The purpose of the E-1 Treaty Trader visa is to provide nonimmigrant status for an individual who is coming to the U.S. to develop and direct an enterprise which will carry on substantial trade with the home country of the foreign national applicant.
The purpose of the E-2 Treaty Investor visa is to provide nonimmigrant status for an individual who is coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the operations of a business in the U.S. in which the applicant, or another individual with the same nationality as the applicant, has invested a substantial amount.
These visas originate from bilateral treaties of commerce and navigation between the U.S. and the foreign country. In order to qualify for E-1 or E-2 status, the U.S. must have a treaty with the home country of the foreign national.
Unlike other business categories, this visa does not require that the investor or trader maintain an operation outside of the U.S. The visa is good indefinitely (i.e. for as long as the applicant is maintaining his or her investments or trade) and may be renewed, generally, in two year increments. In addition, this visa can be granted directly by the foreign consulate without the pre-approval of USCIS. As such, it can often be obtained much more quickly than other nonimmigrant visas. This is, however, a non-immigrant visa. Dual intent is not allowed, and proving intent to return to a home country can be difficult after a long period.
How does the trader or investor demonstrate eligibility for the visa?
- E-1 Treaty Traders must submit documentation to demonstrate that the purpose of the U.S. enterprise is to engage principally in trade between the U.S. and the home country of the foreign national.
- E-2 Treaty Investors must submit documentation to demonstrate that the foreign national or an individual with the same nationality as the foreign national has invested or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount into a U.S. enterprise.
Employment authorization for E-1 and E-2 spouses:
The spouse of an E-1 or E-2 visa holder can file for and obtain independent employment authorization from USCIS. The spouse must file a separate application for employment authorization, but this employment authorization is independent of the principal spouse and entitles the E derivative spouse to employment authorization with any employer.