Hello, this is Matsui from IMS Legal Professional Corporation. As the rainy season approaches, it's getting muggy, and while Japan is a safe, affordable, and delicious place to live—making it one of the best places in the world to reside—this season makes me want to escape to a place with a more refreshing climate.

The Specialty of E-Visa

Today, I want to explain about the U.S. E-Visa company registration.

Firstly, the U.S. E-Visa is a type of non-immigrant visa granted to foreigners who engage in investment or trade activities in the U.S. There are two types of E-Visas: the E-1 Treaty Trader Visa and the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. These visas are based on treaties between the U.S. and certain countries. Japan and the U.S. have signed the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, under which these special visas are granted. Therefore, nationals from countries that do not have such treaties with the U.S. (such as China) are ineligible for these visas.

A strong advantage of this visa is that it cannot be unilaterally terminated without the consent of the treaty country, even if the U.S. administration wishes to do so. For instance, during the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic, while the issuance of L visas (intra-company transfers) and J visas (exchange visitors) was suspended, E visas were not affected.

What is company registration?

The E-1 visa is granted to employees and managers of companies engaged in trade between the U.S. and the foreign country, while the E-2 visa is given to foreigners or employees of foreign corporations investing in operations within the U.S. Applicants must prove that their company (U.S. corporation) meets specific requirements. Company registration is part of the E-Visa application process, and the biggest hurdle when applying for an E-Visa for the first time is the "company registration application."

A U.S. embassy or consulate officer decides whether the U.S. company meets the E-Visa requirements, and once approved, the first visa issuance completes the "company registration." Once "company registration" is finalized, subsequent personnel additions, replacements, and renewal applications are relatively straightforward. However, if there are no E-Visa holders left in the registered U.S. corporation, the "company registration" expires, and if you wish to send people on an E-Visa later, you must start over, so be careful.

Where should you apply for company registration?

The company registration application can only be made at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the U.S. It is important to remember that this is not a procedure that can be done inside the U.S.

It is possible to change your status to an E-Visa while staying in the U.S. on an F (student) visa or B (temporary business/tourist) visa. If the status change to an E-Visa is approved, you can begin working activities in the U.S. Although I have previously explained the difference between a "visa" and a "visa status," obtaining an "E-Visa status" does not mean you have an E-Visa. If you plan to stay in the U.S. indefinitely without leaving, you can continually extend your E-Visa status (typically granted for only two years) without issue. However, if you leave the U.S. even once, you must obtain a new visa to continue working in the U.S. In this case, you would need to start from the "company registration application" in Japan. No "company registration application" is needed for a status change within the U.S., so misunderstanding this point can lead to severe consequences.

Common pitfalls

(Case 1)

Staying in the U.S. on an F visa → Status change to E visa in the U.S. (approved for two years) → Leaving the U.S. before the stay expires → Applying for an E visa in Japan → Rejected due to insufficient investment and lack of revenue → Unable to return to the U.S.! Home and belongings are left in the U.S., but you can't go back to sort them out!

(Case 2)

Staying in the U.S. on a B visa → Status change to E visa in the U.S. (approved for two years) → Leaving the U.S. casually and applying for an E visa in Japan → Rejected because company registration requirements were not met → Unable to return to the U.S.! Home and belongings are left in the U.S., but you can't go back to sort them out!

Things to Consider

When applying for an F or B visa, you promise that "I will definitely return to Japan. I will not settle in the U.S.," so the consulate's impression during your E visa application in Japan is not favorable. Therefore, I do not generally recommend changing your status to an E visa within the U.S. An E visa is often called the visa closest to a "green card" because it allows unlimited visa renewals (re-acquisition) as long as the business is properly functioning. However, to maintain this, you need to properly manage "company registration" and periodically apply for a visa outside the U.S.

IMS is always available to consult on E visas. Please feel free to contact us. Note that the information in this blog is current as of now, and for the latest information, please check the official government websites on your own.

For more information, please contact us below ↓

Read this post in Japanese | 日本語で読む