The E-1 and E-2 visa Treaty Traders/Investors category are two similar types of work visas for foreign nationals who would like to enter the U.S. pursuant to the provisions of a treaty of commerce and navigation or bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and their country of nationality.
If an individual enters under the Trader classification, an E-1 visa, he or she must enter the U.S. solely to carry on substantial trade in services or technology between the U.S. and the foreign state. If he or she enters under the Investor category, an E-2 visa, the individual must enter solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which he or she has invested substantial capital. Employees of the investor (or the established company) may work in the U.S. if they are: (1) a Manager, or (2) an Individual serving in a technical capacity requiring training and qualifications to establish the enterprise, train or supervise persons serving in technical positions, or engage in monitoring or improving products.
How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. With An E-1 or E-2 Visa?
E-1 or E-2 visa holders may stay in the U.S. for up to two years. However, E-1 or E-2 visas can be extended in two-year increments with no limit on the maximum number of extensions. E-1 or E-2 visa holders can freely travel abroad with a two-year period of readmission when returning to the U.S.
If you fail to leave the U.S. before your status expires, you must file with USCIS to extend your stay or you will be out of status. Otherwise, to extend your E visa status you would need to apply to renew your visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad to re-enter the U.S. when your visa expires. The renewal process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate is the same as the initial application process.
Conditions for E-1 and E-2 Visas
E-1 or E-2 visa holders can only do work that they were approved for at the time that their E-1 or E-2 visa was granted. This means that E-1 or E-2 visa holders' work must be limited to the trading or investing activities that their temporary work visa status is based on. However, E-1 or E-2 visa holders can work for parent or subsidiary companies of the organization that they gained their E-1 or E-2 visa with upon the following conditions:
- An established relationship exists between the organization that the E-1 or E-2 visa holder was initially employed under and the subsidiary or parent company that the E-1 or E-2 visa holder wants to work for;
- The E-1 or E-2 visa holder fulfills an executive, supervisor or essential skill role as part of their employment with the subsidiary or parent company;
- Employment terms and conditions have not changed with the transition to the parent or subsidiary company.
If conditions of an E-1 or E-2 visa holder's employment faces substantive change, the E-1 or E-2 visa holder is legally required to notify USCIS by filing a new Form I-129. As part of this new filing process following a substantive change, E-1 or E-2 visa holders can ask for an extension for their E-1 or E-2 temporary work visa status. With this required new filing for an E-1 or E-2 visa, the applicant must prove that they still meet qualifications are still eligible for an E-1 or E-2 visa.
"Substantive changes" that require a new filing of Form I-129 include:
- Company mergers
- Company acquisitions
- Other major events that affect an applicant's previously approved relationship with a company.
Can Family Travel with E-1 or E-2 Visa Holders to the U.S?
The conditions that E-1 or E-2 visa holders' family members can work and travel to and from the U.S. are slightly different than the conditions that apply to E-1 or E-2 visa holders themselves. E-1 or E-2 visa holders are allowed to travel to the U.S. with their spouse and unmarried children who are 21 or younger. E-1 visa or E-2 visa holders' and their spouse and/or children do not need to be of the same nationality.
For E-1 or E-2 visa holders to be allowed to bring their spouse or children with them to the U.S., spouses and children of E-1 or E-2 visa applicants must apply as dependents of the E-1 or E-2 visa applicant. Spouses of E-1 visa or E-2 visa holders may also be eligible to work in the U.S..
E-1 Visa Qualifications
E-1 visa applicants must be nationals of a country that the U.S. has a treaty trade relationship with. Applicants for E-1 visas, the treaty traders visa category, must meet certain qualifications to be granted an E-1 work visa. E-1 visa qualifications include:
- The E-1 visa applicant must be a national of a treaty country;
- The company of the E-1 visa applicant must have nationality status of the treaty country;
- International trade between the U.S. and the applicant must be defined as "substantial," meaning a sizable and continued volume of trade between the two nations. Trade is defined as the international exchange of goods, services and/or technology;
- International trade that the E-1 visa applicant is involved in must be principally between the treaty country and the U.S.;
- E-1 visa applicants must serve as a supervisor, executive or have very specialized skills that are important to the company's operational efficiency.
