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Comparing the E2 and E1 Visas: What Are the Differences?


The differences between the E2 and E1 visas are important to consider if you’re planning to move to the United States. In order to make a well-informed decision, it’s beneficial to compare the two visas, their requirements, and the advantages and disadvantages associated with them.

E1 vs E2 visas

Overview of the E2 Visa

The E2 visa is an investor visa, and grants a foreign investor the opportunity to obtain a nonimmigrant visa to live and work in the United States. This type of visa allows the foreign investor to remain in the US for a period of up to 5 years, with the possibility of renewal. This visa class also allows for family members such as spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old to accompany the investor.

The E2 visa is a great option for foreign investors who are looking to start a business in the US. It allows them to remain in the country for an extended period of time. Additionally, the E2 visa is a great option for those who are looking to invest in existing businesses in the US, as it allows them to remain in the country and manage their investments.

Overview of the E1 Visa

The E1 visa is also known as the treaty trader visa, and it’s designed for foreign nationals who are coming to the United States for the purpose of engaging in substantial trade activities between their home country and the United States. To qualify for an E1 visa, the foreign national must demonstrate that they or their company is engaged in a regular and continuous flow of substantial international trade activities between the home country and the United States. The visa is valid for up to 5 years, with the possibility of renewal.

Qualifying Criteria For the E2 and E1 Visas

The qualifying criteria for an E2 visa is much broader than the requirements of an E1 visa as it does not require that any actual trading take place between countries. To qualify for an E2 visa, applicants must either have invested – or be about to invest – a substantial amount of money into a US business venture. The investment must be substantial enough to make it likely that the investor will generate income from the US business in order to support themselves and/or any dependents. Applicants must also demonstrate that they possess the requisite skills or qualifications necessary to play an important role in the business.

In order to qualify for an E1 visa, applicants must demonstrate that they are leading personnel of a company engaging in substantial international trade activities. The company must conduct 50 percent or more of its total trading activity between the US and the home country of the applicant. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they are coming to the United States with intentions to manage and supervise this activity from within US borders.

Application Process for the E2 and E1 Visas

In order to obtain an E2 visa, applicants must file a petition with a US Consulate or Embassy. The petition must include documents demonstrating that the investor meets all qualifications for an E2 visa, which includes evidence that the investor has made a substantial financial investment into a US business. Applicants will also need to submit evidence of any entrepreneurial experience they have, as well as proof of their identity.

In order to obtain an E1 visa, applicants must also apply directly through a US Consulate or Embassy. The application process includes submitting documentation demonstrating that the applicant meets all eligibility requirements, including evidence of their company’s international trading activity and their role as key personnel in this activity. Applicants will also need to provide evidence of their identity.

Benefits of the E2 Visa

There are several benefits associated with obtaining an E2 visa compared with other available options. First, the visa does not require a large financial investment upfront (unlike an EB-5 visa for instance), and can provide temporary entry into the US quickly. The allowance of family members accompanying an E2 holder may also be beneficial for applicants wishing to bring partners or children into the US.

Benefits of the E1 Visa

E1 visa holders are afforded considerable flexibility in their ability to engage in a diverse range of trade-related activities within the United States. Specifically, E1 visa holders are authorized to participate in the purchase and sale of goods and services, as well as various other business transactions as long as 50% of their activity is related to trade with their home country. This level of flexibility allows E1 visa holders to fully leverage their business acumen and pursue a wide array of opportunities, ultimately contributing to a more dynamic and thriving business landscape.

Cost Considerations for the E2 and E1 Visas

The costs associated with obtaining either an E2 or E1 visa are dependent upon various factors. In both cases, all applicants are required to pay a non-refundable application fee. It is worth noting that legal fees associated with securing either type of visa tend to be relatively consistent. While there may be some variance depending on specific circumstances, applicants should expect to encounter similar costs when engaging the services of an immigration attorney.

Drawbacks of the E2 and E1 Visas

The key drawback associated with both visas is their inability to swiftly transition from temporary status into more permanent status: in many cases, individuals under either visa may eventually have to transition into other types of visas such as EB-5 or H-1B visas in order to gain longer term residency in the United States.

In addition, it should be noted that while regulations do exist allowing the family members of investors or traders to accompany them to the US, visa holders’ children are prohibited from working and are not eligible to maintain their status past the age of 21. While family members may enjoy the benefits of residing in the United States with the visa holder, it is important to consider the limitations and restrictions on their ability to work and remain in the country beyond a certain point.

Comparing Renewal Options for the E2 and E1 Visas

In terms of renewals, holders of either visa have multiple options available. For those holding an E2 visa, renewal requests may be submitted if the primary applicant’s underlying business is still ongoing. For those holders of an E1 visa, renewal requests may only be submitted provided that their home country’s treaty with the US remains active and the business trades between both counties have been consistent.

Comparing Family Immigration Benefits for the E2 and E1 Visas

In terms of family immigration benefits, both visas provide provisions which allow family members such as spouses and dependent children under 21 years old to accompany traders or investors on their respective visas. However, each type of visa enforces different conditions which must be met in order for family members to be eligible.

Comparing Long-Term Residency Options with the E2 and E1 Visas

Both of these visas do not provide long-term residency by themselves. However, it is possible for individuals who initially entered into either type of visa to transition from temporary status into more permanent status; this could occur via transitioning into EB-5 or H-1B visas where applicable. It is important for those planning to stay in the US for longer periods of time to be aware that transitioning into higher-level status is a necessary step.

Making a Decision Between an E2 or E1 Visa

Ultimately, it is necessary to assess both visas against individual needs when attempting to make a decision between them. It’s beneficial to weigh up all aspects associated with each type of visa: from costs through to family immigration benefits; payment options through to long-term residency options; based on what fits best with personal circumstances.

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Sylvain Perret

Sylvain Perret is a business professional who has been living in the United States since 2010. Along with his wife Daphnee, he has established several businesses in the country, including Integrity International Brokers, an agency based in Orlando where he works as a business broker, real estate broker, business consultant, and business plan writer. Over the years, he has helped numerous clients from around the world achieve success in their projects to create or take over a company in the United States with an E2 visa. He is highly knowledgeable about U.S. immigration issues and is the author of the book "S'expatrier aux USA grâce aux visas d'entrepreneurs", which is soon to be translated into English. Sylvain is also a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) by the International Business Brokers Association and is regularly consulted on issues related to this field. At the age of 50, Sylvain chose to enhance his expertise in finance and strategy by pursuing a Master of Business Administration from the University of Central Florida. He successfully graduated in May 2023, adding a valuable finishing touch to his knowledge. He is active on LinkedIn and Twitter, where he shares his insights and experiences with a wider audience.


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