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Expanding Your Business into the US Through E-1 or E-2 Visas

By Jasmin Singh - Law Office of Jasmin Singh
Inmigration Lawyer


By Jasmin Singh | Immigration Lawyer - Thu, 05/11/2023 - 16:00

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Mexican entrepreneurs looking to expand into the US market should consider the Treaty Trader E-1 visa or the Treaty Investor E-2 visa. Both visas were created by a treaty agreement to enhance economic interaction between the US and Mexico.  The E-1 and E-2 visas were designed for Mexican entrepreneurs to enter the US to live while engaging in business which positively impacts the US economy.  Treaty traders under the E-1 visa must engage in substantial international trade of goods, services, or technology between the US and Mexico while Treaty Traders under the E-2 visa must direct and develop a business they have invested in or are in the process of investing in. The two visa categories have different requirements but ultimately both categories provide the same benefits to an entrepreneur and their family.  

The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

The E-2 Treaty Investor visa allows an investor to live in the US to either set-up or invest in a US business.  To qualify, you must be a Mexican citizen and make a “substantial” investment in a new or existing business in the US  The law does not define “substantial”, but for new businesses the investment should be enough to start and operate the type of company the investor presents in their business plan to immigration officials.  For existing businesses, the investor must demonstrate the investment is substantial in proportion to the overall cost of the business. 

The Mexican investor must have control over the capital invested or being invested.  In other words, the Mexican investor must have a controlling interest in the business (usually over 50% ownership).  The investment capital may come from certain unsecured loans or capital secured by personal assets.  Additionally, the investment capital must have been obtained through lawful and acceptable sources such as inheritance, personal savings, earning from investments or monetary gifts.  The investor must also prove the business can generate profits to support more than the investor and their family but to grow the US economy.  Finally, the funds must also be at “risk” meaning the investment is subject to partial or total loss. 

A Mexican investor in E-2 status is only permitted to work on their investment in the US   Once the investment has been reviewed and approved at the US Embassy or Consulate, the E-2 company can hire additional Mexican citizens under E-2 status who will work as a manager or employee with specialized knowledge. 

The E-1 Treaty Trader Visa

The E-1 Treaty Trader visa permits an entrepreneur to enter the US to live and conduct “substantial” trade between the US and Mexico.  Like the E-2 visa, the law does not define “substantial” for the E-1 visa.  Substantial trade means that there must be a continuous flow of trade items and there must be numerous trade exchanges. The company performing the trade must be at least 50% owned by Mexican(s) citizens.  More than 50% of the international trade being conducted must be between the US and Mexico.  The items for trade include but are not limited to goods, services, international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, technology and its transfer and some new-gathering activities.  

It is also possible for employees of the trading company to come to the US under an E-1 visa provided they hold Mexican citizenship, and they will perform a managerial role or serve in a position that requires specialized knowledge.  

Requesting the E-1 or the E-2 Visa

You may request an E-1 or E-2 visa at the US Embassy in Mexico City or the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez.  Once the US Embassy or Consulate reviews the application, they will schedule an appointment with the applicant to discuss the investment or trade.  E-1 and E-2 status may be valid for up to two years and may be extended in two-year increments.   The E-1 or E-2 visa stamp issued in the passport is valid for up to four years for Mexican citizens.  

A Mexican entrepreneur seeking an E-1 or E-2 visa may also seek a dependent visa for their family members.  A dependent is a spouse or child under the age of 21 years old.  The dependent status allows a child to attend private or public school in the US and a spouse is permitted to pursue a career and work for any US employer.   

Entrepreneurs can apply any time of year for an E-1 or E-2 visa and neither visa category is subject to a quota.  They can also travel freely, in and out of the US while on an E-1 or E-2 visa. The E-1 or E-2 visa is a great tool for entrepreneurs to pursue their business goals in the US 

Photo by:   Jasmin Singh

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