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7. E-1 Treaty Trader & E-2 Treaty Investor Visas
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7. E-1 Treaty Trader & E-2 Treaty Investor Visas
Citizens of certain countries may gain entry to the United States for trade or investment using E-2
Treaty Investor and E-1 Treaty Trader visas. Because these visas can be renewed in five-year
increments for 10, 20 or even 30 years or longer, they remain excellent options for many foreign
The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa allows you to: (1) move your entire business to the United States, or
(2) start a new business in the U.S. if you are not now in business, or (3) establish or expand a U.S.
branch, affiliate or subsidiary of your foreign company, or (4) if you are a foreign owned business,
to transfer to the U.S. personnel of the same nationality as the company.
Same Nationality: An E-2 applicant must be of the same nationality as the foreign company or
investor, and the nationality must be one of the treaty countries.
No Minimum Investment: There is no minimum required investment for an E-2 investor visa. In
the case of small businesses, as a general guideline, an owner investor can usually obtain E-2 status
if he will (1) actively manage the small business; (2) put at risk, including borrowed funds secured
for personal assets, a substantial investment in capital and/or equipment;1 and (3) plan to employ at
least several U.S. workers. The amount of the investment varies depending upon the nature of each
investment. U.S. State Department guidelines suggest that the smaller the business, the greater
percentage of its value must be invested to qualify. The key is that the business cannot be
“marginal,” that is, designed just to provide a living for the owner and his family.
Eligible Countries: The E-2 visa is available to citizens of the following countries under U.S.
bilateral treaties or treaties of commerce and navigation:
1 Some consulting or service businesses have qualified with even smaller investments, in the range of
$25,000 to $50,000.
. 10 .
Trinidad & Tobago
Other Requirements: To qualify for an E-2 visa, the applicant must be entering the U.S. to perform
either (a) managerial or executive functions, or (b) functions requiring essential skills. Examples of
essential skills functions may include:
.. A French technician for a French company coming to the U.S. to maintain specialized
equipment for a U.S. subsidiary.
.. A German accounting specialist coming to a U.S. branch of a German company to ensure
that the books and records are maintained according to German accounting standards.
.. A technical translator for a Japanese company coming to the U.S. to translate technical
documents regularly sent from the Japanese parent company.
Duration: The E-2 visa is usually issued for an initial period of 2-5 years. There is no limit to the
number of renewals.
Family: The spouse and children of an E-2 investor or employee also receive E-2 visas. They can
also obtain work authorization in the United States under that category.
. 11 .
STRATEGY TIPS: The E-2 visa is not limited to businesses involved in
international trade. Purely local businesses such as retail sales, construction, service
industries, or manufacturing can qualify.
For larger companies, the E-2 should be a first choice for quickly transferring key
managers, executives and persons with essential skills to your U.S. operations. Note:
the employee and company must have the same nationality and must be from one of
the qualifying treaty investor countries. Nationality of the foreign firm is usually
determined by the citizenship of at least fifty- percent (50%) of its stockholders.
No college degree is required to obtain an E-2 visa.
E-1 Treaty Trader Visas. There is a companion visa to the E-2, the E-1 Treaty Trader. To
qualify, the following requirements must be met:
(1) The trader’s U.S. office must engage in substantial trade with the foreign country of its
shareholders. “Substantial trade” is not measured just in dollars. Frequent and
continuous trade in goods or services of small dollar value may also qualify for E-1 visa
(2) At least 50% of the trade must be between the U.S. business applying for the E-1 visa
and the foreign country of which the employee is a citizen.
(3) The U.S. business must be at least 50% owned by persons holding the same nationality
as the visa applicant.
Eligible Countries: Only citizens of the following countries with bilateral treaties with the United
States qualify for E-1 visas:
Types of Trade:
.. Export and import firms can qualify, as do manufacturing companies purchasing most of
their equipment and parts from their parent firms.
.. The trade does not need to be in goods. Technical know-how, blueprints, accounting
advice or software engineering services, just to name a few, can qualify as trade in
services for E-1 visa purposes.
. 12 .
.. A Virginia lumber firm which is owned by Israelis and exports at least 51% of its timber
products from the U.S.A. to Israel can obtain E-1 visas for its key traders and managers
who are Israeli nationals.
.. A French employee of the Israeli lumber firm cannot qualify for an E-1 visa because he
must have the same nationality as its owners. (Note: Other visas may be available to the
.. A Virginia electronics firm owned by Germans which buys most of its parts from Holland
for sale in the U.S.A. cannot qualify for an E-1 because the majority of its trade is not
with the country of its shareholders (Germany). (Note: Again, other visa options may be
Duration: The E-1 can usually be obtained in less than thirty (30) days from most U.S. Consulates,
will be valid for two to five years and can be renewed indefinitely.
Family: The immediate family members of the holder of an E-1 visa can come to the U.S. Once
here, they can apply for work authorization in the United States.
STRATEGY TIPS: Proper use of E visas requires mastery of a number of technical
rules and usually requires expert assistance. Documentation requirements for E-1
and E-2 visas can vary from U.S. consulate to U.S. consulate and can change without
Joint ventures with established U.S. companies can be used to qualify foreign firms
and their employees for E visas as long as the foreign venture partner can exercise
veto control over key business decisions.
A small, family-owned business engaging in frequent trade with the country of its
foreign owners may qualify for an E-1 even if no U.S. workers are employed.
8. O Visas
O visas are temporary visas av
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