The E-1 and E-2 Visas are available for foreign nationals, who are citizens of countries which have treaties of “commerce and navigation” with the United States. Generally, the E visa is available to persons who will oversee a business in the United States, which is either engaged in trade between the United States and the treaty country or is created by “substantial investment” in the United States.
In order to obtain an E visa, there must be an actual treaty existing between the U.S. and the foreign national’s country of nationality, the majority ownership of the company must be held by the nationals of the foreign country, and the foreign national must be a manager or an executive or a person with essential skills.
In order to obtain an E-1 visa, the United States company must be engaged in an already existing “substantial” trade (50% or more) between the United States and the treaty country, and the foreign employee seeking an E-1 must be employed in a managerial capacity or must have “essential skills.” The foreign national must show an intention to depart the United States at the conclusion of the E-1 visa period.
As for the E-2 (treaty investor) visa, it is required that the foreign national must show that s/he is in the process of actively investing, or must have already made a substantial investment in a United States business that is real and operating. For the individual investor, the amount of investment must not be his/her sole means of support, and s/he must also be in a position to develop and direct the business in the U.S. If the E-2 visa applicant is an employee, and not an investor, s/he must individually qualify as a manager or as a highly trained and specially qualified employee and, must show an intention to depart the United States at the conclusion of the E-2 visa period.
It must be noted that the spouses of the principal E-1 and E-2 visas can obtain work permission.