling with each other and other businesses in the 2 countries.
    • For the E-2 visa, “substantial” means that the investor transfers sufficient funds to buy the US business. The company should also have sufficient funds to pay any additional costs that arise in the first year of running the business in the US. If the funds are borrowed, the investor needs to prove that they are responsible for repayment. The government also checks to see where the funds originate from. If the money is from a family inheritance or from the sale of a business, the government traces it all the way back to the original source. Certain sources are permitted while others are not.
  • E visas are single intent visas. This means that you cannot obtain a E visa with the intent of later filing for a green card to live permanently in the US. If you are an E visa holder who files for a green card, and then leaves the US, you can be stopped from re-entering the US on an E-visa.

The Immigration Desk Solution

As your attorney, it is our responsibility to help you evaluate your present and long-term goals and help you choose the right visa for you. An E-1 visa is a great option if you are increasing trade between your foreign and US companies. An E-2 visa works well if your overseas business wants to invest in other lines of business in the US.

Our E-visa clients frequently need to travel back and forth to their home countries and need the comfort of being able to get the visa issued at the border. It is our job to ensure that they are able to do so painlessly.

If your goal is to stay in the US indefinitely but still retain your own national identity, an E visa would work best. However, if you want to live in the US long-term, you will need to file for a green card. It is harder for E visa holders to file for green cards. In this situation, we might suggest first changing to another visa type such as L-1, O1 or H1 visas before filing for a green card.

Above, we have described some of the common considerations while filing for a treaty visa. As attorneys, we believe in helping our clients and their businesses succeed. It is our privilege to help you and your employees in re-locating to the US.

Please contact us to discuss how we can make the E visa process easy for you and your employees.

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