E Visa – Visa for Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors

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HomeUS Visa & ImmigrationE Visa – Visa for Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors

An E Visa is a non-immigrant visa status for a citizen of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. It’s for visitors who are coming to the United States to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, principally between the United States and the treaty country, or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital.

Trade must already be established at the time the E visa application is filed. Investments, however, may be prospective, provided that the funds are irrevocably committed to the investment, contingent only upon the issuance of the visa. Investment funds may come from any country, including the U.S., as long as they are controlled by the investor applicant.

There are two types of E visa: E1 Treaty Trader Visa and E2 Treaty Investor Visa.

The E1 Treaty Trader Visa

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.

The following countries have treaties with the United States that allow qualifying nationals to apply for Treaty Trader status:
ArgentinaChina (ROC)FranceItalyNetherlandsSweden
AustriaCosta RicaGreeceKoreaOmanThailand

Visa Eligibility

  • The applicant must be a citizen of a treaty country (listed above);
  • The trading firm for which the applicant is coming to the U. S. must have the nationality of the treaty country;
  • The international trade must be “substantial” in the sense that there is a sizable and continuing volume of trade;
  • The trade must be principally between the U.S. and the treaty country, which is defined to mean that more than 50 percent of the international trade involved must be between the U.S. and the country of the applicant’s nationality;
  • Trade means the international exchange of goods, services, and technology. Title of the trade items must pass from one party to the other; and
  • The applicant must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess highly specialized skills essential to the efficient operation of the firm. Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify.

The E2 Treaty Investor Visa

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 visas may only be applied for by people or companies from the following countries:
ArgentinaChina (ROC)GeorgiaKyrgyzstanPakistanSwitzerland
AustriaCosta RicaHondurasLuxembourgPolandTrinidad and Tobago
BangladeshThe Czech RepublicIranMexicoRomaniaTunisia
BelgiumEgyptItalyMoldoviaThe Slovak RepublicThe Ukraine
Bosnia-HerzegovinaEstoniaJamaicaMongoliaSpainUnited Kingdom
BulgariaEthiopiaJapanNetherlandsSri LankaUzbekistan

Visa Eligibility

  • The investor, either a real or corporate person, must be a citizen of a treaty country (listed above);
  • The investment must be substantial. It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise. The percentage of investment for a low-cost business enterprise must be higher than the percentage of investment in a high-cost enterprise;
  • The investment must be a real operating enterprise. Speculative or idle investment does not qualify. Uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security are not considered an investment;
  • The investment may not be marginal. It must generate significantly more income than just to provide a living to the investor and family, or it must have a significant economic impact in the United States;
  • The investor must have control of the funds, and the investment must be at risk in the commercial sense. Loans secured with the assets of the investment enterprise are not allowed; and
  • The investor must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity. Ordinary skilled and unskilled workers do not qualify.


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

Visa Application

Required Documentation

Each applicant for the visa must pay a non-refundable US$100 application fee and submit:

  • An application Form DS-156E, completed and signed. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person must complete an application.
  • One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements.
  • All male nonimmigrant visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45, regardless of nationality and regardless of where they apply, must complete and submit a form DS-157 in addition to the Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-156E).
  • As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.

Optional Documentation

An applicant for a Treaty Trader (E-1) or Treaty Investor (E-2) visa must first establish that the trading enterprise or investment enterprise meets the requirements of the law. The consular officer will provide the applicant with special forms for this purpose. An applicant may also be asked to provide evidence, which illustrates that the stay in the U.S. will be temporary. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.

How to apply for the Visa?

Learn more about the step by step process for acquiring a visa to the United States.

Dependants of E Visa Holders

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, may receive derivative E visas in order to accompany the principal alien. Dependents are not authorized to work in the United States with the E Visa Status. You may also bring a domestic or personal servant on nonimmigrant status, provided you can show that:

  • He or she is not abandoning his or her residence abroad
  • He or she has served you for at least one year, or has had an ongoing employment relationship with you and has at least one year of experience as a servant

Can Dependants Study?

Yes, your dependents may join U.S. schools, colleges and universities on E visa, and do not have to apply for separate student visa such as an F-1 visa.

Can Dependants Work?

Yes, your dependants may seek employment by applying for Employment Authorization using Form I-765.

Time Limits on the Visa

Holders of E visas may reside in the United States as long as they continue to maintain their status with the enterprise.

E Visa Privileges

  • You can work legally in the U.S. for a U.S. company where more than 50% of the business is trade between the U.S. and your home country
  • You can travel freely in and out of the U.S. in the duration of your visa
  • You can stay in the U.S. on a prolonged basis with unlimited two year extensions as long as you maintain E-1 qualifications
  • You can bring your dependents along to the U.S.

Green Card for E Visa Holders

You may apply for Green Card while in the U.S. through the following options:

  • Family Based Immigration: If you have close relatives who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, the relatives may file an immigration petition for you as the beneficiary.
  • Employment Based Immigration (Labor Certification): You can attain immigrant status through employment-based immigration. You may find an employer who is willing to file a Labor Certificate for you with the DOL.
  • EB-1: You may also file an immigration petition based on the classification of ‘Alien of Extraordinary Ability’ – EB-1(A) or ‘Multinational Executive or Manager’ – EB-1(C).
  • National Interest Waiver: You can also file an immigration petition through a National Interest Waiver (NIW). National Interest Waivers are available to foreign nationals who are seeking work in a profession and who have an advanced degree (or equivalent experience) or can prove themselves as ‘aliens of exceptional ability’.

E Visa FAQ’s

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.

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 specialty 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 I change status while on E-1 visa?

Yes, you may apply for change of status while on E-1 visa. You must submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, indicating your change of status with appropriate supporting documents.

Can I study on E-1 visa?

Yes, you may study on E-1 visa. However, you may not join full-length study programs. You may take up a few credits at a university provided they do not harm the primary interest of your visa.

What is ‘substantial trade’?

Substantial trade is that volume sufficient to ensure continuous flow (numerous transactions over time) of international trade between the U.S. and treaty country. There is no value or volume minimum. However, smaller businesses are expected to yield income sufficient to support the treaty trader and his or her family.

What is ‘principal trade’?

When over 50 per cent of the volume of the treaty trader’s international trade is conducted between the U.S. and the country of nationality it is termed.



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