US E1 and E2 visa (Treaty Visas)

Over the years the United States 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 USA and the other contracting state, thereby encouraging good relations and peace. More recently the USA 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 USA in order to develop and direct their investment in and/or trade with the USA. Such visas are called E-visas, and come in two types:

The E1 Treaty Trader Visa

Nationals of qualifying Treaty countries who undertake a significant amount of international trade with the United States my qualify for this type of visa. The volume of such trade must be sufficient to justify the trader or his/her 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 USA). 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 E2 Treaty Investor Visa

Nationals of qualifying Treaty countries who have made a significant investment in the United States may qualify for E2 Treaty Investor status. Like the E1 visa, there is no set minimum level of investment which may qualify for E2 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/her employees) presence in the United States. The investment must be in an operating business i.e. simply buying property or stocks and bonds does not qualify. Also, a substantial part of the investment must have been made before applying for E2 status.

There is another investor visa called the EB-5 visa for USA immigration which is designed specifically for those wishing to immigrate to the USA by investing in the creation of a new commercial enterprise.

E1 Visa Countries

The following countries have treaties with the United States that allow qualifying nationals to apply for Treaty Trader status:

Argentina China (ROC) France Italy Netherlands Sweden
Australia Colombia Germany Japan Norway Switzerland
Austria Costa Rica Greece Korea Oman Thailand
Belgium Denmark Honduras Latvia Pakistan Togo
Bolivia Estonia Iran Liberia Philippines Turkey
Brunei Ethiopia Ireland Lux'bourg Spain U.K.
Canada Finland Israel Mexico Suriname Yugoslavia

Nationals of qualifying countries may apply for an E1 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 E1 visas for key managerial and specialist employees. Unlike the L1 visa, there is no requirement for such employees to have worked for the Trader for at least one year in the last three.

E1 visa registration applications center on the volume of trade between the USA and the Treaty country. The prospective Treaty Trader must demonstrate that:

  • There will be a substantial number of trade transactions between the US and the treaty country.
  • There will be a substantial dollar value to the trade between the US and the treaty country.
  • The majority of international (i.e. not including transactions within the Treaty country or within the US) trade transactions undertaken by the applicant (have been and) will be between the US and the treaty country.
  • The majority of the dollar value of trade (has been and) will be between the US and the treaty country.
  • The trader (or his/her employees seeking E1 visas) has sufficient business acumen and experience to develop and direct the trade.
  • The trader, and any other E1 staff, are able and willing to leave the US upon termination of their E1 status.
  • The trader has a past history of conducting trade between the US and the treaty country.

E2 Visa Countries

E2 visas may only be applied for by people or companies from the following countries:

Argentina China (ROC) Georgia Kyrgyzstan Pakistan Switzerland
Armenia Colombia Germany Latvia Panama Thailand
Australia Congo Grenada Liberia Philippines Togo
Austria Costa Rica Honduras Luxembourg Poland Trinidad and Tobago
Bangladesh The Czech Republic Iran Mexico Romania Tunisia
Belarus Ecuador Ireland Morocco Senegal Turkey
Belgium Egypt Italy Moldovia The Slovak Republic The Ukraine
Bosnia-Herzegovina Estonia Jamaica Mongolia Spain United Kingdom
Bulgaria Ethiopia Japan Netherlands Sri Lanka Uzbekistan
Cameroon Finland Kazakhstan Norway Suriname Yugoslavia
Canada France Korea Oman Sweden

Unratified but signed treaties exist with: Albania, Azerbaijan, Haiti, Jordan, Nicaragua, and Russia.

Investors from qualifying countries may apply for an E2 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 L1 visa, there is no requirement that such employees have worked for the Investor for at least one year in the last three, nor is it necessary for the Investor to continue operations outside the USA while the Investor or his/her employees are in the USA.

E2 visa registration applications should demonstrate that:

  • There has been and will be a substantial capital investment in the US. There is no specific cash threshold defined, but $40,000 is probably an absolute minimum, and any investment below $100,000 would need a very strong case to support it.
  • Risk Capital has been Committed; the investment must entail some risk to the investor (it may not be all in the form of unguaranteed credit). At a minimum, there must be a long-term lease of an office in the US.
  • The investor will control his/her investment. In this respect control is considered to entail owning over 50% of the US enterprise.
  • The cash invested is not marginal when compared to the total investment. In general, unless it is common to the industry to have higher amounts of 'leveraging' (such as in the property industry), 51% of the investment should be in the form of cash equity. Where debt is secured against other assets of the investor, it is considered to be 'at risk', and may be considered as part of the equity invested.
  • The enterprise is (or will be) active. In order to be 'Directing and Developing' their investment, the investor will require an enterprise that involves active management.
  • US workers are (or will be) employed. The treaties envisage more than just creating a job for the principal investor, but there is no requirement to employ a particular number of US citizens. Obviously, employment of large numbers of US citizens would be viewed very favorably.
  • The enterprise, or its principal investor, has a past history of successful trading.
  • That the 'investor' has sufficient acumen to direct and develop the investment enterprise.
  • That the principal investor, and any other E2 staff, are able and willing to leave the US upon termination of their E2 status.

E1 and E2 Visa Employees

Once the principal applicant has obtained registration as a Treaty Investor or Trader, it is a relatively straightforward task to obtain E visas for qualifying employees. Obtaining the registration usually takes 4 to 6 weeks, and obtaining subsequent employee visas usually takes 10 to 15 working days.

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 in the USA. 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. Generally a resume and supporting letter from the principal is all the evidence required.

Specialist or Essential Skilled Workers:

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

  • A US resident worker could not fill the position,
  • The employment of the treaty national is necessary for the running of the principal trader or investor's business in the USA,
  • US 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. This usually amounts to $100-200. Also E-visa employees must be of the same nationality as the principal investor or trader.

Dependents of E-visa workers are also issued E visas. However, these are not authorized for employment, though such dependants may engage in study.

Treaty visa application process

After registration as a Treaty Trader or Investor, visas can be obtained for principal applicants (if they are a person rather than a company), employees and dependants in 10 to 15 working days. You provide with relevant information and we prepare and submit the application to the Treaty Visa section. Please Contact Us if you would like to acquire our services for this type of visa application.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions About Treaty Visas if you have any questions.

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