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E-1 And E-2 Treaty Trader And Investor


Over many years, the U.S. has entered into bilateral treaties with countries which allow their nationals to enter each other's countries to pursue activities related to trade and/or investment. Click here for a list of countries who currently have treaties with authorized admission for trade and investment; in other instances, either trade or investment only is permitted.

Trade: Goods and Services

Trade means the exchange, purchase, or sale of goods and/or services. Goods are tangible commodities or merchandise having intrinsic value. Services are economic activities whose outputs are other than tangible goods. Such services include, but are not limited to, banking, insurance, transportation, communications, data processing, advertising, accounting, design and engineering, management consulting, tourism, and technology transfer.


Investment may take numerous forms, including cash and other financial instruments, as well as capital in the form of machinery and inventory.

Who Qualifies For "E" Classification

Individual or Company

The treaty applicant may be a primary individual, a company, or an individual employed by either a primary or a company.


The foreign national seeking "E" status MUST be a national of (usually hold a passport from) a country with which the U.S. has a treaty.  For instance, under the Treaty between the U.S. and France, suppose a French individual (or company) qualifies for "E" classification. The French individual may then send himself or herself (and the company may send certain employees) to America in connection with the trade or investment. If the individual (or company) wished to send a German employee to the United States, "E" status would not be available because the (German) employee lacks common nationality with the Treaty country (France).

Executives, Managers, and Supervisors

Executives, managers, and certain supervisory employees may qualify for "E" status. Such persons should possess managerial skills and experience and should be in a position of authority and responsibility. Factors considered include title, salary, place in the organizational structure, responsibility for discretionary decisions and directing and managing business operations.

Essential Skilled Employees

Employees with knowledge or skills which are essential to the effective operation of the U.S. enterprise may also qualify for "E" status. Such factors as degree of proven expertise in the area of specialization and the length of experience or training with the company are considered.

Highly Trained Technicians and Start-Up Personnel.

"E" classifications may also be available to highly trained and specifically qualified technical employees coming to train or supervise technicians employed in manufacturing, maintenance and repair functions. (Such employees do not qualify for E-1 Trader status.)


For E-1 Trader classifications, the following minimum requirements apply:

  • A Treaty between the U.S. and the foreign national's country, specifically providing for Trader status, must exist;
  • The Visa Applicant must be a national of the Treaty country;
  • The U.S. business enterprise must be owned at least 50 percent or more by nationals of the Treaty country;
  • At least 51 percent of the trade must be between the U.S. and the country of the Trader's nationality. The percentage of trade between the two countries may be measured from the U.S. entity's perspective;
  • There must be substantial, current — not potential — amount of trade as indicated not so much by monetary measurement, but by volume (for instance, by the number of transactions); and
  • The foreign national (individual or employee) must be an executive, manager, essential skilled employee or specially qualified technician.
For E-2 Investor classification, the following minimum requirements apply:

  • A Treaty between the U.S. and the foreign national's country, specifically providing for Investor status, must exist;
  • The Visa Applicant must be a national of the treaty country;
  • The U.S. business enterprise must be owned at least 50 percent or more by nationals of  the Treaty country and must be controlled by Treaty country nationals. In some cases, such as joint ventures which by their definition usually involve 50/50 ownership, negative control may suffice to satisfy the required degree of control;
  • Business enterprise must be existing or in active process of formation;
  • There must be a substantial investment, as shown by the type of investment and the nature of the business; and
  • If the investor is an individual, he or she must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the business. Accordingly, the (individual) investor must have a controlling interest in the business. Where the investor is a company, employees of the corporate investor must be employed in an executive, managerial or other responsible capacity, as described.

Application is usually made to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in the Treaty country, though one may seek a change of status to "E" Treaty classification after arrival in the U.S. in a different status, such as B-1 Business Visitor. However, the better approach is to apply at a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S. because only U.S. Consular posts issue Visas which permit travel to the U.S.

An Application made in the U.S. to change to the "E" classification does not result in the applicant receiving and "E" Visa stamp in his or her passport. To obtain an "E" Visa, the applicant would then have to apply all over again at a U.S. consulate. Since U.S. consular offices are not required to follow the decisions of immigration officers in the U.S., a prior "E" approval by the U.S. immigration authorities is not a guarantee of subsequent "E" Visa issuance abroad.

If the entity or the individual is found eligible for Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor registration, the qualifying foreign national is asked to submit a Nonimmigrant Visa Application - which is necessary for a Visa to be issued.

Spouse And Children

The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may be issued "E" Visas, as well. They may accompany or later follow to join the principal E-1 or E-2 Visa holder. E-1 and E-2 spouses may work during the period of time that the principal E-1/E-2 Visa holder holds valid "E" Visa status. Children may not work in the U.S., though attending school is permitted. Spouses and children may remain in the U.S. for the same length of time as the principal E Visa holder.

Time Limits

The length of the Visa stamp's validity period varies depending on reciprocity and other factors, such as the strength of the underlying application. The Visa stamp does not control the period of admission to America -- it is always one year from the date of the last entry. However, there is no formal ceiling or limit on the number of years one may remain in America in "E" status.

Note that the "E" Visa is not a substitute for an Immigrant Visa, and that Traders and Investors must have an intent to depart at the end of the Visa, but are not required to retain a residence abroad to which they will return.

Employment Termination Or Layoff

For information on the impact of employment termination or layoff on a foreign national's "E" status, please click here.


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