Understanding the E Visa Category

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

An E visa is a temporary work visa that allows foreign national employees to enter the U.S. for employment or investing. Foreign entities may also use an E visa to establish a commercial presence in the U.S.

The E visa is a popular visa for both employers and employees, as it has a flexible duration and the option for an extension, which makes it easier to plan longer-term stays in the U.S.

E visas permit investors and treaty traders to work in the U.S., provided they are a citizen or a national of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S.

What Types of E Visas Are Available?

There are several categories of E visas available for foreign employees, including:

  • E-1
  • E-2
  • E-3

The E-1 visa allows a treaty trader to enter the U.S. for the main purpose of conducting “substantial trade” in goods, which is primarily technology and services.

The E-2 visa is designed for treaty investors who direct or manage operations of an organization. This visa allows employees to invest a “substantial” amount of money into an enterprise in the U.S.

A third E visa category, which is the E-3 visa, is reserved for Australian workers who will be employed in a specialty occupation upon entering the U.S.

For more information on the three visas available for foreign workers, see Envoy’s dedicated page on E visas.

Who Is Eligible for an E Visa?

Employees must meet certain eligibility criteria to apply for an E visa. Some requirements apply to all E visa categories, but employees will likely have to meet other visa-specific criteria depending on which type of E visa they are applying for.

To qualify for an E-1 visa, individuals must be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of trade and navigation. They are required carry on substantial trade between the U.S. and their country of origin.

For an E-2 visa, individuals must be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of trade and navigation. They are required to have invested or be actively investing substantial capital in a U.S. enterprise. They must enter the U.S. solely to develop and direct their enterprise.

NOTE: Individuals can also qualify for an E-1 or an E-2 visa as an employee of a treaty trader or a treaty investor. To qualify, individuals must have the same nationality as their primary employer. They must meet the definition of an “employee” under applicable law, and they are required to perform executive or managerial duties. If they are employed in a lower-level position, they will need to show special qualifications.

To be eligible for an E-3 visa, employees must be a national of Australia and have an offer of employment in the U.S. Proof of requisite academic or other qualifying credentials is mandatory. Additionally, they must show proof of employment in a specialty occupation, which can be satisfied by providing a job contract or an offer letter from a U.S. employer describing the particulars of the role to be performed.

What Is the E Visa Application Process?

To secure an E visa for their employees, entities must typically apply at U.S. Embassies or Consulates abroad. A consular interview may be required. Employees must obtain the E visa in their passports before they can enter the U.S.

The filing requirements are different for an E-3 visa. While employers can only apply for an E-1 or an E-2 visa outside the U.S., an E-3 visa application may be submitted either outside the country or from within the U.S. 

Filing requires can change over time, so please check with USCIS for the most up-to-date filing requirements, which include a Form I-129, a Labor Condition Application (LCA), academic or professional credentials demonstrating qualifications for the position, and a job offer verifying that the individual will be working in a specialty occupation and will earn at least the requisite prevailing wage.

How Long Is an E Visa Valid?

An E visa is valid for two years, and can be extended in two-year increments. The total stay in E status can vary based on the employer’s and individual’s personal circumstances.

What Countries Qualify for E Visas?

Many countries qualify for an E visa, including Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Chile, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. Additional information is available on the U.S. Department of State's Treaty Countries webpage. This page provides a current list of countries that have a treaty of commerce or navigation with the U.S.

How Long Does It Take To Get an E Visa?

Application times for an E visa can vary, which is why employers should start the application process as soon as possible. There are multiple steps involved to apply for an E visa, which means planning and preparation should begin well in advance of when the employee intends to travel to the U.S. HR managers should make sure that their employees have all the documentation and supporting evidence required ahead of time when they begin the filing process to avoid delays.

How Are Employers Notified When USCIS Processes an E Visa?

After receiving a complete E visa application, USCIS will provide employers with updates on the application’s status by providing Receipt Notices, Requests for Evidence (RFEs), or Approval/Denial notices. Applicants may be required to schedule a biometrics appointment, and USCIS will send a biometrics appointment notice with the date and time if an appointment is mandatory.

Where Can I Find More Information on E Visas?

For more information about the E visa category, download Envoy’s Introduction to E Visas Guide.

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Frank J. Fogelbach, who is a Supervising Attorney at Corporate Immigration Partners (CIP), one of the two independent U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the "U.S. Law Firms").

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative.