E Visas (Treaty Traders E-1 and Treaty Investors E-2)

The E-1 nonimmigrant classification allows a national of a treaty country (a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation) to be admitted to the United States solely to engage in international trade on his or her own behalf.  Certain employees of such a person or of a qualifying organization may also be eligible for this classification.  (For dependent family members, see “Family of E-1 Treaty Traders and Employees” below.)

See U.S. Department of State’s Treaty Countries for a current list of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.

Who May File for Change of Status to E-1 Classification

If the treaty trader is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, he or she may file Form I-129 to request a change of status to E-1 classification.  If the desired employee is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, the qualifying employer may file Form I-129 on the employee’s behalf.

The E-2 (“Treaty Investors”) visa is available to an alien who is a citizen or national of a treaty country and who wishes to enter the U.S. solely to develop and direct the operation of an enterprise in which he or she has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. Specific criteria must be met to qualify for either visa.

E-1 and E-2 visas are based on different treaties, however, and depending on which country the beneficiary is from, he or she may not be eligible to apply for both visas. Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) allow for E-2 Treaty Investor status only, whereby Free Trade Agreements (including NAFTA/Fast Track) allow for both E-1 and E-2 visas. For example, a beneficiary from Canada or Mexico would be eligible for both an E-1 and E-2 visa due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between those countries and the United States. A beneficiary from Tunisia, however, would only be eligible for an E-2 visa because the treaty that exists between the U.S. and Tunisia is a BIT.

Both E-1 and E-2 visa holders are initially allowed a maximum stay of two years. Requests for extension of stay can be filed and may be granted for periods of up to two years each. Notably, there is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E-1 nonimmigrant may be granted, as long as the alien maintains the intention to depart the U.S. when their status expires or is terminated.

General Qualifications of a Treaty Trader

If the treaty trader is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, he or she may file Form I-129 to request a change of status to E-1 classification.  If the desired employee is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, the qualifying employer may file Form I-129 on the employee’s behalf.

There are three main requirements to apply for both E-1 and E-2 visas:

  • A treaty must exist between the United States and the foreign country under whose treaty the E status is sought;
  • Majority ownership or control of the investing or trading company must be held by nationals of the foreign country under whose treaty the E status is sought;
  • Citizenship of the foreign country under whose treaty the status is sought by each employee or principal of the company who is seeking the E status pursuant to the treaty.

Trade is the existing international exchange of items of trade for consideration between the United States and the treaty country.  Items of trade include but are not limited to:

  • Goods
  • Services
  • International banking
  • Insurance
  • Transportation
  • Tourism
  • Technology and its transfer
  • Some news-gathering activities.

See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(9) for additional examples and discussion.

Substantial trade generally refers to the continuous flow of sizable international trade items, involving numerous transactions over time.  There is no minimum requirement regarding the monetary value or volume of each transaction.  While monetary value of transactions is an important factor in considering substantiality, greater weight is given to more numerous exchanges of greater value.  See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(10) for further details.

E-1 and E-2 visas are based on different treaties, however, and depending on which country the beneficiary is from, he or she may not be eligible to apply for both visas. Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) allow for E-2 Treaty Investor status only, whereby Free Trade Agreements (including NAFTA/Fast Track) allow for both E-1 and E-2 visas. For example, a beneficiary from Canada or Mexico would be eligible for both an E-1 and E-2 visa due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between those countries and the United States. A beneficiary from Tunisia, however, would only be eligible for an E-2 visa because the treaty that exists between the U.S. and Tunisia is a BIT.

Principal trade between the United States and the treaty country exists when over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the U.S. and the trader’s treaty country.  See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(11).

Period of Stay

Both E-1 and E-2 visa holders are initially allowed a maximum stay of two years. Requests for extension of stay can be filed and may be granted for periods of up to two years each. Notably, there is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E-1 nonimmigrant may be granted, as long as the alien maintains the intention to depart the U.S. when their status expires or is terminated.

E-1 and E-2 visas are available to citizens of foreign countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation, or a bilateral investment treaty providing for nonimmigrant entries, with the United States.  The E-1 (“Treaty Trader”) visa is specifically designed for alien business owners, business managers, and employees who are required to stay in the U.S. for prolonged periods of time to oversee or work for an enterprise that is engaged in trade between the U.S. and the treaty country which qualified the treaty trader for the E-1 designation.  The E-2 (“Treaty Investors”) visa is available to an alien who is a citizen or national of a treaty country and who wishes to enter the U.S. solely to develop and direct the operation of an enterprise in which he or she has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. Specific criteria must be met to qualify for either visa.

 

 

 

 

 
Website Disclaimer