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What is the Difference between the E1 & E2 Visas?

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

What is the Difference between the E1 and E2 Visa?

To be able to move to the US on a temporary basis to do business, you will need to have secured the relevant US business visa.

If you have plans to grow your company’s existing trade activity in the US, or to set up or invest in a US-based company, you may be looking at your options under the E visa category.

The US E-1 and E-2 visas are designed to allow citizens of treaty countries to move to the US temporarily for specific business purposes. Treaty countries are those maintain a treaty of trade, commerce or navigation with the US.

In this article, we explain the differences between the US E-1 and E-2 visas, including what activities are permitted under each route, and what the eligibility and process requirements are that you will need to meet to make an application.


E1 & E2 visa permissible activities

E-1 visa

The E-1 category is commonly known as the nonimmigrant Treaty Trader visa.

The E-1 trader visa entitles individuals and eligible company employees to move to the US on a non-permanent basis for the purposes of carrying out international trade. In this context ‘trade’ could relate to the trade of goods, services or for example banking. This visa is useful for business owners, senior managers and other key employees of companies in E-1 Treaty countries who need to stay in the US for extended periods to manage and develop their business’ operations in the country.

An E-1 visa may also allow the holder’s immediate family (spouse and unmarried children under 21) to accompany them to the US, where the spouse can apply for work authorization and the children can study.


E-2 visa

The E-2 visa allows non-US nationals of E-2 Treaty countries to live in the US for the purpose of making a substantial investment, either in an existing US-based enterprise or to establish a new business in the US.

E-2 visa holders must take an active role in directing and developing the E-2 company during their visa period and should they wish to extend their visa, they will need to evidence sufficient growth in the company, including job creation for US resident workers.

E-2 spouses and dependent children can apply to join the principal visa holder, and the spouse can apply to work in the US.


E1 & E2 visa eligibility requirements

E-1 visa requirements

To qualify for an E-1 visa you must meet a number of essential requirements, including:

  • You must demonstrate you intend to engage in ‘substantial trade’. There are no rules on the amount of trade required to qualify under the route – the application process places more emphasis on the number of transactions the company can evidence with the US market rather than the total value of the transactions./li>
  • You must be a citizen of an E-1 treaty country. There are notably fewer E-1 treaty countries than E-2 countries, so it will be important to ensure the E-1 route is open to you based on your nationality.
  • At least 50% of the company’s international trade has to be between the US and your treaty country.
  • The trade you engage in can take a number of forms including: transportation, movement of goods, banking insurance, journalism, technology or tourism.

Read the full requirement details here.

E-2 visa requirements

The E-2 visa is known as the nonimmigrant Treaty Investor visa.

To qualify for an E-2 visa you must meet essential requirements, which include: 

  • You must show your sole purpose for entering the US is to develop or run the enterprise your application relates to. Evidence of this would be having a minimum 50% stake in it or a prominent management role that constitutes operational leadership.
  • Your investment must be significant and sufficient to make the business operational, profitable and resulting in job creation for US resident workers.
  • Your investment must be a bona fide business investment. You cannot invest for example purely in real estate – the investment must demonstrate there is a risk of capital loss in a commercial sense to produce profit. Also your investment must be irrefutably committed to the enterprise.
  • You must also be able to demonstrate that the funds you are investing have been obtained legally.
  • Your funds can be invested into an existing company or a new business, but it cannot be solely for the purposes of creating a job in the company for you as the investor. The business must have a premises – it cannot operate from the home of the investor.

View the full E-2 requirements here.


How to apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa

If you are applying from outside the country, you will need to complete and submit form DS-160 (a non-immigrant visa application). You will also need to attend a consular interview at the post where your filed your petition. During the interview, you will be required to answers questions to determine your eligibility under the relevant route and present supporting documentation. For the E-2 visa for example, you will need to talk through your E-2 business plan and answer any questions the Consular Officer may have on the business, your investment and planned activities while in the US.


Periods of stay

When you enter the US on an E-1 or E-2 visa you can stay a maximum of two years and should be able to demonstrate intention to depart when that period ends. However, you can request for two-year extensions to your visa when it expires. There is no limit to the amount of extensions you can apply for.


Need assistance?

As specialists in US immigration, NNU’s London-based attorneys can advise and guide you through all aspects of the E-1 and E-2 visa routes, including determining the best route for your needs, permissible activities, eligibility requirements and the application process.

Under current US immigration policy, visa applications are facing increasing scrutiny by adjudicators. Taking expert advice will help ensure you compile a robust application and avoid evidentiary or process issues which can result in a delayed or even refused application.

Contact us for guidance on your specific circumstances.


Difference between the E1 & E2 Visa FAQs

What is the E1 visa?

The E1 visa is available for overseas nationals who are engaged in substantial trade with the US.


What is the E2 visa?

The E2 visa is for foreign nationals making substantial investment in either an existing or newly-established US company.


Do the E visas lead to a Green Card?

The E1 and E2 visas do not lead directly to US permanent residence. To become eligible for a Green Card, you would need to change status to a different route that allows lawful permanent residence.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

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For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.