Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors Visas

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Overview

Overview for E-1/E2 countries

Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) visas are for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation. Japan is one of these countries. For a list of all treaty countries, click here.

To qualify for Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) visas applicants must be coming to the United States either to engage in substantial trade, including trade in service or technology, in qualifying activities, which is principally between the United States and the treaty country, or to develop and direct the operation of an enterprise in which the applicant has invested a substantial amount of capital. Holders of E visas must intend to depart the United States upon the termination of their E status.

The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of treaty traders, treaty investors, or employees of enterprises may receive dependent E visas in order to accompany or follow to join their spouse or parent. They are not required to have the same nationality as the principal applicant to obtain an E visa.

E visas permit the investor/trader and his or her family to live in the United States during the period of stay authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). E visas are nonimmigrant visas; consequently, visa holders are allowed to live in the United States only so long as the conditions under which the visa was granted remain valid. Dependents are not authorized to work in the U.S. unless they receive explicit authorization to do so from DHS-USCIS in the United States. Dependents of treaty traders/investors may apply for work authorization after their arrival in the United States.

Overview for E-2 only countries

To qualify for Treaty Investor (E-2) visas applicants must be coming to the United States either to develop and direct the operation of an enterprise in which the applicant has invested a substantial amount of capital.

Treaty Investor (E-2) visas are for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation. Japan is one of these countries. For a list of all treaty countries, click here.

The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of treaty investors, or employees of enterprises may receive dependent E visas in order to accompany or follow to join their spouse or parent. They are not required to have the same nationality as the principal applicant to obtain an E visa.

E visas permit the investor and his or her family to live in the United States during the period of stay authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). E visas are nonimmigrant visas; consequently, visa holders are allowed to live in the United States only so long as the conditions under which the visa was granted remain valid. Dependents are not authorized to work in the U.S. unless they receive explicit authorization to do so from DHS-USCIS in the United States. Dependents of trader investors may apply for work authorization must be applied for after their arrival in the United States.

Qualifications for Treaty Trader (E-1)

  • The applicant must be a citizen of a treaty country;
  • The trading firm for which the applicant is coming to the United States must have the nationality of the treaty country, meaning persons with the treaty country’s nationality must own at least 50 percent of the enterprise;
  • The international trade must be "substantial". There must be a sizeable and continuing volume of trade (trade means the international exchange of goods, services, and technology). Title of the trade items must pass from one party to the other;
  • The trade of the U.S. enterprise must be principally between the U.S. and the treaty country. More than 50 percent of the international trade involved must be between the U.S. and the country of the applicant's nationality;
  • The applicant must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess highly specialized skill essential to the efficient operation of the firm. Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify. Please note that a detailed explanation of why the applicant's skills are essential for the enterprise in the U.S. may be required.
  • The applicant must intend to depart the U.S. when his/her E-1 status ends.

Qualifications for Treaty Investor (E-2)

  • The investor, either a person, partnership or a corporate entity, must have the citizenship of the treaty country. If a business, at least 50 percent of the business must be owned by persons with the treaty country’s nationality;
  • The investment must be substantial and the funds have to be "irrevocably" committed. The investment must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise..;
  • The investment must be in a real operating enterprise. Speculative or idle investment does not qualify. Uncommitted funds in a bank account or mere ownership of undeveloped land are not considered an investment.;
  • The investment may not be marginal. Based on 9 FAM 41.51, the enterprise must either show a financial return that significantly exceeds what is necessary to support a living for the investor or else the enterprise must have the capacity, present or future, to make a significant economic contribution;
  • The investor must have control of the funds, and the investment must be at risk in a commercial sense. If the funds are not subject to partial or total loss if business fortunes reverse, then the investment is not an investment in the sense intended by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 101(a)(15)(E) and in 9 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 41.51. Loans secured with the assets of the investment enterprise do not qualify.
  • The investor must be coming to the United States to develop and direct the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity. Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify. Please note that a detailed explanation of why the applicant's skills are essential for the enterprise in the U.S. or why the applicant possesses qualifying “executive or supervisory experience may be required.
  • The applicant must intend to depart the U.S. when his/her E-2 status ends.

