TREATY INVESTMENT E-1 VISA

Are you business minded? Do you have some capital and some time to invest? Do you want to live and work in the United States for a few years developing a business enterprise? If so, these non-immigrant visas may be the right choice for you, assuming you’d like to either expand your current foreign business into the United States, or start a completely new one. This is especially true if you don’t easily have the $500,000 dollars required to pursue a Green Card via the EB-5 visa. For more information on these flexible non-immigrant visa options, please continue reading

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ABOUT THE TREATY VISAS GENERALLY:

The Nonimmigrant Treaty Visas basically exist to further and encourage international commerce between Nations that the United States has international agreements with. Thus, they are only available to Nationals of particular countries, however there is a good chance that your country is on the lists, as the list of countries are quite extensive. Finally, it is necessary to emphasize that these visas are non-immigrant visas and they do not provide a ready path to obtaining a Green Card. However, with that said, it is also important to emphasize that although they are non-immigrant visas, as long as you continue to work for and maintain your business and the business continues to grow, you’ll be enabled to stay and live in the United States pretty much indefinitely. You’ll simply have to maintain an intent to leave the United States upon expiration of your status (however it is easily renewable); or if for whatever reason, your status is terminated by the authorities.

The other great thing about these visas is that they allow you to bring your spouse with you (who can work pretty much without restrictions), your unmarried children under the age of 21 (who cannot work, but who can attend school), as well as qualified foreign employees to help you run your enterprise. Sound too good to be true? Well it’s not, however these visas are rather complicated to apply for, and have annual reporting requirements for maintaining them. In the end, getting one and growing your business successfully in order to maintain one, can be quite a lot of work. However, it can also be incredibly rewarding to do so. Below we will outline each of the two visas in more detail, starting with the Treaty Trader Visa (E-1) before moving on to the Treaty Investor Visa (E-2).

The Treaty Trader Visa (E-1)

First of all before discussing the specifics of this visa, it is important to make sure you’re a National of a country that is eligible for this visa. The list of eligible nationalities is below: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark (not including Greenland), Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France (including the departments of Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Reunion), Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan (including the Bonin Islands and Ryukyu Islands), Jordan, Korea (South), Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, Macedonia (the Former Yugoslav Republic of (FRY)), Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands (including Aruba & Netherlands Antilles), Norway (excluding Svalbard, Spitzbergen and certain other lesser islands), Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom (only applies to British territory in Europe, the British isles, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar; also applicants must be a national of the United Kingdom). If you are a National of one of these countries, then you are in luck! That is the most basic eligibility threshold.

Now, onto the specifics . . . .   This visa enables Nationals of treaty countries to enter and live in the United States solely to engage in “International Trade” on your own behalf (includes the ability to bring certain employees along for the ride). Now if you’re thinking, I don’t have anything to do with shipping or importation/exportation, you can take a deep breath and relax.

The definition of International Trade is substantially broader than the industries traditionally associated with “trade” for purposes of this visa. Additionally, you will actually have to start your trading enterprise before applying for this visa, by successfully negotiating contracts between U.S. persons/businesses and your foreign enterprise that link your country and the United States via the exchange of (and not limited just to this list):

  • -Goods -Services
  • -International Banking
  • -Insurance -Monies
  • -Transportation
  • -Communications
  • -Data Processing
  • -Advertising
  • -Accounting
  • -Design and Engineering
  • -Management Consulting
  • -Tourism
  • -Technology and its transfer
  • -Some News-gathering Activities

As you can see, the list of what constitutes trade is quite expansive and not limited to the traditional notions of importing and exporting goods. For example, if you had a travel agency in your home country and you pursued successful contracts for selling Travel Packages to your home country for people living in the United States, via U.S.-based travel agencies, then this might qualify you for this visa.

The important thing is that you actually have a business developed and some (numerous) contracts successfully performed before you apply. However, there are unfortunately some additional requirements:

  • The trade has to be “substantial.” This is less daunting than it seems. There is no minimum requirement to how much trade you have to do with the United States, but you’ll have to convince the USCIS that the trade you do with the United States is “substantial.” This can be accomplished by showing evidence of numerous transactions over time–which is the most important factor, and also by showing that the monetary value of the transactions was large, or at least not small. Let’s say you have a small business. U.S. Immigration Law specifically contemplates that as long as the income from the numerous transactions between yourself and the United States is enough money to support yourself and your family, then this is favorable evidence towards meeting this requirement.
  • The trade has to be principally with the United States. This just means that over 50% of your trading business that you operate, is between the treaty country of your nationality and the United States. Meaning, you could do 51% of your overall business with contracts between the United States and your country, and 49% with the rest of the world, and you would qualify.

With that, you have the basic requirements for qualifying for the E-1 Treaty Trader Visa. It is important to emphasize a few things, however. If you already have an existing business in one of the “trade” industries outlined above, that works primarily between the United States and your home country, then this may be an easy visa to acquire. You are going to need to be able to trace and identity your transactions, so good and effective record-keeping is essential to qualifying for this visa.