As well as individuals, organizations can apply for E-1 visas. Organizations applying for E-1 visas must be at least 50% owned by people in the U.S. who have nationality status of the treaty country. These owners must either: (a) be maintaining nonimmigrant treaty trader status or (b) if the owners are not in the U.S., they must be, if they were to seek admission to this country, classifiable as nonimmigrant treaty traders.
What are E-2 Visas (aka Investor Visas)?
People from qualifying treaty countries who have significant investments in the United States can acquire an E-2 temporary work visa, often referred to as “investor visas.” The greater investment in the United States, the greater likelihood an applicant can qualify for an E-2 visa.
E-2 Visa Qualifications
E-2 visa qualifications include the following:
- E-2 visa applicant’s investments in the United States must be substantial
- E-2 visa applicant’s purpose to travel to the United States must be to invest in a new or existing organization.
- E-2 visa applicant’s investments in the United States must be in a business that provides goods or services and not just an investment in real estate, stocks or bonds.
- E-2 visa applicant’s investments must be in a bona fide business (see details under “E2 Visa Qualifications: Investments in a Bona Fide Business”)
- E-2 visa applicant’s investments must not be marginal (see details under “E2 Visa Qualifications: Marginal Investments”)
- E-2 visa applicant’s investments must be their own and must be committed to the business (see details under “E2 Visa Qualifications: Substantial Investments and Irrevocable Commitment”)
- E-2 visa applicants must detail where their investment funds came from (see details under “E2 Visa Qualifications: Funding Sources”)
- E-2 visa applicants must be coming to the United States to develop and oversee the organization they’re invested in (see details under “E2 Visa Qualifications: Directing and Developing Invested Organizations”)
To qualify for an E-2 visa, applicants must provide evidence that they fulfill each of the above qualifications. To get help with the E-2 visa application process, schedule a consultation with experienced immigration lawyer, Anna Putintseva, Esq.
E-2 Visa Qualifications: Investments in a Bona Fide Business
There are several ways in which E-2 visa applicants can prove that they're invested in a bona fide business. Examples of acceptable evidence include financial documents, such as:
- An Employer Identification Number from the IRS
- An applicant's tax returns
- Wage documents, such as W-2s and W-3s
- Business licenses
- Expense statements from a bank or financial institution
- Utility bills related to the business
- Ads or directory listings related to the invested in business
- Formal agreements, such as contracts and/or leases
E-2 Visa Qualifications: Marginal Investments
To qualify for an E-2 visa, an applicant must have more than marginal investments in a U.S. business. To prove that an investor visa applicant's investments meet these marginal investment criteria, applicants should provide detailed business plans that demonstrate that the invested in business will result in significant economic benefits.
Similar to the evidence that can be used to meet the bona fide business investment criteria, applicants can also prove that they meet the E-2 visa requirements by providing tax returns or wage documents (ex: W-2s and W-3s).
E-2 Visa Qualifications: Substantial Investments and Irrevocable Commitment
E-2 visa applicants can provide various forms of evidence to prove that their investments are substantial and that they have an irrevocable commitment to the organization that they're invested in. Examples of accepted forms of evidence to meet this criterion include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Corresponding bank statements between the applicant's personal and business accounts
- List of items purchased for the start-up of a business
- Financial documents, such as:
- Bill of sale
- Escrow documents
- Loan documents
- Valuation of business assets, including stocks
E-2 Visa Qualifications: Funding Sources
The purpose of meeting this qualification is to verify that the E-2 visa applicant's business is funded by legitimate sources. This is done to prevent businesses from being funded by criminal activity.
Fulfillment of this qualification can be done through providing financial documents, such as wire transfers, bank statements, tax returns and/or loan documents.
E-2 Visa Qualifications: Directing and Developing Invested Organizations
E-2 visa qualifications also include proving that the applicant intends to be a part of the investing company's development and direction. This can be proven by providing various forms of documentation. These documents could include a list of owners and their percentage of ownership. Other documents to prove that an E-2 visa applicant meets this requirement could include the organization's by-laws, meeting minutes or formal agreements (such as partnership agreements or franchise agreements).
Don't Risk Rejection. Talk to An Experienced Immigration Lawyer
Meeting the qualifications for an E-1 or E-2 visa requires a high attention to detail and an in-depth understanding of the requirements. Anna Putintseva is an experienced business immigration lawyer who has helped E-1 and E-2 visa applicants through the often difficult and confusing process of obtaining a temporary work visa in the E-1 and E-2 classifications. Schedule an appointment with her today.
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