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Form DS-156E, Explained

A guide to the cost, timeline, and requirements to file the “Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/Investor Application”

What is Form DS-156E?

Form DS-156E (officially called the “Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/Investor Application”) is the application for an E-1 treaty trader or E-2 treaty investor visa. These visas are available to individuals from countries that maintain treaties of commerce and navigation with the United States.

Form DS-156E

What is the processing time for Form DS-156E?

The processing time for Form DS-156E is typically 7-10 days after the visa interview, but timelines can vary depending on various factors, including the volume of applications and the complexity of individual cases. Applicants should plan to wait several weeks to several months for their visa. 


What is the filing fee for Form DS-156E?

There is no additional filing fee for Form DS-156E. The application fee for the E-1 and E-2 visas is $315. 


Required Documents for Form DS-156E

When applying for the E-1 or E-2 visa using Form DS-156E, applicants must provide certain supporting documents to demonstrate they are eligible. Common supporting documents include:

  1. Business Registration Documents: Evidence of the registration and legal existence of the U.S. business entity, such as articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, or business registration certificates.
  2. Business Plan: A detailed business plan outlining the nature of the applicant’s business activities in the United States, including market analysis, revenue projections, and operational plans.
  3. Financial Statements: Financial statements, such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements, demonstrating the financial health and viability of the U.S. enterprise.
  4. Evidence of Substantial Trade or Investment: Documentation proving the existence of substantial trade between the United States and the treaty country (for E-1 visas) or demonstrating the substantial investment made in the U.S. enterprise (for E-2 visas). This may include invoices, contracts, purchase orders, or bank statements.
  5. Proof of Nationality: Documentation establishing the applicant’s nationality from a treaty country, such as a passport or birth certificate.
  6. Employment Documentation: If applicable, evidence of the applicant’s qualifications and experience related to the proposed business activities in the United States, such as resumes, diplomas, or professional certifications.
  7. Proof of Intent to Depart: Documentation demonstrating the applicant’s intent to depart the United States upon the expiration of their authorized stay, such as evidence of ties to their home country, including property ownership, family relationships, or employment contracts.
  8. Family Relationship Documentation: If the applicant intends to bring accompanying family members to the United States, documentation proving the familial relationship, such as marriage certificates or birth certificates for dependent children.
  9. Other Supporting Documents: Any additional documentation relevant to the specific circumstances of the application, such as letters of support from business partners, customer testimonials, or industry certifications.

Application Process for Form DS-156E

Here’s the step-by-step process for filing Form DS-156E: 

  1. Download Form DS-156E (Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader / Investor Application) from the U.S. Department of State website. Ensure you have the latest version of the form.
  2. Carefully fill out Form DS-156E. The form requires detailed information about the business, the investment or trade activities, and the applicant’s role. Make sure to provide accurate and thorough information to avoid delays.
  3. Prepare all necessary supporting documents. See above. 
  4. Pay the required visa application fee, which is $315. This fee is necessary for processing your application and is non-refundable.
  5. If you are applying from outside the U.S., schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Visit the embassy or consulate’s website to book your appointment and review any specific instructions they may have.
  6. On the day of your interview, bring Form DS-156E, your supporting documents, and your passport. Be prepared to answer questions about your business, your role, and your plans in the United States. The consular officer will assess your application and documentation.
  7. After your interview, your application will go through a processing period. This timeline will vary depending on the consulate and the specifics of your case. You may be asked to provide additional information or documentation during this time.
  8. Once processing is complete, you will receive a decision on your visa application. If approved, the consulate will provide instructions on how to obtain your visa. If additional documentation is needed or your application is denied, the consulate will inform you of the next steps.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Timelines Vary: Processing times can vary greatly depending on the consulate and the specifics of your case. It could take from a few weeks to several months.
  • Consulate-Specific Requirements: Each U.S. consulate may have unique requirements and procedures, so it’s essential to review the specific instructions on the consulate’s website.
  • Document Accuracy: Ensure all documents are accurate, complete, and organized to facilitate the processing of your application.

DS-156E Filing Tips

Follow these tips to ensure a smooth application process: 

Dos:

  • Do Provide Accurate and Complete Information: Ensure all sections of Form DS-156E are filled out accurately and completely. Errors or omissions can cause delays or denials.
  • Do Gather Comprehensive Supporting Documents: Collect and organize all necessary documents, such as business registration, financial statements, and proof of substantial trade or investment.
  • Do Review Consulate-Specific Requirements: Check the specific requirements and procedures of the U.S. consulate where you will apply, as they can vary.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t Submit Inconsistent Information: Ensure that all information in Form DS-156E matches your supporting documents to avoid raising red flags.
  • Don’t Overlook Financial Documentation: Provide detailed financial documents to clearly demonstrate the financial health and operations of your business.
  • Don’t Ignore Interview Preparation: Be well-prepared for your visa interview, bringing all original documents and being ready to explain your business and role.

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DS-156E FAQs

Yes, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can accompany you to the United States on E-1 or E-2 visas. They may also apply for work authorization.

The initial stay for E-1 and E-2 visa holders is typically up to two years, with the possibility of extensions as long as the visa holder continues to meet the visa requirements.

An E-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, which means it is not intended to lead directly to permanent residency (a green card). However, it is possible for E-1 visa holders to transition to a green card through other immigration pathways, such as family sponsorship, employment-based visas, or investment-based visas like the EB-5, provided they meet the eligibility requirements for those categories.

imilar to the E-1 visa, the E-2 visa is also a nonimmigrant visa and does not provide a direct path to a green card. However, E-2 visa holders can pursue other immigration options to obtain permanent residency, such as employment-based visas (like the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 categories) or investment-based visas (like the EB-5), if they qualify.

The E-3 visa is a special visa category for Australian nationals who wish to work in the United States in a specialty occupation. To be eligible for an E-3 visa, applicants must:

  • Be a national of Australia.
  • Have a legitimate offer of employment in the United States.
  • Possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials.
  • Fill a position that qualifies as a specialty occupation, which typically requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.


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