Trade Treaty and Navigation Visas as a Work Visa Option for Manufacturing Companies | Jackson Lewis CP


In their search for skilled workers, manufacturers should not overlook countries with which the United States has a treaty. These signatory countries offer an additional possibility of finding qualified and non-professional employees.

Most companies in the manufacturing industry are facing labor shortages in skilled, but not necessarily professional, positions, which requires creative solutions to find additional talent. These companies may turn to contractors or sub-contractors to help with their manufacturing projects. In some cases, these contractors or subcontractors may be owned by foreign interests, especially in sectors where industries from other countries are highly competitive, such as the German automotive industry or the Japanese electronics industry, among other sectors.

Many employment-based visas, such as the H-1B or TN nonimmigrant visas, are not feasible options for skilled, non-professional workers because these visas require positions to be “professional” or require at least least a bachelor’s degree.

Manufacturing companies, however, may have additional options for finding skilled workers using international investments from “treaty countries”. These are countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation or a qualifying international agreement. The United States maintains trade and navigation treaties with several dozen countries around the world — qualifying those countries for E-1 or E-2 visas.

Some foreign-owned manufacturing companies in the United States may be able to find additional labor from a previously untapped talent pool and hire skilled labor from the stranger. Manufacturing companies that outsource or sub-contract parts of their work to certain foreign companies can also benefit from this option.

E-1 visas are reserved for foreign individuals or organizations engaged in commerce primarily between the United States and the treaty country. E-2 visas are reserved for foreign individuals or organizations who have invested or are actively investing a substantial amount of capital in a business in the United States. Certain employees who also hold the nationality of the signatory country may also be eligible for this classification, including managers, supervisors or employees with special qualifications that make them essential to the operation of the company. 8 CFR 214.2(e)(3)(ii).

Since “special qualifications” are broadly defined, employees with lesser abilities may be considered essential to the proper functioning or efficiency of the conventional business. Basically, immigration regulations take into account that skills and qualifications are readily available in the United States. In industries that have been hit hard by labor shortages, more occupations than ever before can meet these criteria.

E-1 and E-2 visa holders may be admitted to the United States for two years and may continue to extend their stay in two-year increments as long as the underlying trade or investment is maintained and as long whether the employee continues to be employed in a managerial, supervisory or essential position. Additionally, E-1 and E-2 employees can bring their families with them as dependents, and dependent spouses can also obtain work authorization.

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