Company Registration Procedures

The first step in applying for a Treaty Trader or a Treaty Investor visa is to establish the qualification of the company or operation in the U.S. All companies seeking E visas for their owners or employees must be registered with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or the U.S. Consulate in Osaka. Click here for E1 visas or click here for E2 visas if your company is not registered.

Company Registration Duration

Qualified companies will remain on the registry as long as the companies keep their status as E visa qualified companies, and there is at least 1 employee holding a current E Visa. Registered companies are no longer required to send DS-156E and financial documents annually to the Embassy/Consulate.

Please note, adjudication of your E Visa application could result in a decision to limit the visa duration to less than the maximum period of five years based on the overall quality of the business or applicant suitability. In addition, the applicant may be subject to further administrative processing and review upon renewal if it is determined that relevant, new information must be considered for proper adjudication.  Extensive review at the time of renewal will allow the adjudicating officer to determine if projected goals and expectations have been met or exceeded. In cases where expected criteria have been met, renewal may result in full validity, five year issuance. 

Application Items

To apply for a Treaty Trader (E-1) visa or Treaty Investor (E-2) visa, company registration is required. You must also submit the following:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 web page for more information about the DS-160.
  • A completed Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor Application, Form DS-156E. Type “156” in the Keyword field to search the form. 
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
  • Your expired passports issued within the past 10 years
  • One color photograph 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) taken within 6 month against white background (Please attach your photo on the upper left corner of DS-160 confirmation page). This web page has information about the required photo format. *Please note applicants are not permitted to wear eyeglasses in photos.
  • An interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service.
  • The consular officer may provide the applicant with special forms to establish that the trading enterprise or investment enterprise meets the requirements and complies with the requirements for the E visa classification. The applicant can expect the consular officer to request additional documentation, so it is impossible to specify the exact documentation required.

Non-Japanese applicants must also include:

  • Photocopy (both sides) of the Japanese Alien Registration Card or “Zairyu” card

In addition to these items, please also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer. If a visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality. The Department of State's website can help you find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.

Supporting Documents

Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the Embassy or Consulate in a sealed envelope. The Embassy or Consulate will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information. English translations must be attached to all documents which are in a foreign language.

Treaty Trader/Investor Visa (E-1/E-2) applicants must also submit:

  • a company letter describing the enterprise, the applicant's qualifications and number of family members intending to travel. This letter must address all requirements for E visa eligibility as defined by the Foreign Affairs Manual 9 FAM 41.51 and U.S. law. Specifically, the letter must address how the applicant will demonstrate that he/she meets all requirements under 9 FAM 41.51.
  • Corporate organizational chart of your U.S. company showing how your position (highlighted) fits into the organization.
  • Updated form DS-156E Part I, Part II and Part III with non-consolidated financial statements or tax return (Form 1120)

For companies that submit applications for multiple employees per year, please only include financial statements or tax returns with one application per year. Ideally, the financial statements would be sent with the first applicant after the financial statements are announced or tax returns are filed.

Note:  Submitted documents should fit in a Letterpack in order for us to return the documents after the visa review.

Supporting Documents for Dependents

Dependents should bring all required documents for any nonimmigrant visa, plus:

  • An original marriage (for spouse) and/or birth certificate (for unmarried children under 21), as applicable
  • A copy of the principal applicant's visa if dependents apply for their visas at a later date

How to Apply

The first step in applying for a Treaty Trader or a Treaty Investor visa is to establish the qualification of the company or operation in the U.S. This process is known as registration. All companies seeking E visas for their owners or employees must be registered with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or the U.S. Consulate in Osaka. If your company is not registered, click here for E1 visas or click here for E2 visas to review the registration process on the U.S. Embassy's website.

If your company is already registered, click here to apply at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or the U.S. Consulate in Osaka or Naha.

If your company is already registered, click here to apply at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka or Sapporo.

More Information

For more information about visas for treaty traders and treaty investors, visit the Department of State's website.