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E-1 Treaty Traders
E-2 Treaty Investors

The U.S. has entered into reciprocal treaties with 78 countries, permitting foreign national businesspeople to obtain E-1 and/or E-2 visas to develop and direct businesses. The foreign national must be coming to the U.S. to work as an executive, manager, or “essential” worker.

The foreign national visa applicant must have the same nationality as that of the majority owners of the enterprise or firm. The majority ownership of the business must be held by nationals of the treaty country. Joint ventures (50/50 percent ownership) may qualify foreign nationals having citizenship of the countries of which the venture’s owners have citizenship, even if they are separate treaty countries.

Substantial investment or trade is required. This is defined as the amount necessary to run the business or investing a high percentage of cash. Borrowed funds are permissible in certain circumstances.

Foreign nationals setting up new enterprises may be issued E visas valid for up to five years, but it is common for the consul to issue a one- to two-year visa for a new business. Spouses of E-2 visa holders may obtain authorization to work in the U.S.


  • Requirements
    • Treaty with United States and applicant’s country of citizenship
    • E-1 substantial trade; E-2 substantial investment
    • Company owned 50%+ by citizens of treaty country
    • Worker must be an executive, manager, or have essential knowledge
    • Often a five-year visa; admission for two years at a time
    • Must prove investment or trade is substantial, and company is not “marginal” solely to earn a living
  • At Risk

    American consuls worldwide have been requiring that a significant portion of the invested funds be put to work before the E-2 visa is issued. More often, consuls do not view funds in a bank account as being “at risk.” This can create difficulties, as one cannot run a new U.S. enterprise until the E-2 visa is issued. We have advised a number of businesspeople on developing their enterprise, and have been successful in advocating to consuls that the enterprise is ready to be launched and the funds are at risk.

  • E Visa Treaty Countries

    Some countries only have an E-1 treaty, while others have E-1 and E-2 treaties. A list of the current treaty countries can be found here.

Steps for Obtaining an E-1 or E-2 Visa
  • Step 1

    Lawler & Lawler will provide by email a questionnaire and list of documents needed for the company and visa applicant. We will then evaluate whether investment or trade is “substantial.”

  • Step 2

    Determine whether the business is not a “marginal” enterprise.

  • Step 3

    Documents are gathered to prove company satisfied E visa criteria, and applicant has ability to run or manage the business, or has essential knowledge about the company.

  • Step 4

    Working with the employer and/or visa applicant, we prepare visa application forms and supporting letter, and assemble supporting documents.

  • Step 5

    E visa application is submitted to consul for a visa stamp. Applicants in the U.S. can apply to change to E status. However, upon departure from the U.S., one must obtain an E visa stamp before returning to the U.S.

  • Step 6

    When necessary, we discuss case with the consul.

  • Step 7

    Applicant appears at consul for interview.

  • Step 8

    Applicant comes to the U.S. and presents E visa for admission with I-94 form.