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E Visas

What are E visas? 

E visas allow nonimmigrant treaty leaders and investors to temporarily come to the United States under a treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and the nonimmigrant’s country of origin. There are two general types of E visa. The E-1 visa is available to treaty traders who conduct substantial trade in goods. The E-2 visa is available to treaty investors who invest a substantial amount of money and direct the operations of an enterprise they have invested in or are actively investing in. Additionally, the E-3 visa is available to Australians who work in a specialty occupation. 

What are the differences between the E-1 and E-2 visas?

  • E-1 visa

The E-1 visa is available to individuals participating in the trade of goods with the United States and who are citizens of countries with which the United States has a standing applicable treaty of commerce and application. E-1 visa holders are admitted to the United States solely to participate in international trade on their own behalf. Certain employees of an E-1 visa holder or of a qualifying organization may also receive an E-1 visa. 

  • E-2 visa

The E-2 visa is available to individuals participating in investment in a United States business and who are citizens of countries with which the United States has a standing applicable treaty of commerce and navigation. Certain employees of an E-2 visa holder or of a qualifying organization may also receive an E-2 visa. 

Who qualifies for each type of E visa?

  • E-1 visa

To qualify for an E-1 visa, an individual must: 

  • Be a treaty trader;
  • Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation or qualifying international agreement, or has been granted qualifying status by legislation;
  • Participate in substantial trade; 
  • Participate in principal trade between the United States and the individual’s treaty country.
  • E-2 visa

To qualify for an E-2 visa, an individual must: 

  • Be a treaty trader;
  • Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation;
  • Be in the process of investing, or have already invested, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States; 
  • Be seeking to enter the United States for the sole purpose of developing and directing the investment enterprise. 
    • This is shown by having at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device. 

What qualifies as trade under the E-1 visa? 

Trade is defined as the existing international exchange of items for consideration between the United States and the treaty country.

Substantial trade refers to an amount of trade that ensures a continuous volume of international trade items between the United States and the treaty country. There is no minimum monetary value requirement for each transaction; instead, the amount of exchanges combined with their value is relevant to determining substantiality. 

Principal trade exists when over 50% of the volume of international trade of the treaty trader is between the trader’s country and the United States. 

Some items of trade include: 

  • Transportation
  • International banking
  • Insurance
  • Goods 
  • Services
  • Technology and its transfer
  • Tourism 
  • Some news-gathering activities 

What qualifies as investment under the E-2 visa? 

Investment is defined as the treaty investor’s placing of a substantial amount of capital, including funds and/or other assets, at risk in a bona fide enterprise with the goal of producing profit. The investment must be subject to partial or total loss if the investment fails and the treaty investor must show that the funds have not been achieved from criminal activity, either directly or indirectly. The investment cannot be speculative or idle — it must be in a real operating enterprise.

A substantial amount of capital means: 

  • Substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one; 
  • Sufficient to establish the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the success of the enterprise; 
  • A magnitude that supports the likelihood that the treaty investor will be successful in developing and directing the enterprise.
    • For lower-cost enterprises, the investment must be proportionately higher to be considered substantial. 

A bona fide enterprise refers to a real, active, and operational commercial or entrepreneurial endeavor that produces goods or services for profit and is legally operative in its jurisdiction. 

An investment enterprise deemed “marginal” does not qualify as bona fide under the E-2 visa. An investment enterprise is marginal if it does not have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the treaty investor and his or her family. 

What is the process for obtaining an E visa? 

The application process for obtaining an E-1 and E-2 visa is essentially similar, though certain different information is required based on the purpose of each visa and some distinctions may exist depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant submits his or her petition. 

Generally, the applicant must: 

  • Submit form DS-160 online;
  • Register with the online Yatri system and pay applicable visa fees for the applicant and his or her family members; 
  • The E visa application should be emailed to the applicable U.S. Embassy or Consulate with all required documentation included;
  • After the application has been reviewed, the applicant will be prompted to schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country. 

Required Forms

  • Receipt showing payment of the non-refundable application fees; 
  • Completed form DS-156E for principal applicant only; 
  • Form G-28 for applicant’s represented by an attorney; 
  • Form DS-160 barcode confirmation pages for principal E visa applicant and family members.

Applicant Information

  • Marriage certificate or children’s birth certificates for principal applicants accompanied by family members; 
  • Principal applicant’s resume or curriculum vitae; 
  • If applicant is an employee and not the business owner, a job letter from the company should be included and should describe:
    • The business;
    • The job the applicant will do and his or her qualifications for the job; 
    • Signed statement from applicant vowing to leave the United States upon termination of E visa status; 
    • Copies of any changes or extensions of status granted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via form I-797.

Ownership Verification 

  • Evidence that nationals own at least 50% of the business:
    • Articles of incorporation or organization for a United States business; 
    • Share certificates and/or operating agreements to verify ownership; 
    • For firms with several owners or subsidiaries: 
      • Organization chart showing full ownership structure of company; 
      • Legal proof of ownership within structure; 
      • Color photocopies of passports of each unit holder of the parent company and the percentage of ownership; 
      • For firms publicly traded with many shareholders, where none own more than 50%: 
        • A written declaration authorized by a corporate official that states the stock exchanges on which the firm has traded; 
        • A copy of recently issued trading information reflecting the nationality of the stock’s owners; 
        • A chart of ownership of the enterprise and certificate of registration from the state or province in which the company is incorporated, if incorporated outside the United States. 

Trade Verification

  • Detailed cover letter describing how the enterprise and visa applicant qualify for the E-1 visa, including evidence tracing and identifying traded goods and the quantity traded with the United States.

How much does it cost to get an E visa? 

The application fee for an E visa is $205. An issuance fee may also need to be paid one the applicant’s visa is approved, depending on the applicant’s nationality. 

What countries qualify under an E visa? 

Numerous countries qualify under either the E-1 visa, the E-2 visa, or both. A full listing of qualifying countries and the applicable visa is available at the United States Department of State website. 

How long are E visas valid? 

The initial length of stay for E visa holders is capped at two years. Extensions may be granted in increments of two years each and there is no limit to the number of extensions E visa holders may be granted. 

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.