Business Start-ups: E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor

Overview for Individuals and necessary work visas

E visas, or treaty work visas, allow foreign born individuals to come to the United States for the purpose of establishing a business to either carry out international trade or to invest in and run a viable business. The individual must be a national of a country which has entered into a trader or investor treaty with the United States. Qualifying individuals and entities do not have to maintain ties to their home country (except for the U.K.), may engage in self-employment, and may renew the visa to remain in the United States indefinitely. The E category contains two subcategories, one for trade visas (E-1) and the other for investor visas (E-2). If you wish to explore the E visa you should first determine which treaty your country has with the U.S. in order to know which visa type should be pursued. In the case of countries with treaties allowing for both types of E visas, the decision as to which visa to apply for becomes a business decision.

If you trade goods or services with the United States, then the E-1 visa might be the right choice for you. The E-1 treaty trader visa provides an option for an individual to travel to the United States for the purpose of carrying on significant trade between his or her country and the United States. The visa holder must be a citizen of a country that has concluded an applicable trader treaty with the United States and own at least 50% of a business which conducts a substantial flow of trade (goods or services) between the United States and the visa holder’s home country.

If you wish to establish a business in the United States then the E-2 visa might be the right choice for you. The E-2 treaty investor visa allows individuals who qualify as “treaty investors” to travel to the United States. The visa holder must be a citizen of a country that has concluded an applicable investor treaty with the United States, own at least 50% of a business in which a significant amount of capital has been invested or is in the process of being invested, and reside in the United States for the purposes of developing and directing the operations of this business. Note that executive/supervisory/specialized knowledge employees of E companies who share the same nationality as the owners may also qualify for E-2 status.

Duration of Stay

The E visa is typically given for 2 years at first, depending on the specific treaty in existence between the foreign national’s home country and the U.S., and assuming business success, thereafter for 5 years at a time. However, the visa status can usually be renewed indefinitely provided the conditions for granting E status are met.

Spouses and Dependents

Spouses and dependent children (unmarried and under age 21) of an E visa holder can engage in incidental activities, such as tourism, and attend school in the United States, and can also apply for work authorization.