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:
E2 visas may only be applied for by people or companies from the following countries:
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:
1) 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.
2) 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
3) The investor will control his/her investment. In this respect control is considered to entail owning over 50% of the US enterprise.
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) The enterprise, or its principal investor, has a past history of successful trading.
8) That the 'investor' has sufficient acumen to direct and develop the investment enterprise.
9) That the principal investor, and any other E2 staff, are able and willing to leave the US upon termination of their E2 status.
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 L1 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:
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.
Can I gain E status as a self-employed professional?No. The principal applicant should be going to the USA to ‘develop and direct’ his/her trade or investment, not to be a factor of production or trade in his/her own right. Thus accountants, IT consultants, doctors, lawyers, etc, cannot obtain E status to enable themselves to practice their profession in the USA.
How long can I stay in the USA in E status?Indefinitely, provided the level of international trade or the value of you investment in the US remains sufficient to justify your being there. Registration is initially valid for between two and five years, but can be renewed any number of times.
Why isn’t my country eligible for E status?The treaties which give rise to eligibility for E status are generally on a reciprocal basis, in that they will also entitle US persons and companies to obtain similar immigration rights in the other treaty country. Nations with restrictive inward investment policies or currency controls are unlikely to have such a treaty with the United States. Further, most recent treaties entered into by the United States with e.g. the former Communist countries tend to be Bilateral Investment Treaties, conferring only E2 eligibility on nationals of the other contracting state. Note also that existing treaties may be suspended if the United States’ relationship with the other treaty signatory deteriorates significantly or that country is subject to international sanctions, etc.
What is the minimum amount of trade or investment needed to qualify?There is no set minimum level, though obviously the lower the amount of trade or investment the less likely it is that the application will succeed. The amount necessary will also depend on the type of business or trade engaged in.
What are the alternatives if I or my employees do not qualify for E-status?The L1 intra company transfer visa is the most obvious choice, though the H1B speciality occupation visa is also a possibility. In addition, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor is an option which eventually leads to US permanent residency. However, this visa is extremely difficult and time-consuming to obtain.
Can E-visa dependants work?Dependents of E1 or E2 principals or employees are also issued E1 or E2 visas. However, these are stamped ‘Not Employment Authorized’. While such dependents are not expressly prohibited from taking employment, they are likely to encounter practical difficulties in doing so, as they will lack the required documentation. Also, E dependants taking employment risk jeopardizing any future application for permanent residency.