The E visa is a U.S. non-immigrant visa program that allows certain investors to visit the United States to engage in certain business activities.
The E visa is different from a traditional business visa like the B-1 visa. It’s also different from a conventional work visa – like an H-1B visa. Instead, the E visa category is specific to trade and investment. If you hold an E visa, you are permitted to visit the United States to engage in trade and investment, although you are not allowed to perform other activities.
The E-1 and E-2 visas are for traders and investors, including those who are engaging in trade or investment activities within the United States. The third visa included in this category, however, is the E-3 visa, which is designed specifically for Australians in certain professions and allows them to enter the United States and work.
How Does the E Visa Work?
The E visa permits you to enter the United States as a trader or investor. To qualify as a trader or investor, U.S. immigration services require you to engage in the following activities while visiting the United States:
- Become involved in the operations of a company in which you have invested capital
- Engage in trade with someone in the United States for products or services
There’s no specific category where E visa holders must work. You can work in technology, tourism, automotive industries, or anything else. As long as the industry is legal within the United States, you should qualify for an E visa.
The E visa category is also designed for supporting staff of investors and traders. If you are an employee of the trader or investor, for example, then you may qualify for an E visa – even if that trader or investor is a corporation.
Types of E Visas
There are three main types of E visas. Depending on the purpose of your visit to the United States, any of the following may apply to you:
E-1 Visa: For Treaty Traders
Citizens of treaty countries can visit the United States to engage in trade in various industries. We’ve published the full list of treaty countries below. To trade in the U.S. as a representative of a company, that company must have at least 50% ownership by people who are citizens of treaty countries.
Not all employees or representatives of trader companies will qualify for an E-1 visa. You must be considered an essential employee. Executives, managers, and personnel with exceptional skills will typically qualify for an E-1 visa, for example.
Another major E-1 visa requirement is that there must be substantial trade between the treaty country and the United States.
E-2 Visa: For Treaty Investors
If you are an investor from a treaty country, then you may qualify for an E-2 visa. To qualify for an E-2 visa, you must commit to a substantial investment in the United States that leads to a significant economic impact in the country. You will not qualify for the E-2 visa with low amounts of investment that only generate income for the investor and the company.
The E-2 investor must be a citizen of one of the treaty countries. If the investor is a company, then the company must be owned at least 50% by citizens of treaty countries. Like the E-1 visa, the E-2 visa is only available to certain personnel of the company, including executives, managers, and employees with specialized skills.
For the purpose of the E-1 and E-2 visa, a “substantial investment” or “substantial trading activity” is typically defined as at least $100,000.
E-3 Visa for Specialty Occupation Professionals from Australia
The E-3 visa is a special type of visa available exclusively to Australians. It has nothing to do with trading or investing and everything to do with your citizenship and profession.
If you are an Australian citizen working in a certain profession, then you may qualify for an E-3 visa. You must have a job offer in the United States to qualify. Your occupation must also be considered a specialty occupation that “requires theoretical and practical application of knowledge in professional fields”, according to USCIS, as well as “at least the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.”
Who Qualifies for the E Visa?
You qualify for the E-1 or E-2 visa if you are a trader or investor from a country with which the United States has signed a treaty of commerce and navigation. You may also qualify if you are an employee of a trading or investing firm based in a country with which the United States has signed a treaty.
Most countries in the world are permitted to engage in trade with the United States. You can view the full list of countries here.
It’s easier to list countries with which Americans are forbidden from engaging in trade or business activities:
- North Korea
All of these countries have been sanctioned by the United States for various reasons.
How to Apply for an E Visa
The E visa application process varies depending on whether you’re getting an E-1 or E-2 visa. Generally, however, this is the process required for the standard E visa application:
Step 1) Fill out form DS-160 from your local U.S. embassy or consulate’s website
Step 2) Pay your visa application fee, which is $205 for most E Visas
Step 3) Schedule your visa interview with a U.S. embassy or consulate (in-person interviews are required for all applicants between 14 and 79 years of age)
Step 4) Prepare your documents, including all supporting documents for your visa and any information about your trading or investing activities in the United States, as well as form DS-156E for non-immigrant treaty traders and treaty investors
Step 5) Attend the interview
How Long Does It Take to Process the E Visa?
The E visa typically takes about 2 to 3 months to process from beginning to end.
How Long Does My E Visa Last?
E visas are granted for different periods of time depending on your unique requirements. When you receive your E visa, the visa will clearly state the date of expiry. You must renew your visa or leave the country before that expiry date.
Can I Extend My Stay with an E Visa?
The E visa allows you to extend your stay if your investing and trading activities in the United States are expected to continue. You can apply to extend your visa while still in the United States, although some E visa holders will be required to return home.
Can I Bring Dependents to the United States on an E Visa?
The E visa allows you to bring qualified dependents with you to the United States. You can bring the following two types of dependents with you to the country:
- Unmarried children under 21 years of age
You may be required to provide a marriage certificate and birth certificate to prove that the dependents are your legal spouse and children.
As a dependent of an E visa holder, you are permitted to work in the United States if you obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
By following the guide above, you can ensure your E-1, E-2, and E-3 visa application process goes smoothly.