E1 / E2 Q & A

Q: What is an E-1/E-2 Visa?

A: E-1 and E-2 visas are available to citizens of foreign countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation, or a bilateral investment treaty providing for nonimmigrant entries, with the United States.  The E-1 (“Treaty Trader”) visa is specifically designed for alien business owners, business managers, and employees who are required to stay in the U.S. for prolonged periods of time to oversee or work for an enterprise that is engaged in trade between the U.S. and a foreign country.  The E-2 (“Treaty Investors”) visa is available to an alien who is a citizen or national of a treaty country, and who wishes to enter the U.S. solely to develop and direct the operation of an enterprise in which he or she has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital.

Q: How long does it take to obtain E-1 or E-2 status?

A: The time frame to obtain E-1/E-2 status depends on whether or not the alien is already in the United States and seeking a change of status, or will be applying outside the United States through consular processing. The average time frame for an E visa application outside of the United States is a couple of days. On the other hand, if the beneficiary is seeking to change status to E-1/E-2 through an I-129 application with the USCIS, it usually takes two months to have an E visa approved. However, the alien worker or the sponsoring employer may request “premium processing” for their I-129 application by paying a $1,225 premium processing fee. With premium processing, the case will be processed within 15 calendar days or the $1,225 premium processing fee will be refunded.

Q: What are the major requirements for an E-1 visa?

A: Three major requirements need to be met:

  1. The alien must be a national of a treaty country (refer to E1 / E2 Treaty Countries for a list of such countries);
  2. The alien must engage in substantial trade;
  3. The alien must engage in principal trade between the United States and the treaty country which qualified the treaty trader for E-1 classification (According to 8 CFR 214.2(e)(11), trade qualifies as “principal trade” between the U.S. and the treaty country, when more than 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the U.S. and the trader’s treaty country.).

To see if you qualify for an E-1 visa/status, it is best to obtain legal advice from an experienced attorney.

Q: What are the major requirements for an E-2 visa?

A: Three major requirements need to be met:

  1. The alien must be a national of a treaty country (refer to E1 / E2 Treaty Countries for a list of such countries);
  2. The alien must have invested, or be investing, a substantial amount of capital in an enterprise in the U.S.;
  3. The alien must be seeking a U.S. visa solely to develop and direct this investment enterprise. This can be proven by providing evidence that the alien owns at least 50% of the enterprise, or that he/she possesses operational control of the enterprise through a managerial position, etc.

To see if you qualify for an E-2 visa/status, it is best to obtain legal advice from an experienced attorney.

Q: Can I file for E-1/E-2 from outside of the U.S.?

A: Yes, you can apply for an E-1/E-2 from outside of the United States through a U.S. consular office. A request for E-1/E-2 classification need not be made on Form I-129 with the USCIS if the person being filed for is physically outside the U.S., as this path is only for those aliens who are already in the United States on another kind of visa.  According to USCIS “Upon issuance of a visa, the person may then apply to a DHS immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry for admission as an E-1/E-2 nonimmigrant.”

Q: How much does it cost to apply for an E-1/E-2 visa?

A: If the beneficiary is applying for an E-1/E-2 visa from outside the United States through consular processing, they must pay all the associated Department of State fees. The fee for an E-1/E-2 visa is $270.00. Additionally, the beneficiary will be charged a visa reciprocity fee, if applicable to their home country.

An E-1/E-2 petition with the USCIS (for those changing status from within the United States) includes a $460 I-129 filing fee.

We charges $3,000 in attorney’s fees for a successful E-1/E-2 application.
Q: Who is eligible for the Premium Processing Program?

A:  Premium processing services for E-1/E-2 applications are available to those who file a Form I-129 with the USCIS if they are already present in the United States on another type of nonimmigrant visa.  The fee for this service is $1,225. The Premium Processing fee may not be waived. In addition to the Premium Processing fee, all filing fees related to the Form I-129 (Petition for Non-immigrant worker) must also be submitted.

Q: What are the merits and drawbacks of premium processing?

A: The merits of premium processing when filing an I-129 with the USCIS include receiving a decision within 15 calendar days of the receipt of the application by the USCIS.  This means that you will receive a decision sooner and know the status of your petition sooner. The drawback of premium processing is the steep $1,225 fee.  However, if USCIS does not process your application within the 15 calendar days, they will refund the employer for the $1,225 premium processing fee.

Q: Where is an E-1/E-2 petition filed?

A: Aliens outside of the United States may apply for E-1/E-2 through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and will receive E-1/E-2 status upon entry into the United States on their E-1/E-2 visa.   Any change of status applications on a form I-129 from aliens already within the United States should be filed with the California Service Center, regardless of where the temporary worker will be employed. This includes any non-immigrants who wish to change their status to E-1 or E-2.