“E” Category Trader or Investor Visas

Foreign nationals seeking to sell products in the U.S. market or investing in a U.S. business need to consider whether they qualify for the “E” visa category. E visas are available to nationals of one of 82 countries that have treaties with the U.S. for either trading or investing.

The trading visa is available to companies owned by a national of a treaty country and planning to sell goods and/or services in the U.S. An investor visa is available to nationals of a treaty country who invest in a U.S. enterprise or who manage a U.S. enterprise for an investor of the same nationality. The investment must be significant with a potential for a return on the investment that goes beyond the investor’s salary for working the investment.

In the case of a company selling its products to the U.S. market, the application will require a business plan that outlines the company’s history, product, sales force and how it will develop trade to the U.S. It is often helpful to supply letters or purchase orders from U.S. customers.

In order to apply for an E investor visa, the applicant must be in the process of investing in or establishing a U.S. business or office. A detailed business plan is critical to the process. The business plan will show how the business will make money; how the foreign national applicant is qualified to manage the business; and how the investment will generate more income than the applicant needs to make a living through growth in value or employment of U.S. workers. The business plan must include financial projections for at least three years. The process also requires a showing that funds have been transferred to the U.S. If an existing business is being purchased the funds may be deposited to an escrow account with the condition that it will be returned if the visa is not issued. One question that needs to be considered is how much money must be invested. There is no single answer. The required amount is what is normal for the type of business that is being started or purchased. If it is a manufacturing business it will require a greater investment than a service or retail business. An expert opinion may be necessary.

For most countries, the E visa can be approved for up to five years. Often the consulate will approve a start-up business for less time and the applicant will need to apply again for another visa after a few years. At that time the consulate will want to see U.S. tax returns as evidence of the profit and health of the business. The visa can continue to be renewed as long as the applicant is managing the business and the business is profitable. This visa does not lead to a green card or permanent status in the U.S. Other types of investment visas are available for permanent (green card) status for investments of $500,000 or $1,000,000. E visas can be obtained for smaller investments.

For more information, please contact Joel Pfeffer, Elaina Smiley, or Gary Sanderson.