Treaty Trader visas (E-1) and Treaty Investor visas (E-2) are non-immigrant visas for nationals of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation who wish to go to the United States for one of two purposes: to carry on substantial trade, principally between the United States and the treaty country (E-1); or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital (E-2). The Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor visas were established to facilitate and enhance economic interaction between the United States and other countries. They were not intended to serve as a means for foreigners to retire or merely reside in the United States. U.S. law (see paragraph 101(a)(15)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) explicitly states that E-1 visa holders must enter “solely to carry on substantial trade” and E-2 holders “solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise” in which he or she has invested. Moreover, these visas are non-immigrant visas and thus temporary. Persons wishing to remain indefinitely in the U.S. should apply for the appropriate immigrant visa.
The Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the United States and Bulgaria became effective on June 2, 1994. The BIT is considered by the Department of State to be equivalent to a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation for purposes of INA 101(A) (15) (E). Only the E-2 visa classification is provided for Bulgarian nationals under the BIT provisions.
Requirements: Treaty Investor (E-2)
- Requisite treaty exists.
- The investor, either a real or corporate person, must be a national of a treaty country.
- The investor has invested or is actively in the process of investing.
- The investment must be a real operating enterprise. Speculative or idle investment does not qualify. Uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security are not considered an investment.
- The investment must be substantial. It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise. The percentage of investment for a low-cost business enterprise must be higher than the percentage of investment in a high-cost enterprise.
- The investment may not be marginal. It must generate significantly more income than just to provide a living to the investor and family, or it must have a significant economic impact in the U.S.
- The investor must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise.
- If the applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity. Ordinary skilled and unskilled workers do not qualify.
- The investor intends to depart the United States when the E-2 status terminates.
Treaty trader/investor visas can be renewed or extended only if the investment or trade continues to meet all applicable requirements of U.S. immigration laws and regulations.
Both owners and employees of treaty investor businesses receive the same kind of visa (E-2). The law makes no distinction between them.
New Enterprise Applications
To qualify for Treaty Investor (E-2) status the enterprise must meet the requirements of the law for the designated category as outlined above.
Registration and approval of the company in the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit at the American Embassy in Sofia is required prior to the E visa application. This rule applies even if the applicant has received a change of status to E-1 or E-2 from the Department of Homeland Security (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)) in the United States.
Applications for new company registration must be submitted by mail. The applications should also contain the DS-160 and DS-156E (PDF 89,7 KB) application forms, photograph and MRV fee payment.
If the applicant does not wish to mail the documents they may be personally delivered at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia between 3:00 and 3:15pm every working day. The registration documents will not be accepted during normal appointment hours. Cases must be prepared in the standard format listed below. Once the application is received, it is reviewed by the CG or NIV Chief.
If the case is approved, the company is registered and the applicant is requested to come for an interview.
If the company appears not to be qualified, the applicant is given the chance to submit additional documentation. Subsequently, he is given the chance to make his case in person at an interview. If after this review the company still does not qualify, the case is refused 214(b).
Applications must be submitted in a binder divided into sections clearly separated by lettered or numbered tabs. Additional documents should be submitted only if they are absolutely integral to the application. English translations must be attached to all documents which are in a foreign language. Applications not complying with the format will experience a delay in processing.
Table of Contents
This table must identify the documents provided and their respective location within the application as provided in the tab sequence set out here below.
- Cover letter describing the enterprise and the beneficiary. This letter must address all requirements for E-2 visa eligibility listed below and must address how the applicant will demonstrate that he/she meets them:
- The requisite treaty exists.
- The individual and/or business possess the nationality of the treaty country.
- The investor has invested or is in the process of investing.
- The enterprise is a real and operating.
- The applicant’s investment is substantial.
- The investment is more than a marginal one solely for earning a living.
- The applicant is in a position to “develop and direct” the enterprise.
- The applicant, if an employee, is destined to an executive/supervisory position or possesses skills essential to the firm’s operations in the United States.
- The investor intends to depart the United States when the E-2 status terminates.
- DS-160 Confirmation page.
- Color photo (5cm x 5cm photo with a white background, taken within the last six months).
- Receipt for payment of the USD 205 E-2 visa application fee.
- Form DS-156E Part I, II & III (PDF 90 KB). (Contact information must include an e-mail address).
- G-28 “Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative”, including contact e-mail address, fax number, and phone number should also be submitted if applicable.
For all applicants, the following should be included:
- Employer letter, describing the enterprise in the U.S. (and in Bulgaria), position and beneficiary’s qualifications.
- A color photocopy of data (photo) page of passport and prior U.S. visas.
- Corporate organizational chart of your U.S. company showing how your position fits into the organization.
- Detailed resume including references with contact information.
- Relevant diplomas, job training certificates, and/or letters from previous employers.
- Signed statement of intent to depart the US upon termination of status.
- A copy of I-797 (any changes or extensions of status granted by USCIS).
- Marriage certificate (as applicable).
Nationality of the Enterprise
- Articles of Incorporation or Organization.
- Minutes of the meeting.
- Stock certificates and stock ledger.
- Detailed list of owners of the investment enterprise and what percentage each owns.
- A copy of the most recent trading information on the stock for the Bulgarian parent company showing the percentage of stocks held by Bulgarian Owners. If not listed, please submit a detailed statement about a judgment of affiliated companies, passport copies of majority shareholders, etc.
