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Treaty Traders and Investors

What Are Treaty Traders and Investors?

Treaty traders and treaty investors are aliens who hold the E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant visas respectively. Treaty traders and investors are not lawful permanent residents, but they are allowed to remain in the United States in order to accomplish specific commercial goals.

Treaty traders and investors derive their name from the way that someone becomes eligible for an E-class visa. E-class visas are issued to citizens of nations where the U.S. “maintains a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation”.

E-visas are not intended to result in lawful permanent resident or naturalized citizen status. Instead, they act as a type of temporary work visa. In order to qualify for an E-1 treaty trader visa, the individual must carry out “substantial trade” with a majority of that trade being between the U.S. and the treaty nation. For an E-2 visa, the individual must develop or direct an enterprise in which the individual has invested a “substantial” amount of capital.

The intent of the E-1 and E-2 visas is to facilitate trade and exchange of ideas between treaty nations. The full list of treaty nations that qualify for either an E-1 or an E-2 visa  according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs is:

  • Albania
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China (Taiwan)
  • Colombia
  • Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Congo (Kinshasa)
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic 
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Honduras
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kosovo
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia
  • Liberia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • The Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Suriname
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • The United Kingdom
  • Yugoslavia

Australia is not included on the list of E-1 and E-2 eligible nations because it has its own nonimmigrant visa type: E-3.

While treaty trader and investor visas are temporary, they can be renewed continuously as long as the individual continues to meet their respective visa requirements. Additionally, if the individual decides they would like to stay indefinitely, they can apply for a permanent immigrant visa. 

Key Takeaways

  • Treaty traders and investors are recipients of E-1 or E-2 visas respectively in an effort to build cooperation with nations that the U.S. has a treaty of friendship or commerce.
  • Treaty traders must trade substantially between the U.S. and their home country while treaty investors must have at least 50% of the business belong to individuals of the treaty nation’s nationality.
  • While treaty traders and investors may extend or renew their visas as long as they continue to qualify for them, E-class visas will never lead to citizenship. 
  • If you are seeking an E-class visa, or are an E-class visa holder seeking permanent residence, an experienced Immigration Law attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by utilizing your experience and expert knowledge.

Treaty Traders, Investors, and Immigration Law

Treaty trader and investor visas are strictly controlled by the U.S. government. Only individuals who meet the necessary conditions will be granted an E-class visa. 

Despite the rigor of the E-class visa program, there are many industries that qualify for E-class visas that do not initially seem to fit. For example, the Bureau of Consular Affairs states that “trade” can include industries such as communication, international banking, insurance, transportation, and tourism.

In order to qualify as a treaty trader, individuals must meet the following conditions:

  • The applicant is a citizen of a treaty country.
  • The applicant’s trading firm must have the nationality of the treaty country, defined as being owned at least 50% by individuals with the treaty country’s nationality.
  • International trade must consist of a sizable and continuing volume of trade.
  • More than 50 percent of the international trade conducted must be between the United States and the treaty country.
  • The applicant is an essential employee, employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possesses highly specialized skills essential to the efficient operation of the firm.

The term “Trade” in this context refers to the international exchange of goods, services, and technology in which the title of the trade items must pass from one party to another. Additionally, essential employees do not include ordinarily skilled or unskilled laborers.

In order to qualify as a treaty investor, applicants must meet a different set of conditions:

  • The person, partnership, or corporate entity must have citizenship belonging to a treaty country.
  • A business that is purchased or created must be at least 50 percent owned by individuals of the treaty country’s nationality.
  • The investment must be substantial.
  • Investment funds or assets must be committed and irrevocable.
  • The investment must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise.
  • The investment must be a real operating enterprise, an active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking. 
  • It must generate significantly more income than just to provide a living for the applicant and their family, or it must have a significant economic impact on the United States.
  • The applicant must have control of the funds, and the investment must be at risk in the commercial sense.
  • The applicant must be coming to the United States to develop and direct the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, they must be considered an essential employee, employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity. 

These qualifications are intended to ensure that E-2 visa recipients create real, active businesses that, in turn, create a tangible service or commodity. “Paper organizations” that are speculative or idle do not meet E-2 visa standards.

Similarly, while there is no minimum monetary investment requirement, the type of capital invested is closely regulated. An E-2 visa’s capital must be committed in a way that is “real and irrevocable.” Irrevocably committed funds are funds held in an unalterable state, such as in an escrow account, to be released upon the applicant’s receipt of an E-2 visa. Uncommitted funds in a bank account do not qualify and neither do funds or loans secured with assets from the investment enterprise.

Bottom Line

If you are an immigrant looking to enter the United States by applying as an E-1 or E-2 visa applicant, or you are an E-class holder looking for permanent resident status, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf in order to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your options and advocate for you, as well as present your case in the most compelling light possible and deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy as well as the obscure functions of immigration court.

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