An E-2 visas allow applicants to live and work in the U.S. based on either starting or buying a U.S. business. The E-2 visa is based on Treaties between the U.S. and other countries and requires the investor to invest a certain amount of money in a business, and to hire U.S. workers. You can find out more about the E-2 visa requirements by clicking here.
An E-1 visa is based on trade between Treaty countries and the U.S. and requires a substantial amount of trade to occur between the U.S. and the treaty country. This visa does not require hiring U.S. employees (although this is helpful), and the E-1 visa also does not require that a separate entity be set up in the U.S. Finally, an E-1 visa does not necessarily require a business plan. You can find out more about the E-1 visa requirements by clicking here.
One question that comes up with E visas is whether or not an applicant must reside in the U.S. if they have an E-1 or E-2 visa. The short answer is No as the E-1 and E-2 visas do not have a residency requirement. That is, there is no requirement that the Investor (E-2 Visa) or Trader (E-1 Visa) lives in the U.S. However, for the E-2 visa, there is a requirement that the investor directs and develops the enterprise. As such, if residing abroad, you should be prepared to explain that you have met this requirement and that developing and directing the organization does not require full-time residency in the U.S. You can find out more about developing and directing the business by clicking here. The vast majority of E-1 and E-2 applicants live and reside in the U.S. but it is not essential that they do.
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