E-1 – Treaty Trader and E-2 – Treaty Investor Visas

Over the years, the U.S. 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: E-1 Tready Trade and E-2 Treaty Investor.

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 orher 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 which 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 substantial 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 which 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 or 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

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 company for at least one year in the last three years.

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 or 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

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 years, nor is it necessary for the Investor to continue operations outside the U.S. while the Investor or his or her employees are in the U.S.

E-1 and E-2 Employees

Once the principal applicant or company has obtained registration as a Treaty Investor or Trader, qualifying employees will have a less complicated application process.  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/company 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.

Specialist or Essential Skilled Workers

Visas for this type of employee are somewhat more difficult to obtain. One must  demonstrate that:

  1. A U.S. resident worker could not fill the position
  2. The employment of the treaty national is necessary for the running of the principal trader or investor’s  business  in the U.S.
  3. U.S. 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. Also E-visa employees must be of the same nationality as the principal investor or trader or company.  Dependents of E-visa workers are also issued E visas. Spouses may apply for work authorization.

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 and the employee must have the same nationality as the company
  • Visas are available only to foreign nationals of countries having trade  treaties with the U.S.

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

Which Countries are Eligible for E Visas?

E-3 Visas

E-3 visas were created by Congress as a result of the Australian-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), although it is not actually a part of AUSFTA. E-3 visas were created in May 2005 in what many believe was created as a token of appreciation for Australia’s participation in the first Gulf War. E-3 visa holders must also be paid the “required wage” similar to H-1B visa holders. Generally speaking, E-3 status will be granted for a period of two years and can be renewed indefinitely. Dependents of the principal applicant also receive E status.

What are the Advantages of an E-3 Visa?

The visa holder can:

  • Travel freely in and out of the United States
  • Stay on a prolonged basis with unlimited two-year extensions as long as maintaining E-3 status
  • May bring dependents to the United States and spouses are eligible to obtain work authorization

 What are the Limitations of an E-3 Visa?

  • The applicant must have Australian citizenship
  • The visa holder must be paid the “required wage”

Contact us for additional information on E-1, E-2 and E-3 visas, and guidance through  what can be a complex process.