If you are a trader or investor from another country, you may already be familiar with something known as “e-visas.” So, let’s say you have little information at your fingertips on what an E-visa is but others have told you that it is something you need to obtain. You may be wondering whom an E-visa is perfect for and how it will suit your lifestyle. An E-1 Visa is a treaty trader visa, nonimmigrant in nature, which allows foreign nationals of a treaty nation to enter into the U.S. and carry out trade activities. The treaty trader countries associated with these visas include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea (South), Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Paraguay, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia. There is also an E-2 Visa that is known as a treaty investor visa. There is a long list of countries with treaties allowing them to send E-2 investors to the U.S. Nationals who qualify for this visa have made a significant investment in the United States and can use this investor status. There are some guidelines for these visas, however. The following is true:
- E-1: The volume of the trade must be enough to justify them residing in the county to manage the trade. It must also constitute to 50% of the Trader’s exports or imports to and from the United States. The lower the volume of trade, the less likely you are to qualify.
- E-2: Like the E-1, there is no set minimum of investment that may help someone qualify. However, the lower the investment, the least likely one is to qualify at all. The investment must take place in an operating, active business. This means that activities like buying property or stocks will not qualify, because these are passive investments. Much of the investment must also be made before applying for E-2 status (SIA).
If you are successful in gaining these visas, you will be able to enjoy many benefits and privileges. You will be able to work legally in the United States for a company where more than 50% of the business is trade between the U.S. and your home country. You will also be able to enjoy the many benefits of travelling freely in and out of the United States without issue. You can stay in the United States, actually, for an unlimited five years or two years as long as you maintain your status as well as bringing your dependents along with you. However, you must remember that this visa is employer specific, which means you may only work for the specific employer that acted as your sponsor (VP).
More Specifics on E-2 Visas
- There should be substantial investment in the company. There is no minimum amount of investment required under the regulations, but from my experience, I can tell you that the better E-2 cases start with an investment of $200,000 or more. Any investment below $100,000 would definitely need a very strong supportive case.
- The investment should entail a risk to the investor and the investor will control need to control his or her investment. The E-2 investor must own 50% or more of the enterprise.
- Employment of large numbers is viewed favorably.
How Do You Apply for E Visas?
So, your next step is the actual application process. Most E visa applicants apply outside of the U.S. at a U.S. consulate. First of all, you need to complete and sign Form DS-160, which is the Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You must also complete and sign Form DS-156E, which is the Treaty or Trader Investor Application. Then, there are some several documents you will need as well to go with these important forms, including:
- Documents establishing the identity of your company’s nationality
- A letter from your employer detailing your position and a statement that you possess the management or specialized skills necessary for the efficient operation of the firm
- If you are applying for an E-1 visa, you will need evidence of substantial trade for at least a year between the United States and your home country
- Marriage and birth certificates of you and your family members
- A passport with valid travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay
- Color passport style photographs (37 x 37mm) for each member listed in the visa application (VP)
There are many other documents needed, and the document requirements vary from Consulate to Consulate.
Other Important Visa-Related Questions
So, now that you understand a little about how these visas work, you may have some questions. Here are some of the most popular questions you may have regarding your visa and what to expect.
What happens if I am a self-employed professional? You will not be able to gain E status, unfortunately. As a principal applicant, you should be going to the United States to develop and direct your trade or investment, not be a factor of production or trade. This means that people who are accountants, IT consultants, doctors, or lawyers will not be able to obtain E status to enable themselves to practice their profession, but they may start a business that will hire others in their profession to obtain an E visa.
What happens if I do not qualify for the E Status? If you do not meet the requirements, you may apply for a L1 intra company transfer visa. However, you also have options for an H1B specialty occupation visa, or possible another visa, such as a TN or O visa.
What happens to my family? As mentioned before, your family will probably be able to come with you because treaty traders and employees may be accompanied by their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old. They will probably, if approved, be granted the same period of stay as the employee. If the spouse is approved, there is no specific restriction as to where the E-1 spouse is permitted to work.
Where should I file my visa application and what is the processing time? If you are in a lawful status in the U.S., you should submit your visa application to a USCIS Service Center office in the U.S. However, if you are outside the U.S., you should submit the visa application to the U.S. consular office in your home country. The processing time for these visas is generally between two and four months from the filing date of the application. However, it could depend upon overall workload.
If you believe that an E Visa is right for you and a choice you want to make for yourself, your professional growth, and your family, then you should start the application process as quickly as possible. However, you may have more questions. You should speak to an attorney who has experience in immigration law to guide you through the process. For these needs, you can call the Valdez Immigration Law Firm. We will guide you through the complex process and give you any advice you need.
SIA. SIA workpermit.com, 2008. Web. Accessed Jan 24, 2016. http://www.workpermit.com/us/investor_e1_e2.htm#Efaq