Additionally, if you already have a business, you may also want to consider the L-1A Visa (find a link to information about that visa at the bottom of this page), as that may actually be a better fit for your goals depending on the circumstances. If you do not have an existing business between your country and the United States in one of the trade industries listed above, but would like to start one, then it is important to emphasize a few other things. You should develop your business with the requirements of this visa in mind, and you can apply from either your home country or from the United States. Thus, it is important to know that in many cases, you can come to the United States to initially negotiate contracts with a simple B-1 Visitor Business Visa, or even without a visa if you are from a Visa Waiver Country. This can help you to get started with your enterprise and help you get the contracts and transactions necessary, that will be invaluable when qualifying for E-1 Status later.

Obtaining E-1 status can be a long a difficult road, but it can also be a financially rewarding pursuit, and a pursuit that is also greatly personally rewarding; as you grow and develop your own business. This area of Immigration Law is incredibly complex and the importance of retaining a qualified Immigration Attorney to assist you, cannot be understated. Should you ultimately qualify, you will be granted a status that has an initial validity of two years, and you’ll be able to renew that status as long as you continue to maintain the business and otherwise stay personally eligible and business eligible. Often, you can even renew your status automatically for two years, by simply traveling abroad and reentering the United States while your E-1 Status is still valid.

Not sure if the E-1 Treaty Trader Visa is the right fit for you? Please continue reading, to learn about the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa.

Treaty Investor Visa (E-2)

As with the E-1 Visa, before discussing the specifics of this visa, it is important to make sure you’re a National of a country that is eligible for this visa. Please pay attention to this list, as the list of eligible countries is slightly different from the list qualifying a person for the E-1 Visa. The list of eligible nationalities is below: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France (including the departments of Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Reunion), Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan (including the Bonin Islands and Ryukyu Islands), Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea (South), Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (the Former Yugoslav Republic of (FRY)), Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands (including Aruba & Netherlands Antilles), Norway (excluding Svalbard, Spitzbergen and certain other lesser islands), Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom (only applies to British territory in Europe, the British isles, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar; also applicants must be a national of the United Kingdom). If you are a National of one of these countries, then you are in luck! That is the most basic eligibility threshold.

Now, onto the specifics . . . .   This visa enables Nationals of treaty countries to enter and live in the United States solely in order to develop or direct a U.S. business enterprise that the National has already, or is in the process of investing a “substantial amount of capital,” into. A substantial amount of capital is no set fixed amount of capital, but it requires that the National put substantial money at risk in order to promote the likelihood that the business endeavour will be successful.

The amount of money needed to invest will vary depending on the size, location, and other factors surrounding the business (which can be a new business venture, or can be a pre-existing venture). However, in all cases the amount of money the treaty investor invests, should be of a magnitude that supports the likelihood that the business the treaty investor is involving themselves with, will be successful. Also, the amount of money should assure USCIS that the treaty investor is financially committed to the successful operation of the enterprise. In all cases, the amount of money invested should be considered a substantial investment in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one. Related to that last point, the enterprise that the foreign national seeks to establish, or support and acquire, can be pretty much any legal for-profit commercial operation that deals in goods or services; as long as it is not “marginal.” To satisfy the requirement that the business is not “marginal,” this means that the enterprise must have the present or the future capacity, to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal income for the Treaty Investor and his or her family. In some cases it doesn’t matter that the enterprise lacks this capacity at present, only that it can have this capacity to generate such income within 5 years of the Treaty Investor’s E-2 classification beginning.

An E-2 requirement that we briefly mentioned earlier, is that the foreign national must be entering the United States “solely to develop and direct” the business enterprise. This is shown either by:

(1) showing that the foreign national owns at least 50% of the enterprise; or,

(2) that they have possession of operational control through a management position or “other corporate device.” Although there are some varying other requirements depending on the structure of a given business enterprise, this second prong is what effectively allows foreign national employees (of principal Treaty Investor Employers), to come in to the United States as employees. If an employee of a Treaty Investor is coming to the U.S. in E-2 status, they will generally have to be employed by a Treaty Investor who is in the U.S. with that status, or an abroad one that would otherwise meet the requirements for attaining that status were they to solicit it. Also, employees generally need to be employed in supervisory or executive positions to be eligible for E-2 Status, or have some sort of special qualification that makes them “essential” to the efficient operation of the business. Thus, from the points we have briefly touched on with regard to the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, hopefully you have been able to see that it is quite a flexible visa. It can provide a very good way to live and work in the United States, should you have entrepreneurial spirit and ambition, as well as enough capital to launch and direct a new business; or in order to acquire and direct an existing one.

Obtaining E-2 status can be difficult road, but it can obviously be well worth it. This area of Immigration Law is incredibly complex and having a qualified Immigration Attorney to assist you, can greatly increase the chances that you can qualify. Should you ultimately qualify, you will be granted a status that has an initial validity of two years, and you’ll be able to renew that status as long as you continue to maintain the business and otherwise stay personally eligible. Often, you can even renew your status automatically for two years, by simply traveling abroad and reentering the United States while your E-2 Status is still valid. Again it is important to emphasize that this technically a non-immigrant visa, and you must have the intent to eventually depart from the U.S. should your visa be terminated for some reason, or should your status as an E-2 Visa holder expire. Check your eligibility here.

Related from: I-129, PETITION FOR A NONIMMIGRANT WORKER

 

The L-1A Visa

As touched on with the E-1 Visa, if you have an existing business in your home country and you’re looking to expand operations to the United States, you may want to consider the L-1A instead of either of these E Visas. Why? Because it offers a direct path to permanently immigrating and attaining a Green Card, should you decide that you want to do that in the future. Click the button below for more information:

 

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