With COVID-19 restrictions rolling back and international travel becoming increasingly accessible, more Canadians may consider expanding their business operations into the United States. As there are several forms of immigration documentation for cross-border business, entrepreneurs must choose the best option to maximize their chances of admission.

Unlike travelling to the United States for tourism, Canadians who seek entry to the U.S. for business require a visa. Which visa is required depends on the nature of the business activity to be carried out in the U.S. In this two-part blog series, we set out the types of visas available to those seeking to conduct cross-border business between Canada and the United States.

B-1 Visa: Temporary Business Visitors

Those seeking to enter the United States as temporary visitors, who intend to engage in business activities of a commercial or professional nature, must first obtain a B-1 visa.

Duration of a B-1 visa

The initial period of stay allowed under a B-1 visa is one to six months. An extension of up to an additional six months can be granted if required to carry out your business activities.

Activities covered by a B-1 visa

Some activities permitted under a B-1 visa include:

  • Consulting with business associates;
  • Travelling to attend scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions or conferences on specific dates;
  • Settling an estate;
  • Negotiating a contract;
  • Participating in short-term training; and
  • In some situations, transiting through the U.S. for business purposes.

Eligibility requirements for a B-1 visa

To be eligible for a B-1 visa, applicants must demonstrate the following:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for legitimate business;
  • They plan to remain for a limited, specified period of time;
  • They have sufficient funds to cover their travel expenses and stay in the U.S.;
  • They have a residence outside of the U.S. that they have no intention of abandoning;
  • They have other ties that bind them to their home country that will ensure they return to their home after their visit to the U.S.; and
  • They are otherwise admissible for entry to the U.S.

No dependent visas allowed under a B-1 visa

Note that family members of a B-1 visa holder are not eligible for dependent visas. Instead, each dependent must apply separately for a B-2 visa to join the B1 visa holder in the United States. (A B-2 visa permits the visa holder to enter the U.S. for tourism, medical treatment, a social event, or participation in amateur contests for no pay.)

E-1 Visa: Treaty Traders

E-1 visas are available to designated treaty traders. A treaty trader is a person or business resident in a country with a treaty partnership with the United States and requires entry into the U.S. to facilitate the trade of goods or services. Canada and the United States have such a treaty partnership.

Duration of an E-1 visa

Under an E-1 visa, the initial stay permitted to a treaty trader is two years. Additional two-year extensions are available if needed. There is no limit to the number of extensions that may be granted, but E-1 visa holders must always maintain the intention to leave the U.S. at the end of their trading activities.

Types of trades permitted under an E-1 visa

Permitted trading between Canada and the U.S. under an E-1 visa includes:

  • Goods;
  • Services;
  • International banking;
  • Insurance;
  • Transportation;
  • Tourism;
  • Technology; and
  • Some news-gathering activities.

Dependents allowed under an E-1 visa

Unlike B-1 visas, E-1 visas allow the visa holder to have their spouse and children under 21 years of age accompany them to the United States.

E-2 Visa: Treaty Investors

E-2 visas are available to treaty investors: those who are admitted to the United States because they are investing a substantial amount of capital into a U.S. business.

Eligibility requirements for an E-2 visa

Prospective applicants seeking entry to the U.S. as a treaty investor must meet the following requirements:

  • They must be a national of a country with which the United States has a treaty of commerce and navigation;
  • They must have invested, or are actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide business enterprise in the U.S.; and
  • They wish to enter the U.S. solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise. This is established by showing the treaty investor owns at least 50% of the enterprise or has operational control of the enterprise through a managerial position or otherwise.

“Substantial amount of capital” for E-2 visas

As stated above, a treaty investor must contribute a substantial amount of capital toward a U.S. business enterprise to qualify for an E-2 visa. Whether the capital invested is “substantial” considers whether it is significant in relation to the total cost of either purchasing an established business enterprise or establishing a new one.

The capital must be sufficient to ensure the visa holder’s financial commitment to the enterprise’s success. It must also be of such a magnitude that it demonstrates the likelihood of the visa holder’s successful development and direction of the enterprise.

The lower the cost of the business enterprise, the higher the investment required to be considered “substantial” for the purpose of eligibility for an E-2 visa.

Garson Immigration Law: Providing Comprehensive Business Immigration Advice in Toronto

Garson Immigration Law is committed to finding innovative and effective solutions for clients seeking to conduct business in the United States. Our highly skilled team of immigration lawyers works with you to find the best approach and make your cross-border enterprise as hassle-free as possible. Our proximity to the U.S.-Canadian border has given us extensive experience understanding what is needed to satisfy all immigration criteria.

Garson Immigration Law also provides robust legal solutions in a broad range of other immigration matters, including Canadian citizenship, temporary residency, and permanent residency. To book a consultation, please contact us online or by phone at 416-321-2860.

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