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The following information is provided regarding U.S. regulations for foreign investors. Status as either a nonimmigrant (E-1/E-2) or lawful permanent residency (EB-5 green card) can be obtained based on direct investment of funds in the U.S. This letter provides a general outline of the nonimmigrant visa procedure as well as the permanent residency application based on investment.

Nonimmigrant Visas for Investors

An E-1 (trader) or E-2 (investor) nonimmigrant visa is especially useful for business owners, managers and employees who need to remain in the U.S. for extended periods of time in order to oversee or work in an enterprise engaged in trade between the U.S. and a foreign state or to manage a major investment in the U.S. 'E' visas are generally issued for five years; extensions may be granted as long as eligibility continues.

Eligibility Requirements of the Investor Seeking a Nonimmigrant Visa

To qualify for an E-1 visa, the individual must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a national of a foreign state with which the U.S. has a treaty
  • Be coming to the U.S. solely to develop and direct an enterprise
  • Be in the process of investing or already have invested a substantial amount of capital

Eligible Nationals

The E-1 nonimmigrant category is available only if a treaty of commerce and navigation or a "bilateral investment treaty" providing for nonimmigrant entry is in existence between the United States and the foreign state. Please refer to the attachment to see the countries which currently have treaties.

A passport issued by one of the listed countries is generally sufficient to demonstrate nationality for the principal beneficiary. Eligible family members would include a spouse and/or children under 21 (there is no nationality requirement for the spouse or child). It should also be noted that the individual's employees (e.g., executives, managers, or employees with special skills essential to the company) may also accompany him or her.

Also, the general rule is that the principal E-1 treaty alien and employee seeking entry as E-1 employee must have the same nationality as the treaty enterprise. A determination as to nationality of certain foreign corporations may be complex. The nationality of the company engaged in trade or investment is the nationality of those persons who own at least 50 percent of the stock of the corporation. Under this definition, INS does recognize 50/50 joint-venture companies as qualifying for E-1 status.

Definition of a Treaty Trader (E-1 Visa)

A treaty trader is an individual who is temporarily seeking entry to the U.S. solely "to carry on substantial trade, including trade or services or trade in technology, principally between the United States and the foreign state of which he is a national." INS has not yet defined "trade" for E-1 purposes; however, it has previously been interpreted liberally so as to encompass the wide-ranging type of transactions in the business world. Firms which are generally considered as trading services include those engaged in data processing, advertising, accounting, design and engineering, management consulting and law. Businesses participating in a technology transfer are also considered to be engaged in trade for E-1 purposes.

INS has not yet set a dollar value to define what it considers "substantial" trade. INS examines three in determining whether or not the trade is substantial: (1) volume of trade, (2) number of transactions, and (3) the continued course of trade. To qualify for an E-1 visa, more than half of the total volume of trade conducted by the U.S. employing entity must flow between the United State and the treaty country.


Investment of substantial capital in the U.S. provides a vehicle for obtaining either nonimmigrant or permanent residency in the U.S. Careful planning must be made and the application procedure must be followed prior to investment of monies. Close analysis must be made of both the E-1/E-2 nonimmigrant investor visa versus the EB-5 permanent resident investor option. Much will depend on the long-range plans of the alien investor along with the tax implications that will follow.

Upon your request, a petition will be made available for you to examine the actual application procedure. There is currently a different petition for each country; the INS has announced plans to develop a single uniform application but it has yet to introduce the new form.

e1 Treaty Countries

The listing of countries that have applicable treaties with the U.S. is constantly changing. Currently, the following countries have treaties with the U.S.:

Africa: Ethiopia, Liberia, Togo

Asia: China (Taiwan), Japan, Korea (South), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand

Central America: Costa Rica, Honduras

Australia: Australia

Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United, Kingdom, Yugoslavia

Middle East: Iran, Brunei, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Turkey

North America: Canada, Mexico

South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Paraguay, Suriname

Kingston, Martinez & Hogan immigration represents clients throughout the United States and California, Ca, Southern California, santa barbara, goleta, santa ynez, goleta valley, ventura, oxnard, camarillo, los angeles, and Los angeles county. nationally, many clients come from Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, new mexico, colorado, detroit, chicago, dallas, new york city, boston, philadelphia, and washington d.c. Internationally, we work with companies and individuals all over world, including mexico and canada.