Department of State Announces E-1/E-2 Reciprocity Update for France

September 9, 2019

On August 20, 2019, the United States Department of State announced a change in E-1 and E-2 visa validity for French nationals from 60 months to 15 months. Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) visas are for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation, including France. The change went into effect August 29, 2019 and the change to the reciprocity schedule for France will be revised for E visas effective September 26, 2019.

What are E-1/E-2 Visas?

E-1 Treaty Traders and E-2 Treaty Investors visas are temporary work visas. The E-1 classification is authorized for a national of a country with which the United States has a commercial treaty, who is coming to the U.S. solely to engage in trade of a substantial nature principally between the United States and the foreign national’s country of nationality. The trade involved must be international exchange (successfully negotiated contracts binding on all parties) of items of trade between the U.S. and a treaty country. The E-2 classification is authorized for a national of a country with which the United States has a commercial treaty, who is coming to the United States solely to direct and develop the operations of an enterprise in which he or she has invested, or is actively involved in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.

If the foreign national is inside the U.S., the I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker should be used to apply for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment. These categories do not require a petition for employment if the foreign national is outside of the U.S. If outside of the U.S., the foreign national applies for these categories on their own behalf directly at a U.S. consular office abroad.

What are validity periods and reciprocity?

Currently, the validity period for E-1 and E-2 visas issued to applicants from France is 60 months long. This generally means the temporary work visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued. Effective August 2019, the validity periods for applicants from France on these visas were considerably shortened to 15 months.

E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued to applicants who are nationals of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. The United States entered such a treaty with France in 1960, and it applies to mainland France and the departments of Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Reunion. According to the State Department, nonimmigrant visa applicants from certain countries may be required to pay a visa issuance fee after their application is approved. These fees are based on the principle of reciprocity:  when a foreign government imposes fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose a reciprocal fee on citizens of that country for similar types of visas. Currently there are no fees for applicants from France, and that is not expected to change with the new validity period update.

Similarly, the United States issues visas to foreign nationals in a manner comparable to how the given country issues visas to US nationals. According to the State Department, the decrease in length of the validity periods for these visas were issued in response to the “treatment afforded to U.S. citizens by the Government of France.”

Where do I find more information?

For more information on how to apply for an E-1 or E-2 for French foreign nationals, please visit the US Embassy in France website. For more information on employment-based visa treaties with other countries see the Treaty Countries list, and for updates to reciprocity schedules, see the State Department’s Reciprocity: What’s New? website. Landau, Hess, Simon and Choi provides business immigration services; please contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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