Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors Visas

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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. Estonia 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.


Qualifications for a Treaty Trader (E-1) Visa

  • 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 a Treaty Investor (E-2) Visa 

  • 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.


Application Process

  • Please assemble your package according to these guidelines. The maximum size of the package is 40 double sided pages. Oversized packages are not accepted. Applications must be submitted in a folder divided into sections clearly separated by lettered or numbered tabs. Do not include glossy brochures, fancy photographs, or elaborate business plans that contribute little or nothing to the value of your case. 
  • TREATY TRADER and TREATY INVESTOR VISAS (both E-1 and E-2 visa applications) 
    • Tab A(Table of Contents) 
    • Tab B(Forms)
      • Confirmation of payment of visa fee (payable via debit card or electronic funds transfer)
      • Completed DS-160 for all applicants. Confirmation Page ONLY 
      • DS-156E for primary applicant only 
      • G-28 if applicable 
  • Tab C(Applicant Information) 
      • Certificates that demonstrate proof of family relationships and the marital status for each applicant; Birth Certificate and Marriage License. (one copy for the entire family is sufficient) 
      • The principal applicant’s résumé or curriculum vitae 
      • A signed statement of intent to depart the U.S. upon termination of status for the principal applicant 
  •  Tab D(Cover Letter and additional documents) 
      • The cover letter must describe how the enterprise qualifies for E-1 or E-2 status and must include a description of the beneficiary’s specific skills and qualifications, if not addressed in the resume or CV. The letter must address all the requirements for E-1 or E-2 visa eligibility, described in depth in the S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual 9 FAM 41.51.  
  • Address the following points in detail for the E-1 visa: 
      • The trade is substantial and on-going 
      • The traded goods are easily identified and traceable 
      • The enterprise is currently operational 
      • At least 50% of the trade is between the US and the treaty country. Bills of lading are the preferred documentation to verify this requirement; however, annual reports, purchase orders or invoices, sales invoices, inventory data and insurance papers documenting commodities imported into the U.S. may be acceptable. 
    • Address the following points in detail for the E-2 visa:  
      • The investment is substantial 
      • The investor has invested or is in the process of investing 
      • The enterprise is currently operational or will commence operations imminently 
      • The investment is more than a marginal one solely for earning a living. If you are not the principle investor, you must demonstrate the applicant will fill an executive/supervisory role or possesses skills essential to the firm’s startup operations 
  • Documentation that supports the applicant’s expertise and underlines his/her essential skills. This may include any relevant diplomas, job training certificates and/or letters from previous employers. 
  • Include the first two pages of U.S. corporate tax returns, showing IRS reported sales for the two years immediately preceding the application and the most recent tax return filed with IRS. 
  • Evidence that the enterprise has the present and future capacity to generate more than enough income for a minimal living for the treaty investor and his/her family. (The projected future capacity should be realized within 5 years after business start-up.)
  • Tab E(Ownership) 
      • Proof of at least 50% treaty country nationality for the principal investor/owner 
      • If the firm has several owners or subsidiaries or if the chain of ownership includes intermediary entities, please include the following (as applicable):
      • a) An organization chart with names showing the full ownership structure of the entity 
      • b) Legal proof of ownership within a respective chain 
      • c) Photocopies of the bio data page of the passports and the percentage of each unit holder of the definitive parent company 
      • If the firm is publicly traded with many shareholders (none of which own more than 50%) include: 
      • a) A written declaration justly authorized by a corporate official stating all of the stock exchanges on which the firm is traded 
      • b) A copy of recently issued trading information concerning the nationality of the stock’s owners. 
      • For an E-1 visa, if the firm is an incorporated entity outside of the US, include a chart of ownership of the enterprise and a certificate of existence/registration from the state/province in which the company is incorporated.

How to Apply

Step 1

Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 2

Pay the visa application fee. The visa fee page lists the visa types and correlating visa fee in U.S. dollars and local currency.

To pay your visa fee, read the Bank and Payment Options page. This page explains how to make your visa fee payment. You will create a profile and must keep your receipt number to book your visa appointment.

Step 3

Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need the following information in order to schedule your appointment:

Your passport number

The CGI reference number from your Visa Fee receipt. (Click here if you need help finding this number.)

Step 4

Read carefully the instructions. After entering the receipt number you will receive the following message: "Your request to schedule an appointment has been received and will be reviewed."

Step 5

Submit your (E) visa application by mail to:

U.S. Embassy

Kentmanni 20, Tallinn 15099


Step 6

You will receive an email once your request is approved. Please log back into your profile on and select “Continue” option in order to schedule the appointment (left side of the screen).

Step 7

Visit the Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About E-1 and E-2 Visas

Q: Must the trading company exist and/or the investment have been made before the visa can be issued?

A: Trade must already be established at the time of visa application. Investments, however, may be prospective, provided that the funds are irrevocably committed to the investment, contingent only upon the issuance of the visa. Investment funds may come from any country, including the United States, as long as they are controlled by the investor applicant.

Q: What is substantial trade?

A: Substantial trade contemplates a continuous flow of trade items between the U.S. and the treaty country. This means numerous transactions rather than a single transaction regardless of monetary value.

Q: What is a substantial amount of capital?

A: There is no fixed amount which is considered “substantial.” A substantial amount of capital constitutes that amount which is ample to ensure the investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise as measured by the proportionality test. The proportionality test compares the total amount invested in the enterprise with the cost of establishing a viable enterprise of the nature contemplated or the amount of capital needed to purchase an existing enterprise.

Such comparison constitutes the percentage of the treaty applicant’s investment in the enterprise. That percentage must compare favorably in the fashion of an inverted sliding scale starting with a high percentage of investment for a lower cost enterprise. The percentage of investment decreases at a gradual rate as the cost of the business increases. An amount of capital invested in an enterprise is merely presumed to be substantial when it meets or exceeds the percentage figures given in the following examples (amounts shown are in U.S. dollars):

  • 75% investment in an enterprise costing no more than $500,000 (if the cost of the enterprise is substantially lower than $500,000, 85-90%, or even 100% investment may be required).
  • 50% investment in an enterprise costing more than $500,000 but no more than $3,000,000.
  • 30% investment in any enterprise costing more than $3,000,000.

A multi-million dollar investment by a large foreign corporation is normally considered substantial, regardless of the examples given above.

The investment must do more than merely yield a return capable of supporting the investor and family. A marginal enterprise is an enterprise which does not have the capacity to generate significantly more than enough income to provide a living for the investor, family and other alien employees.

Q: Are joint ventures permitted?

A: Yes, provided that the business or individual investor applying for the visa is in a position to “develop and direct” the enterprise. The applicant is in such a position by controlling the enterprise through ownership of at least 50% of the business, possessing operational control through a marginal position or other corporate device, or by other means showing the applicant controls the enterprise.

Q: How long may the Treaty Trader or Investor stay in the U.S.?

A: The applicant must have the intention of departing the U.S. upon conclusion of the commercial activities. Nevertheless, holders of E-visas may reside in the U.S. as long as they continue to meet E-visa qualifications.

“Essential employees” may remain only as long as their skills are required to operate the business, and only as long as the owner can show either that U.S. workers cannot be trained to duplicate the skills or that the owner is making reasonable efforts to train U.S. workers as replacements.

For Australians, the E-visa normally is valid for 24 months for treaty traders and qualifying employees, but can be valid for 48 months for the principal investor and family. On initial entry, immigration officials normally authorize a stay of up to one year in the U.S., with extensions generally available for as long as the E-visa holder and family maintain their E-visa status.