Investors and Traders (E-1, E-2) – General Qualifications for E Visas
The E visa classification is only available to nationals of a country where a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation or a Bilateral Investment Treaty exists between the country and the United States. There are two types of E visas available: E-1 for Treaty Traders and E-2 for Treaty Investors.
E visas are issued to either individual investors/traders or to employees of companies operating in the United States that are majority owned by a foreign company or group of individuals. Majority ownership is defined as “at least fifty percent of the shares” of the company. E visa applicants must be of the same nationality as the majority owner(s) of the U.S. company. For example, only Japanese citizens qualify for E visa status for a majority Japanese owned company or subsidiary.
Only individuals that will be employed as executives, managers or personnel with specialized or essential skills and/or knowledge of the company’s products, marketing strategies, international system of operations, or other knowledge not readily available in the U.S. job market qualify for E visas.
All E visa applicants must intend to depart the U.S. upon the expiration of E visa status. However, an E visa holder may extend status in the U.S. E visas may only be renewed outside the U.S.
If an E visa holder applies for U.S. lawful permanent residence, the E visa holder may continue to seek extension of E status in the United States as well as E visa reissuance.
Investors and Traders: List of Countries with Treaties Authorizing E Visas
The following is a list of countries with which the United States has treaties permitting nationals from these countries to apply for E visas.
Countries with Treaties Authorizing E-1 Visas
|Bolivia||Bosnia and Herzegovina||Brunei||Canada|
|Chile||China (Taiwan)||Colombia||Costa Rica|
Countries with Treaties Authorizing E-2 Visas
|Belgium||Bolivia||Bosnia and Herzegovina||Bulgaria|
|Colombia||Congo (Brazzaville)||Congo (Kinshasa)||Costa Rica|
|Togo||Trinidad & Tobago||Tunisia||Turkey|
Investors and Traders: Requirements for E-1 Visas – Substantial Trade
If the U.S. sponsoring company wishes to qualify as a treaty trader company, the company must be engaged in substantial trade in goods or services principally between the treaty country and the United States.
Substantial trade is defined as the systematic exchange, purchase or sale of goods and/or services. Factors that are analyzed to determine the substantiality of the trade include trade volume, value, continuity and size of transactions. Trade can be binding contracts that call for a future exchange, but the trade must be on-going prior to E-1 visa application. Regulations require that over fifty percent of the total volume of international trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country.
Investors and Traders: Requirements for E-2 Visas – Substantial Investment
If the U.S. sponsoring company wishes to qualify as a treaty investor company, the investment in the United States must be substantial and the source of the investment must be lawfully acquired.
Substantial investment is defined as an “at-risk” capital investment made to generate a profit. The investment must either have been made or the investment is actively in the process of being made. The investment must be a substantial portion of the total value of the business or start-up costs of the business in the United States and must be sufficient to make the business viable. There is no minimum investment required for E-2 purposes. However, the amount of investment necessary to qualify for E-2 classification is determined by the type of business. The investment cannot be the main source of income for an individual investor.
Certain loans that are not secured by the business investment can be utilized to show substantiality of the investment. Further, non-cash assets such as intellectual property, inventory, real estate, etc. can be considered as invested capital for E-2 purposes.
Investors and Traders: Time Limits for E Visas
E visas are normally issued with a five-year validity allowing multiple entries. However, due to agreements between the U.S. and certain treaty countries, the validity period may be less. There is no limit to the number of times an E visa may be renewed, as long as all the essential elements of the initial application remain the same.
Every time an E visa holder enters the United States, the individual is normally allowed to remain in the United States for two years from the date of entry. However, the period of authorized admission may be less. Therefore, it is essential to check the expiration date of the Form I-94 after every entry into the United States.
Investors and Traders: How to Apply for an E Visa
E visa applications are submitted directly to a U.S. embassy or consulate located in the person’s country of nationality or residence. Every U.S. embassy and consulate has its own special procedural rules for submitting E visa applications. It is essential to review the procedures prior to any E visa application. All U.S. embassies and consulates require a personal interview prior to the issuance of an E visa.
Investors and Traders: Changing to E Status in the United States
If an individual is already in the United States in a different visa classification, the person may apply to change status to E visa status with the USCIS. An individual may not commence employment in E status until the change of status application is approved. Upon approval of the change of status application, the USCIS issues a Form I-797 Approval Notice. E visa change of status applications are normally approved in two year increments.
The issuance of a Form I-797 Approval Notice authorizing the change of status to E status authorizes an individual to commence employment with the E sponsoring company. However, it does not enable the employee to depart and freely re-enter the United States. Under these circumstances, the E employee is required to apply for an E visa at an overseas U.S. embassy or consulate.
Investors and Traders: Extending E Status in the United States
A person may extend E status if physically present in the United States. Upon filing the E extension, employment is automatically extended with the same employer for up to 240 days while waiting for the USCIS decision on the extension. Upon approval of the E extension, the USCIS issues a Form I-797 Approval Notice. The approval validity is normally two years. There is no limit to the number of extensions an E beneficiary may file.
The issuance of a Form I-797 Approval Notice authorizing the E status extension does not enable the employee to depart and freely re-enter the United States. Under these circumstances, the E employee must either already possess a valid E visa or must apply for an E visa at an overseas U.S. embassy or consulate.
International Travel While Waiting for Approval of an E Extension
As a general rule, if a person files an E extension and departs the United States, the E visa holder may re-enter the United States as long the current E visa in the person’s passport remains valid. If the E visa is no longer valid, the person must apply for a new E visa at an overseas U.S. embassy or consulate.
Investors and Traders: Renewing E Visas
All E-1 and E-2 visas can only be renewed at overseas U.S. embassies or consulates. Unlike almost all U.S. visas, it is not necessary to secure approval of an extension of status with the USCIS prior to E-1 or E-2 visa renewal. A person need only depart the U.S. and apply for the new visa at an overseas U.S. embassy or consulate.
E Visa Dependents and Benefits
The spouse and all unmarried children under age of 21-years old may receive E visas. These family members may attend school in the United States. Further, the spouse of an E visa holder may seek employment authorization in the United States.
Investors and Traders: E Visa Spousal Employment
Spouses of E-1 and E-2 visa holders are allowed to work in the United States. However, employment authorization is not automatic. An application must be submitted to the USCIS.
When approved, the applicant will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This document is a card authorizing employment for a maximum of two years. An extension of employment authorization may be renewed as long as all the terms of the classification remain the same.