E-1 Visa and E-2 Visa: Which One You Should Apply?

E-1 Visa and E-2 Visa: Which One You Should Apply?

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The E1 and E2 visas are two types of nonimmigrant worker visas. The E1 visa is for Treaty Traders, while E2 is for Treaty Investors.

Holders of the E1 trader visa are meant to carry out trade activities in the US on a temporary basis, whereas E2 investor visa holders can make investments and move to the US temporarily. You must note however that E1 and E2 both are issued to nonimmigrants of select countries with which the US has a treaty of Trade and Commerce.

The differences between E1 and E2 are significant and subtle, thus you should choose the visa that fits your situation the best.

This article might help you decide whether visa type E1 or E2 would be suitable for you.

E1 Trader Visa

The E1 visa allows anindividual trader or an employee of a US trading company to work legally on trading operations inside the US.

The US company with which the individual is associated should carry out at least 50% of the business with the individual's country.

The trader or the trading employee must belong to one of the treaty countries of trade and commerce listed by the US. If your country is not on the list, you will not be eligible for this visa type E1.

Trade activities are not restricted to any specific trade or industry, so as long as it's legal you can engage in any kind of trade.

The initial time period for an E1 trader visa is 2 years, which can later be renewed in 2-year increments an unlimited number of times.

The 2 years initial validity is just a general indicator. The actual validity varies from case to case as various factors affect the initial validity. Factors like reciprocity rules between treaty countries, your nationality, application method, and portfolio of enterprise decide the initially approved period of stay.

According to USCIS, the trade in goods and services should be 'substantial' in terms of value and volume. Some examples of trade activity enterprises that qualify under the E1 category include International Banking, Insurance, Transportation, Tourism, and Communications.

Advantages and Limitations of the E-1 Status

Some advantages of E1 status include:

  • Ability to travel freely in and out of the US while possessing a nonimmigrant status.
  • Ability to stay on a prolonged basis by taking two-year increments, with an unlimited number of extensions.
  • Ability to keep your dependents with you in the US, as long as you maintain your status.

Some limitations of the E1 status include:

  • The fact that you are restricted to working on the self-employed business, or for the specific employer that acted as your E1 sponsor.
  • The E1 trader visa is available only to foreign nationals of select treaty countries.

E2 Investor Visa

The E2 investor visa allows foreign nationals of treaty countries to invest in and manage a business in the US. This is a non-immigrant visa available only to the residents of countries having a bilateral investment treaty with the US, as in the case of the E1.

Some businesses that you can invest in under the E2 status are real estate, tourism, education, home services, gastronomy, construction, pets and personal care, and others. In short, the investment must be in a legal business, and should be 'substantial'.

Substantial is a vague term, however, it implies that- in a substantial business investment the investment funds or assets are committed and irrevocable i.e. the money invested in the enterprise should be at risk; the investment must be sufficient to carry out day-to-day business tasks or the successful operation of the enterprise.

Advantages and Limitations of the E-2 Status

Below are a few great benefits of this status:

  • The ability to live and work in the US for an extended period of time
  • The ability to travel freely in and out of the States, and bring your children & spouse to the country.

E2 also comes with a few disadvantages:

  • Investors from only a few countries are allowed.
  • The investment fund must be substantial, at risk, and under control.
    • Generally speaking, a minimum investment of USD 100,000 in an enterprise supports a good visa type E2 case. In case, you are unable to make this much investment, then you can invest lesser than USD 100,000 in low-cost startup businesses.
    • Basically “substantial” investment amount differs and depends on the overall value of the enterprise.
  • The investor's sole purpose for coming to the US must only be the development and management of the bona fide enterprise.

Common Eligibility Requirements for E1 and E2

  1. Treaty Requirement

Firstly, the applicant's home country must have a valid treaty of trade and commerce or a bilateral investment treaty with the US.

  1. Nationality Requirement The applicant must be a national of the listed treaty countries.

  2. Ownership or Control The applicant or their employer must have either a 50% ownership of the trading company/ investment enterprise, or they should have operational control of the enterprise through a managerial position.

  3. Investment/Trade Requirement The individual or their associating trade company/investment enterprise must engage in or make an investment in a substantial manner.

The trade should have a continuous flow of goods, services, or technology. In the case of substantial investment, it should ensure the success and viability of the business.

See also: Employment Visa Options in the US

E1 and E2- Key Differences

While both visas have lots of similarities in terms of validity, treaty countries, and broad purposes, they also have a few considerable differences.

Check the following key differences between E1 and E2

  1. The primary focus of E1 is Trade, while that of E2 is Investment.
  2. The broad purpose of the E1 trader visa is to promote and facilitate ongoing trade activities of the US with treaty countries. While an E2 investor visa purposefully supports the growth and success of a US enterprise, with the help of a treaty country.
  3. The applicant is not required to make any sort of investment for obtaining E1, while it is a must for visa type E2.
  4. Generally, the initial validity of the E1 and E2 are up to two years. The validity varies from country to country. However, you could be granted two years of extensions with no limit.
  5. The initial validity for E1 and E2 is subject to your country of residence, the age of your enterprise, and reciprocity rules between your country and the US.

See Also: Visa for Entrepreneurs in the US

List of E1 and E2 Treaty Countries

Over 60 countries have the treaty of trade and commerce with the US, as of 2023.

Wondering whether your country is on the list or not? You can check the full list of E-1 and E-2 treaty countries here.

Choosing the Right Visa

If you are still wondering which one you should choose, you can weigh in a few factors for making the best choice.

The following are the factors to consider when deciding between E-1 and E-2 visas.

Nature of Business Activities

Assess the type of activities you or your company are primarily engaged in.

If your business involves substantial trade between your home country and the United States, the E-1 may be more suitable. Conversely, if your goal is to make a substantial investment in a U.S. enterprise, the E-2 would be a better fit.

Capital Investment Capacity

You should evaluate your financial resources and determine the amount of capital you are willing and able to invest.

The E-2 status requires a substantial amount of investment, which should be sufficient to ensure the success, viability, and reciprocity of the business. So, if you have the financial means to make a significant investment, E-2 may be a viable option for you.

On the other hand, if you have limited capital but you engage in substantial trade, the E-1 status might be a better choice.

Long-Term Goals and Plans

Reflect on your long-term objectives in the United States. If you intend to establish a long-term presence and actively participate in trade or investment activities, evaluate which status provides the most suitable framework for your goals.

Consider other factors such as the duration of the stay allowed under both visa statuses, the potential for renewal, and the path to permanent residency or other immigration options for playing it long term.

Each individual's situation is unique, and thus it is recommended that besides eligibility requirements, benefits, and other provisions, you evaluate your individual circumstances too, and then opt for the choice between E-1 and E-2.

Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can help you make an informed decision on the basis of your individual profile, needs, and goals.

We are Here to Help

You can obtain an E1 trader visa or E2 investor visa by meeting the eligibility requirements, being from the treaty country, and by demonstrating substantial trade/investment in a US enterprise.

However, a single mistake or omission in your application can cost you denial, so the visa rules, eligibility, and application process must be carefully adhered to. If you feel hesitant filling out the application or making the formalities yourself, and want to ensure your application is perfect, leave us a message or schedule a video meeting now. Our immigration advisor would take care of the rest.


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