Visas for Entrepreneurs and Investors

Trade and Investor Visas

The E visa category is available to citizens of countries which have entered into a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation (FCN), bilateral investment treaty (BIT’s) or free trade agreement (e.g. NAFTA) with the United States and who are coming to carry on substantial trade principally between the United States and the treaty country, or, to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the foreign national has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital.

E-1 Treaty Trader

The E-1 Trader must be a national of a treaty country representing a firm of the nationality of the treaty country and must be coming to conduct “substantial” trade between the treaty country and the United States.  The international trade must be “substantial” in the sense that there is a sizable and continuing volume of trade regardless of the size of individual transactions.  The term “trade” includes the international exchange of goods, services, and technology, and requires the exchange of title from one party to the other.   The trade must be “principally” between the U.S. and the treaty country, which is defined to mean that more than 50 percent of the international trade involved must be between the U.S. and the country of the trader’s nationality.  Lastly, the treaty trader must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess highly specialized skills essential to the efficient operation of the firm.  Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify.

E-2 Treaty Investor

The E-2 Investor must be a national of a treaty country making a “substantial” investment in the United States.  The investment must be made up of the investor’s unsecured personal or business capital, or capital secured by personal or business assets.  However, borrowed funds secured with the assets of the investment enterprise will not qualify.  To be considered substantial, the investment capital must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise.  Therefore, the percentage of the required investment in proportion to the total capital needed to operate the business will be higher for a low-cost business enterprise than for a high-cost enterprise.

The investor must have possession and control (i.e. own at least 50%) of the investment, which must be placed at risk in an operating commercial enterprise.  Speculative or idle investment will not qualify, nor will uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security.  Additionally, the investment cannot be “marginal” in-so-far as it merely generates income sufficient to provide a living to the investor and his/her family.  Instead, the investment must generate significantly more than marginal income, or it must have a significant economic impact in the United States.

The investor must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise.   Key employees who are nationals of the treaty country may be eligible for E status if employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity.

E-3 Australian Specialty Occupation Workers

E-3 Australian Specialty Occupation WorkersThe E-3 is a new visa for Australian nationals to work in professional or “specialty occupations” in the U.S.  The eligibility criteria for E-3 visa applicants are essentially the same as those for H-1B Professional Workers discussed below.

E visas are generally issued for a period of two (2) to (5) years depending on the volume of trade or the size of the investment.  E visa status is renewable as long as the principal continues to maintain their status with the qualifying organization.

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, may receive derivative E visas in order to accompany the principal alien.  Spouses may obtain employment authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after admission to the United States.  Dependent children are not authorized to work in the United States but may but may study in the U.S. without a student (F-1) visa.

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, may receive derivative E visas in order to accompany the principal alien.  Spouses may obtain employment authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after admission to the United States.  Dependent children are not authorized to work in the United States but may but may study in the U.S. without a student (F-1) visa.

Employment Creation or Investment Green Cards

The EB-5 preference class allows certain foreign investors to qualify for permanent residence by creating employment opportunities for American workers.  The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program was established to create U.S. jobs by attracting foreign capital to the United States.  The basic requirements for this program are an investment of $1 million dollars (or $500,000 in a high unemployment or rural area) in a commercial enterprise that will create full-time employment for at least ten (10) qualifying US workers.  The investor may also choose to invest in a pre-approved “regional center.”

The Law Firm of Washington Immigration Attorney Robert Charles Hill – Hill Visa Law – is experienced in working with its clients to provide such counsel and will be happy to assist you. To arrange a telephone consultation, call us at (202) 721-7205 or use the consultation form to describe your circumstances.

Caveat: The information above is intended to be only a general description of various visa categories under United States immigration laws and must not be construed as legal advice applicable in any specific matter. Facts and circumstances will vary from case to case and adequate counsel can be provided only upon deliberate consideration of the needs and circumstances of an individual client.

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