Demonstrate the applicant has invested or is in the process of investing:
- Proof of origination of the investment funds (evidence to show the origination of all funds used to pay for the enterprise. Explain the source of the funds and reason for receiving such funds. The evidence should include copies of all original wire transfers from overseas or domestic bank accounts).
- Evidence that funds were actually committed (invoices and cancelled checks with bank statements showing matching debits (highlighted).
If you are buying a pre-existing business, please provide all of the following that apply in your case:
- Letter of Intent.
- Valuation analysis of business assets.
- Pre-existing business’ Federal income taxes (U.S. tax forms must be copies of the signed and dated forms actually submitted to the IRS).
- Business licenses.
- Lease or purchase of property contracts.
- Photographs of the pre-existing business premises.
- Bill of sale.
- Escrow documents (Submit copies of final escrow documents used to purchase the pre-existing business. Include all copies of the investor’s cancelled money orders or personal, business or cashier’s checks that have been certified by the bank or financial entity from which the funds were paid and used to deposit funds in the escrow account).
If you are establishing a start-up, please provide all of the following that apply:
- Evidence of payments (submit legible copies of all of the treaty investor’s cancelled money orders, or personal, business, or cashiers checks/front & back that have been certified by the bank or financial entity from which the funds were paid. Valuation analysis of business assets).
- Also, submit legible copies of all of the investor’s bank statements showing checking/savings account. transactions to substantiate that the applicant’s funds were actually committed to the Treaty Investment.
- Signed, dated, valid lease or purchase for business premises, including evidence of payments.
- Business licenses.
Real and Operating
This element may be demonstrated by the submission of items such as:
- Annual reports.
- Sales literature.
- News articles.
- Business invoices with corresponding bank accounts showing payment.
- Receipts for the purchases of business equipment or inventory.
- Other documents tending to show the enterprise is producing some service or commodity.
- Pictures of the business premises and equipment.
Applicant investment is substantial
- Evidence that the business invested in is not speculative.
- Investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise.
- The amount of the qualifying funds invested compared to the cost of the enterprise.
- The extent of investor’s commitment may be provided by invoices or contracts for substantial purchases of equipment, inventory, land, buildings etc.
- Unverified and unaudited financial statements based exclusively on information supplied by an applicant normally are insufficient to establish the nature and status of an enterprise.
- Demonstrate the investment is more than a marginal one solely for earning a living.
- U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax returns for the past three years (U.S. tax forms must be copies of the signed and dated forms actually submitted to the IRS).
- Most recent IRS W-2 forms for all employees.
- Independent (non-consolidated) Financial Statements for the past three years.
- Business Plan – New business (The plan should include specific details as to the business to be conducted, and one, three, and five-year projections for business expenses, sales, gross income and profits or losses).
Develop and direct the enterprise
- The investor owns at least 50 percent of an enterprise.
- The owner must demonstrate that he or she personally develops and directs the enterprise.
- The investor controls the management.
Applicant, if an employee, is destined to an executive/supervisory position or possesses skills essential to the firm’s operations in the United States. (Note – only for the employees)
- Executive and supervisory responsibility.
- Essential employees with specialized skills needed by the enterprise.
Applicant intends to depart the United States when the E-2 status terminates
- Expression of an unequivocal intent to return when the E status ends.
At the time of E-2 visa interview
On the day of interview, the E-2 visa applicant will be fingerprinted.
Applicants should be prepared to discuss their business in detail during their interview. Legal representative and/or financial advisors are not permitted to attend. At the conclusion of the interview, the Consular Officer will determine if the business and applicant qualify under U.S. regulations for the visa.
If the applicant is denied an E visa, the officer will provide a form describing the reasons for the refusal and citing the appropriate section of U.S. regulation. The officer’s decision is final.
Revalidation of a company’s ‘E’ status
E visa registration should be updated annually. This is done when the company submits an updated DS-156 (E) either through a visa application or by mail. Companies that have not updated their registration within the past five years may be removed from the registration list.
Post will open a file for each company and keep the business packet for 2 years for non-registered companies, or until the registration expires for registered companies.
Applications for employees for companies that currently have ‘E’ visa registration
Employees of companies that are currently registered, may apply for an E visa using the standard application procedure posted at Apply for a visa. In addition to the standard documents, these applicants should also present a letter from the company explain the nature of the position and an organization chart showing the employee position in the enterprise.
If the company’s treaty investor status is expired, the company needs a totally new registration.
Change of Status
Investors who have changed status in the United States with USCIS must follow the steps for all first-time investors. Such a change of status remains valid only while the applicant remains in the United States. Once the applicant has left the United States, he or she requires an E-visa to return and resume the running of his or her business. Change of status does not guarantee the issuance of a visa nor does it exempt the investor from the normal process of filing documents in advance with the Embassy in Sofia.
Spouses and children
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require derivative E visas. If applying separately from the principal, a copy of the marriage certificate and/or birth certificate(s) for the child(ren) will be required. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas.
U.S. Port of Entry
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) has authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the bearer of a treaty trader or investor visa is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by the CBP, not the consular officer.
For further information regarding the registration procedure, email us at NIV_Sofia@state.gov, or call us at 02 937 5291