Cross Border Movement of Business Persons

Temporary Entry into the United States and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement

A Guide for Canadian Businesspersons

Published by International Trade Canada

5. Traders and Investors

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows Traders to enter the United States and Mexico to conduct substantial trade (over 50 percent) in goods or services, principally between Canada and the NAFTA member country.

The NAFTA allows Investors to enter the United States and Mexico to develop and direct a bona-fide company in which they have made a substantial investment of capital, and thereby own at least 50 percent, or maintain a controlling interest.

The Traders and Investors category also applies to businesspersons who intend to establish, develop, administer or provide consulting or technical services to manage an investment to which foreign capital has been, or is in the process of being, committed.

Employees of Traders and Investors, whose duties are supervisory or executive in nature, or whose skills are essential to the operation of the company, may also qualify.

Requests for Trader (E-1) and Investor (E-2) status are processed only at the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto. For information on how to submit an application, please refer to the U.S. Consulate Web site.

How do I qualify as a NAFTA Trader?

When applying for NAFTA Trader status you must demonstrate that:

  • you are a Canadian citizen
  • the enterprise is Canadian
  • your predominant activity is to conduct substantial trade in goods or services, principally between Canada and the U.S. or Mexico
  • you will be acting in an executive or supervisory capacity, or one which involves essential skills
  • you meet the member country’s existing temporary entry immigration requirements

How do I qualify as a NAFTA Investor?

When applying for NAFTA Investor status you must demonstrate that:

  • you are a Canadian citizen
  • the enterprise is Canadian
  • substantial investment has, or is, being made
  • the enterprise is a real, functioning commercial enterprise which operates continuously to produce some service or commodity for profit
  • you are in a position to “develop and direct” the enterprise, or if an employee of an Investor, you are in an executive or supervisory position, or one which involves essential skills
  • you meet the member country’s existing temporary entry immigration requirements

What documentation do I need at the border?

With your application, you must establish that you qualify as a NAFTA Trader or Investor.

Along with the relevant application forms, you will need to provide clear evidence of your qualifications as a Trader or Investor. You should include the following documents with your application:

  • cover letter summarizing all the attached documents
  • corporate tax returns for the past two years
  • income statement and asset/liability statement
  • loan documents, promissory notes and mortgages
  • proof of citizenship
  • proof of ownership, such as stock certificates
  • evidence of employees

United States

How can I apply as a Trader or Investor?

You must complete Form DS-156 and the supplement DS-156E, available at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto, by phone at 1 900-451-2778 (charges apply), and pay the applicable processing fee. In addition, all males between 16 and 45, regardless of nationality, must complete form DS-157. You will need to demonstrate that you meet the qualifying criteria as a NAFTA Trader or Investor before you are issued an E-1 (Trader) or
E-2 (Investor) visa.

Requests for Trader (e-1) and Investor (e-2) status are processed only at the U.S. consulate general in Toronto. For information on how to submit an application, please refer to the U.S. Consulate web site.

Once your application is approved, you will be contacted to arrange an interview in Toronto before your visa is issued. While the principal applicant must take the interview at the Consulate in Toronto, dependents on your application may choose to have their interviews at one of the other U.S. consulates in Canada. You must pay a fee before the visa(s) is issued. You will be provided with an I-94 document at a U.S. port of entry, which is your employment authorization. You must present the I-94 to the U.S. Social Security Administration to receive a social security number. Applicants should read the information on E-visas provided on the American Citizen Information Services (AMCITS) Web site.

How can I change or renew my status?

Holders of E-visas may reside in the United States as long as they continue to maintain their status with the enterprise. The E-1 and E-2 Visas, initially issued for two years, may be extended up to two additional years at a time and can be renewed indefinitely, with some exceptions. You should use Form I-129 (Petition for Temporary Worker), available on the USCIS Web site (PDF, 40.3 KB), to apply for an extension or change of your status. Please keep in mind that there is a nominal fee and that applications may take three months or longer to process. You should remain in the U.S. while your application is being processed. Leaving the country at this time may negatively affect the successful completion of your application.

You should forward your application for renewal of Trader and Investor (E-1 OR E-2) status to:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Texas Service Center
P.O. Box 852211
Mesquite, TX 75185-2211

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
California Service Center
P.O. Box 10129
Laguna Miguel, CA 92607-0129

If you have routine administrative questions about the processing of an application, you may contact the E-visa office by fax (416-595-5466),
e-mail
, or phone (416-595-1700, ext. 500 or 241). Please note that the E-visa office will not decide on cases over the phone.

Mexico

How can I apply as a Trader or Investor?

To work in Mexico as a Trader or Investor, you will require an approved FM-3 FORM, which you can obtain from a Mexican embassy or consulate, from a National Migration Institute office within Mexico, or on the Government of Mexico Web site.

You can also enter Mexico with a Multiple Migratory Form (FMN), which you can obtain at no charge from most travel agencies and airlines or at a Mexican port of entry. The FM-3 form is not issued at Mexican ports of entry. The FMN form is valid for up to 30 days. However, you must obtain the FM-3 form before you start work in Mexico.

When applying for an FM-3 form you must demonstrate that you meet the qualifying criteria as a NAFTA Trader or Investor. FM-3 forms are valid for one year but you may request up to four extensions of one year each before you need to get a new form. Please keep in mind that there is a processing fee for the FM-3 form, which is normally issued within five working days.

Regardless of where you apply for the FM-3, the following information will be required:

  • letter in Spanish from the employer addressed to the immigration authority
  • your passport (valid for at least six months from the date of application)
  • two recent passport-size photos (no eyeglasses)
  • cash or a money order for the application fee
  • copy of your valid FMN, if the application is being made from within Mexico

The letter from the company in Mexico must contain your full name and address, request an FM- 3 Visa, and refer to the attached documentation. In addition, it should explain the purpose of the trip, the arrangements for payment, and the location(s) of work within Mexico. Also, make sure you provide the information required to demonstrate you meet the requirements of a NAFTA Trader or Investor as outlined in the above section, “What documentation do I need at the border?”. If applying from Canada, you must forward four copies of each document. An immigration office must validate the visa within 45 days of your arrival in Mexico.

How can I change or renew my status?

If you wish to change your temporary residency status, you can apply in Mexico at a National Migration Institute office. If you are seeking an extension, you must make a declaration that there has been no change in the purpose or circumstances of your original entry.

Difficulty Entering the United States or Mexico?

Contact the Enquiries Service
Tel.: 1 800-267-8376 (toll free in Canada)
or (613) 944-4000 (in the National Capital region and outside Canada)
Fax: (613) 944-9709
TTY for the Deaf: (613) 944-9134

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