Of the many visas that are used to live and work in the U.S., few are as sought after as the E class visas. A perfect option for certain entrepreneurs and traders, E visas are relatively inexpensive to obtain (aside from your investment), do not require a job offer, and can be renewed an unlimited number of times. But not every investor or trader is eligible. You must be from a treaty country in order to qualify. Keep reading to find out exactly what that means and which nations count as E-2 visa treaty countries.
E-2 Visa Overview
The E-2 is a nonimmigrant visa that allows investors from treaty countries to work in the United States through their investment in a U.S. enterprise. The enterprise must be bona fide and the investment must be substantial, meaning that the enterprise must be able to support you and your family within five years and your investment must be a significant percentage of the value of the enterprise. Also, you must be entering the U.S. with the sole purpose of developing the enterprise, so your E-2 investment shouldn’t be considered a side project.
There is no official minimum or maximum investment amount, though the rule of thumb is that petitions for investments of less than $150,000 have a much harder time getting approved. Speak with your immigration attorney to see if your proposed investment is substantial enough and if your enterprise is bona fide.
However, all of these requirements come second to the fact that you must be from a country that holds a treaty of trade and commerce with the U.S.
E-2 Visa Treaty Countries
To qualify for the E-2 visa, you must be a national of a treaty country. This means that if you are a legal permanent resident, you cannot apply. However, you do not need to be currently living in the treaty country. For example, if you are a French national living in Israel, you can petition for the E-2 visa even though Israel is not an E-2 visa treaty country.
So, without further ado, here is a comprehensive list of the E-2 visa treaty countries in alphabet:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- China (Taiwan)
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Denmark (excluding Greenland)
- South Korea
- Singapore Slovak Republic
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad & Tobago
- United Kingdom
NOTE: Keep in mind that treaties of trade and commerce can be added and also rescinded. We will attempt to keep this list as updated as possible. However, You should always check this Department of State link to see the most current list as well as treaty countries for the E-1 visa.
Also, if you are bringing an employee over through the E-2 visa, that employee does not have to be from the same treaty country as you. You will need to file a separate petition on their behalf (also for any family members you bring) but generally, employees and family are granted the same period of stay as the principle E-2 investor, which is two years initially.
Once those two years are up, if you would like to remain in the U.S., you will need to file a new petition to extend your stay for an additional two years. Your employees and family members must do the same if they would like to stay as well. Make sure that you keep track of your period of stay so that you do not overstay your status while you wait for an approval for the extension.
What to Do If You Qualify
If you read this article and see that your nation of origin makes the list of E-2 treaty countries, you should also make sure that you meet all of the other requirements for the E-2 as well. If you do, then it’s time to take action.
The first step to getting your E-2 visa is usually to actually invest in the U.S. enterprise. The USCIS is unlikely to approve any petition for an E-2 in which the funds are not irrevocably invested. This means that you need to make some permanent purchases such as the brick-and-mortar building, equipment, or the permits required for your enterprise to operate. You can also outright purchase the enterprise if it already exists.
Even though it’s not necessarily a requirement, you should also have a solid business plan for starting or developing the enterprise that involves hiring U.S. workers in the first few years. The USCIS and Department of Labor are charged with protecting U.S. jobs, so planning to hire local workers can go a long way in getting your approval.
Next, you should submit the proof of your investment, your business plan, and an I-129 petition to the USCIS for processing. After about six months (or 15 calendar days if you use premium processing), you will get your answer. If your petition is approved, you’ll have one of two options depending on your case:
Change of Status – this simply means that your status changes automatically, but only if you are already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant visa status.
Consular Processing – if you are not in the U.S., you will likely need to travel to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country to be interviewed by a consular officer before getting your visa. You will also need to complete the online DS-160 application beforehand.