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Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor Visas (E1/E2)
 

Important Announcement to Prospective E-Visa Companies

Processing time for review of treaty trader/treaty investor applications is about 60 days. During the summer months (May through September) the processing time may be longer.

Applications cannot be considered until they are complete. Please ensure you submit all required documentation to avoid delays in processing time.

Introduction

Treaty Trader visas (E-1) and Treaty Investor visas (E-2) are non-immigrant visas for nationals of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation, who wish to go to the United States for one of two purposes:

  • to carry on substantial trade, principally between the United States and the treaty country (E-1); or
  • to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital (E-2).

Examples might help clarify the difference between the E-1 and E-2. A business located in Sweden that designs and manufactures shoes might sell many of its products in the United States. However, it has no retail stores of its own or any plant there. If the volume of its transatlantic trade is significant and continuous and if its Swedish-US trade makes up more than 50% of its total international trade, then the business could qualify for Treaty Trader status and the owner of the business or some of its employees might be eligible for E-1 visas. Alternatively, a Swedish investor might purchase 75% of a restaurant located in Los Angeles. The restaurant operates at a profit and employs over 40 people, most of whom are American citizens. If all the other conditions for the visa are met, the investor could obtain an E-2 visa to enter the United States in order to operate his business and oversee his investment. He would also be able to send qualified employees who are Swedish citizens to work in his business if they meet certain specific requirements.

The US Embassy in Stockholm has seen a dramatic increase in the number of applications for E-2 visas in the last decade. The US government welcomes such investment. However, it is important for investors to understand the purpose of the E-1 and E-2 visas so that they do not risk losing time and money in a lengthy visa process which may not result in an approval.

The Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor visas were established to facilitate and enhance economic interaction between the United States and other countries. They were not intended to serve as a means for foreigners to retire or merely reside in the United States. U.S. law (see paragraph 101(a)(15)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) explicitly states that E-1 visa holders must enter "solely to carry on substantial trade" and E-2 holders "solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise" in which he or she has invested. Moreover, these visas are non-immigrant visas and thus temporary. Treaty trader/investor visas can be renewed or extended only if the investment or trade continues to meet all applicable requirements of U.S. immigration laws and regulations. Persons wishing to remain indefinitely in the United States should apply for the appropriate immigrant visa.

The Treaty

The United States and Sweden have maintained a treaty of commerce since 1783 and the present treaty trader and investor provisions came into effect, February 20, 1992. In order to be covered by it, citizens of Sweden must own at least 50% of the business and must actively develop and direct that business. In addition, in order to be eligible for E visas, Swedish applicants must apply from Sweden.

Investors and Employees

Both owners and employees of treaty trader and treaty investor businesses receive the same kind of visa (E-1 or E-2); the law makes no distinction between them. However, investors and employees go through different processes to get their visas. Investors must submit a binder of supporting documents as described on the following pages and wait until this binder has been reviewed by officers at the Stockholm Embassy. Once the review is completed, the E-visas Unit will contact the investor to arrange an interview date. Employees of approved companies, on the other hand, may make their appointments through the Apply for a Visa process. They do not need to submit any documents in advance; however, at the interview they should present:

  • a copy of the business approval letter given to the company by the US Embassy,
  • a letter of verification from the company,
  • a copy of the company’s DS-156E,
  • a Curriculum Vitae (CV), and
  • a signed letter of intent to depart the US upon termination of status.

Length of Visa

The maximum length for which an E-1 or E-2 visa can be issued to a citizen of Sweden is 2 years. The company can receive an approval length of 1-5 years.  The length of time issued is solely the judgment of the consular officer deciding the case.

Change of Status

Investors who have changed status in the United States with USCIS must follow the steps for all first-time investors. Such a change of status remains valid only while the applicant remains in the United States. Once the applicant has left the United States, he or she requires an E-visa to return and resume the running of the business. Change of status does not guarantee the subsequent issuance of a visa nor does it exempt the investor from the normal process of filing documents in advance with the Embassy in Stockholm.

Dependents

The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of treaty traders, treaty investors, or employees of qualifying enterprises may also receive E visas in order to accompany or follow to join their spouse or parent. They are not required to have the same nationality as the principal applicant. Spouses may work in the United States if they have obtained an Employee Authorization Card from the Department of Homeland Security. They may apply for this card after they enter the United States. Dependent children may not work in the United States although they may attend school.

Proper Use of B1/B2 Visas and Visa Waiver Travel for Investors

Potential investors may seek out investment opportunities, sign contracts, and take other steps to purchase or establish a business while traveling on B1/B2 status or on the Visa Waiver Program. However, applicants may not develop and direct a business while in such status. State Department regulations state (9 FAM 41.31 N9.7), "an alien seeking investment in the United States, including an investment that would qualify him or her for status as an E-2 investor, is precluded from performing productive labor or from actively participating in the management of the business prior to being granted E-2 status." Such actions are impermissible whether or not the investor receives any payment for his work.

For guidance on the procedures and requirements for obtaining an E visa, please click on the appropriate link below: