In response to concerns from Canadian business leaders, the U.S. government has recently streamlined procedures to facilitate the ‘E’ visa application process—making cross-border travel easier and faster for executives, supervisors and skilled employees travelling to the U.S.
Photo: Noelle Smith
In late 2011, the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto put into place new ‘E’ visa scheduling procedures for so-called E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor visa clients. ‘E’ visas are for nationals of certain treaty countries, such as Canada, who are coming to the U.S. to carry on substantial trade between the U.S. and Canada or who are coming to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the person has invested or is investing a substantial amount of capital.
To qualify for an ‘E’ visa, applicants must demonstrate that they have an executive or supervisory role. In other words, U.S. officials must be convinced that those granted an ‘E’ visa have a high degree of control over the company or project. ‘E’ visa classification also applies to certain skilled employees who have the same kind of control over the project. In general, the ‘E’ classification is intended for specialists and not ordinary skilled workers.
Many companies use ‘H,’ ‘L’ and ‘TN’ visas to bring employees to work at U.S.-based operations. The ‘E’ visa provides another avenue for companies to send qualified employees to the U.S. Unlike ‘H’ and ‘L’ visas, an ‘E’ visa does not require a labour certificate or an approved petition. Also, the visa can be processed directly through the U.S. Consulate in Toronto and the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver for those in Albert, B.C. and Yukon.
A first-time ‘E’ visa generally takes about three weeks from the date the appointment is scheduled to the time the visa is ready for pick up. Cases of qualifying applicants of registered businesses or dependents of current ‘E’ visa holders generally take about one week.
New ‘E’ visa applicants and those applicants renewing an ‘E’ visa may now schedule appointments with the consulate a minimum of 10 business days from the date the appointment is booked—a substantial reduction in wait times from the previous scheduling system, which could average up to six weeks.
Companies that have already registered with the U.S. Consulate General’s ‘E’ visa unit are able to schedule appointments for their qualifying employees as soon as the next available business day. They do not need to re-submit the entire package of information on the company, but rather need only to submit the documentation related to the employee. An ‘E’ visa lasts five years so the applicant can enter the U.S. until the expiration date on the visa. The visas are generally provided for multiple entries so one does not need to reapply for each border crossing. U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorizes the duration of time that the individual can stay in the United States.
Additionally, applicants from registered companies are no longer required to submit supporting documentation prior to appearing for their visa interview. The amount of supporting documentation that is required at the interview has also been significantly reduced. The visa application fee is US$390 to be paid at the time the visa interview is scheduled. After the visa interview, if the consular official determines that the applicant qualifies for the ‘E’ visa, a visa-issuance fee of US$40 is paid by the applicant to the consulate cashier.
E-1 TREATY TRADER VISA REQUIREMENTS
- The applicant must be a national of a treaty country (i.e. Canada).
- The applicant must have the same nationality as the trading firm for which the applicant is coming to the U.S. (i.e. a Canadian working for a Canadian company).
- The international trade must be substantial in the sense that there is a sizable and continuing volume of trade.
- Trade means the international exchange of goods, services, and technology. Title of the trade items must pass from one party to the other.
- At least 50% of the trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country (i.e. Canada).
- The applicant must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess highly specialized skills essential to the efficient operation of the firm.
- Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify.
E-2 TREATY INVESTOR VISA
- The investor, either a real or corporate person, must be a national of a treaty country (i.e. Canada).
- The investment must be substantial and be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise.
- The required percentage of investment varies. It is generally higher for a low-cost business enterprise.
- 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 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 have control of the funds and the investment must be at risk in the commercial sense. Loans secured with the assets of the investment enterprise are not allowed.
- 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.
For more information, visit the website of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto or contact the U.S, Consulate’s ‘E’ visa staff directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a resident of British Columbia, Alberta or the Yukon, contact the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver for information on how to obtain an ‘E’ visa.
Reprinted with permission from Canadian Trade Commissioner Service’s CanadExport on-line magazine.