About the E Visa

An E visa is a type of non-immigrant visa available to individuals who seek to enter the United States temporarily to manage their business. The “1” stands for “treaty trader.” And the “2” stands for “treaty investor.” The E visa is specifically designed for individuals who come from countries that have signed treaties with the United States.

Some countries have E-1 visas only, and some have E-2 visas only.  The majority of treaties are both for E-1 and E-2.  Some treaties, like the treaty signed with the United Kingdom, have been signed as far back as 1815, while others were signed as recently as 2005, like with Costa Rica and Australia, and even in 2019 with New Zealand.

Unlike H-1Bs, or EB1 through EB-5 categories for a green card, there is no annual quota for the E visa. A person who is granted an E visa has the full right to live and work in his/her business in the United States.  It has almost the same benefits of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) without necessarily the same tax responsibilities.

More specifically, E visa holders can fill out a non-resident US tax return and can only claim US earnings and pay taxes exclusively on income earned in the US.  There are other tax regulations they have to consider in order to qualify for this benefit, but the tax credit is available to E visa holders as it is a non-immigrant visa (NIV).

E-2 visas are granted to individuals with a citizenship of a treaty country who can demonstrate the following:

– They invested personally held funds of a substantial amount into their business in the US

– They put 100% of their invested personal funds at risk

– They can generate non-marginal return from their investment

– Their investment can create a positive effect on the US economy.

E-1 treaty traders, on the other hand, are individuals with a citizenship of a treaty country who can demonstrate they do 50% or more trade between the US and their treaty country of citizenship.  They don’t have to spend most of their time living in the US or have a US branch.

Treaty Investor and Treaty Traders on E visas are also allowed to bring E visa managers to work in their business–as long as they hold the same citizenship as the original E visa investor and have job experience to fulfill the required managerial job.  This is a great visa to bring specialists from treaty countries without the wait or requirement of a 4-year college degree.

Most E visas are processed overseas, because it will allow the E visa holder to freely travel internationally while living and working in the US on the E visa. But if one cannot travel or consulate is closed and they are already in the US Please note that the reciprocity with each country is different and hence the amount of time granted on a specific E visa holder differs from country to country.

This status can also change from time to time so always check the department of state webpage for updates.  Some treaties may be withdrawn, as what happened with Iran. Some treaties may extend validity from 3 months to 60 months, as with Armenia for example, while others, like France, may decrease validity from 5 years to 2 years.

While in the United States, an E visa holder may apply for an extension of stay based on either business travel or investment immigration through USCIS for up to 2 years during which time if the E visa holder leaves the US, they would have to apply through the U.S. consulate for an E visa again to return to the US.  The application for extension of stay is made on Form I-129: Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. The petition is filed with the supporting documentation and appropriate fees. A premium processing rate is available for such extensions.

In order to demonstrate that he or she qualifies for an E-1 status as a treaty trader, an applicant must be engaged in substantial trade between countries that have signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. A treaty trader applicant must prove that his or her trade will continue, and that the applicant will spend a significant portion of his or her time in the U.S. engaged in trade activities.

In determining whether an applicant is engaged in substantial trade, an E-2 visa holder needs to demonstrate that they invested personally held funds of a substantial amount into their business in the US, put 100% of their invested personal funds at risk, can generate non-marginal return from their investment, and that their investment can create a positive effect on the US economy.  In their assessment, USCIS looks at the “totality of the circumstances”.

Green Cards

An E visa does not directly lead to a green card. Instead, one usually has to find other ways to become eligible to obtain legal permanent residency (a.k.a. green card).

Since an E2 visa is designed for businesspersons who have invested a substantial amount of money in the United States, this investment can be used as an initial investment into an EB-5 immigrant investor visa category.  Also, if an E visa holder can show their extraordinary abilities within management or other areas, they can apply for EB-1 or EB-2 with National Interest Waiver categories.

An E visa holder can live and work in the United States as long as their business qualifies under the regulations and if the country still has an active treaty with the United States.  However, an E visa holder has to constantly renew his/her visa which can become stressful, time consuming, and costly.  A more permanent plan to create a stable life/work environment for many E visa holders is to obtain a green card.

Eligibility for a green card may be based on:

For those seeking green cards, such as E treaty visa holders, the application process is specifically designed to allow expedited processing time by providing applicants with Form I-129, the I-140 petition, and supporting documentation at the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad or USCIS. The filing of an I-129 visa petition with consular processing is called “direct filing”; while filing an I-485 based on a change of employment requires that the applicant go through “adjustment of status” in the United States.

Green cards are issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and are usually given to immigrants within 8-10 months of applying for them, but there have been cases where they take up to two years or longer to be issued.  That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially increased the amount of time all immigration cases are processed in.

Applicants may file for immediate family members as well as whether they are in the United States or not.

E visa managers can be sponsored by their E visa companies through a process known as PERM to obtain their green card in the United States.

Another way to look at obtaining a green card is to see if E visa holder’s spouse, who will have an unrestricted work authorization in the United States, could be sponsored by their US employers through a PERM process to obtain a green card for the entire family including the E visa investor.

Why E-2 Visas and green cards are important ?

Over the last decade, immigration has been a hot topic in many countries around the world. This influx of immigrants is due to other countries declaring war on a certain country and opening their borders as well as globalization which has led to an increase in population. People from other countries are now entering other countries and some are staying permanently doing different jobs such as medical professionals or software engineers.

In order for these immigrants to be able to work and live in this country without any troubles, they must have proper documentation including visas or green cards. Without these documents, coming into contact with law enforcement or the government could even lead to deportation back home.

This article is based on legal statutes, information taken from the USCIS official website, US consulates abroad, and various sources within the United States.