The E (Treaty) Visa Category

The E Visa category is a good alternative to those who cannot qualify for an L-1 visa.  It is useful for business owners, managers, and employees of foreign companies who need to remain in the U.S. for extended periods.  Holders of “E” visas generally oversee or work in a business which is engaged in substantial trade with the U.S. or that has made a substantial investment in a U.S. business.  The E-1 classification is known as the “Treaty Trader” visa, while the E-2 classification is known as the “Treaty Investor” visa.  This distinction is not academic, because nationals from some countries may qualify for one but not the other classification, and each classification has advantages and requirements that the other does not have.   Luckily, many countries have bilateral trade treaties with the U.S. whereby their nationals may obtain E visa status in both E-1 and E-2 classifications.  There is even a special E-3 classification for Australian nationals.   While the requirements and benefits of each classification are different, the application process is nearly identical.  There is no stateside processing through USCIS (except for extensions of stay).  The U.S. State Department has exclusive jurisdiction over the issuance of E visas, so you must apply at a U.S. embassy or consular office.

The E-1 Treaty Trader category allows nationals of an E-1 treaty nation to enter the U.S. and carry out substantial trade.  Trade means the international exchange of goods, services and technology.  Almost any type of commerce may be considered trade.  However, there is a requirement that the trade between your home country and the U.S. be “substantial” and ongoing.  In order to qualify for E-1 classification, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • You are an executive, manager or specialist in company from a treaty nation which has operations in the U.S., or you own 50 per cent of the company.
  • At least 50 percent of the company you work for is owned by nationals of your country.  That is, the company has the same “nationality” of the treaty country.
  • You are a citizen of a treaty trade country, and are involved in international trade.  Furthermore, your nationality must be same as that of your company.
  • You may also qualify if you are an immediate family member of a principle E-1 visa holder.

The E-2 Treaty Investor category allows foreign entrepreneurs from E-2 treaty nations to enter into the U.S. for the purpose of directing and developing the operations of an enterprise they have invested in, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.  There is no minimum amount of money required to be invested, as long as it is “substantial.”  Substantial investments are expected to generate sufficient income not only to support the investor, but to create jobs in the U.S. as well. Investment activities include purchase of a new business or income generating properties.  To qualify for E-2 visa:

  • You must be a national of a country that has an investor treaty with the U.S. and you are involved in international trade.
  • You must be serving your company in a capacity that is supervisory or executive in nature or involves skills essential to the operation of the business (key employee), or you are a 50 per cent owner of the company.
  • Your company must be the same nationality as you.  That is, it is owned by at least 50 per cent of persons from the same country as you.   
  • You are investing or your company has invested a substantial amount of money in a bona fide enterprise in the U.S. 
  • The U.S. business will involve in active trade or rendering of services.
  • You intend to depart at the conclusion of your duties in the U.S. 

What are the benefits of the E visa categories?

  • No long queues.  Unlike some other visa categories, there are no annual numerical limitations for E visas.  That means you will not have to compete for a limited number of spaces each year, or wait until a new fiscal year begins before coming to the U.S.  If you are issued an E visa, you may enter the country immediately.      
  • Multiple use privileges.  You will be permitted to travel in and out of the U.S. multiple times on a single E visa and remain here continuously until your E status expires.
  • Spouses and children welcome.  Your spouse and children will be able to travel with you under the same E classification.
  • Spouses may also work in the U.S.  Unlike other types of employment visas, spouses of E visa holders may apply for work authorization while they are in the U.S.   The best part is that there are no limitations as to the type of work that the spouse can do.  Also, the spouse may work for any employer of his or her choosing, which means the spouse has more opportunities and flexibility than the E visa holder.  Before beginning work, spouses must first apply for employment authorization.  Working without an Employment Authorization Document is a violation of the terms of the E visa, which leads to serious immigration consequences.
  • Unlike the L-1 visa, an employee of a foreign company does not need to have been employed with the company for a minimum amount of time before qualifying for the E visa.  New hires may immediately qualify.
  • No maximum period of stay.  Most initial periods of E authorization are for two years.  However, you may apply for extensions for an indefinite number of times as long as you qualify for E status.  You do not need to show that you are maintaining a residence in your home country to qualify.  However, you do need to establish that you intend to leave the U.S. once your E status expires.
  • No minimum education requirements.  Unlike, for instance the H-1B or TN visas, employees of treaty companies are not required to have any minimum level of education to qualify for E status.
  • No “prevailing wage” requirement.   Aside from minimum wage laws, a U.S. employer of an E worker is not required to pay a certain salary to the employee.  
  • You may sponsor a nanny or domestic worker from your home country to work for you in the U.S.

As with all other nonimmigrant visa categories, the E does have certain limitations.  For instance:

  • You may only work for your sponsoring employer and no other.  If you change employers or your investment fails, you will lose E status.  
  • The E visa category is strictly non-immigration.  It does not confer any right to live or work in the U.S. permanently.  Once your status expires, you are expected to leave with 30 days.  Unlike the L visa, there is no direct path to permanent residence.
  • Although you may take classes, you may not engage in a coursework of full-time study while in E status.
  • The E visa category is only available to citizens of countries with trade treaties with the U.S.
  • Children of E visa holders will no longer qualify as derivatives once they reach the age of 21.

Click below for a list of E treaty countries.

If you wish to learn more about the different options available to you under the E visa category, contact me for a consultation.

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