In order to encourage global trade and investment, the United States maintains treaties of friendship, commerce and navigation with many countries around the world. The U.S. immigration laws provide for two particular visas that put these treaties into practice on U.S. soil. A national of a country that maintains a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with the U.S. may be eligible to apply for a visa to come to the U.S. to carry on substantial trade between the U.S. and the treaty country (E-1 visa) or to develop and direct a substantial investment (E-2 visa).
In order to qualify for the E-1 Treaty Trader visa, the "principal trader" must be coming to the United States solely to carry on substantial international trade principally between the U.S. and the treaty country of which the "principal trader" is a national. Substantial trade is intended to be continuous, contemplating numerous transactions over time. The trade must exist at the time that the application for the visa is made. Existing trade may consist of successfully negotiated contracts, binding upon the parties, which call for the immediate exchange of items of trade. Principal trade contemplates that over fifty percent of the volume of the international trade be carried on between the U.S. and the treaty country. The trade can include goods and/or services. That the "principal trader" must be a national of the treaty country means that either the individual trader must be a citizen of the treaty country or that at least 50% ownership of the company engaged in the trade must be held by citizens of the treaty country.
In order to qualify for the E-2 Treaty Investor visa, the treaty investor must have invested or be actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the Unites States. They must be seeking entry solely to develop and direct the enterprise. A bona fide enterprise for purposes of the visa is one that is a real, active and operating commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking that produces services or goods for a profit. The capital for the investment must be placed at risk by the treaty investor in a commercial sense with the objective of generating a profit. That means that the money must be irrevocably committed to the treaty enterprise and subject to a partial or total loss should investment fortunes reverse. There is no minimum dollar amount for the investment. However, the investment must be more than a marginal one that exists solely to provide a living for the visa holder and their immediate family. Both the State Department and the INS have determined that even an investment of under $50,000 may be sufficient in a service enterprise where start-up costs are relatively low and the principal "investment" is the knowledge and skills of the employees. The treaty investor must demonstrate that they will develop and direct the investment enterprise. They must establish control over the enterprise by demonstrating ownership of at least 50% of the enterprise and their position must be principally executive or supervisory in nature.
Treaty investors and traders may also apply for their supervisory or executive employees and/or employees who have special skills that are essential to the successful or efficient operation of the treaty enterprise.
Spouses and minor children of treaty investors or traders may obtain derivative status to that of the principal treaty alien. These family members need not be nationals of the treaty country. Spouses in "E" status are currently eligible to apply for employment authorization incident to their status. Minor children are not eligible to receive employment authorization.
A treaty investor or trader may be admitted for an initial period of no more than two years. Requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of not more than two years. There is no specified number of extensions of stay that a treaty trader or investor may be granted. As a result, a treaty trader or investor and their spouses and minor children may remain in such status indefinitely, provided that the treaty enterprise continues to operate according to the requirements of the visa and that the treaty trader or investor maintains the intent to the depart the U.S. upon expiration of the visa.