US mulls ‘treaty country’ status for India as New Delhi seeks easier visa norms for traders

US mulls ‘treaty country’ status for India as New Delhi seeks easier visa norms for traders

The US is mulling granting India “treaty country status” under which the new E1 and E2 visa options will open for Indian traders and businessmen travelling to American cities. The two countries are also discussing a proposal to allow H-1B visa holders and their family members to renew their visas in America only, without having to travel to India. 

India presented the proposals at the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting on Friday (Jan 12) co-chaired by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. 

During the meeting, the two sides noted that the movement of professional and skilled workers as well as students and investors immensely enhanced the bilateral economic and technological partnership.

“The (Indian) commerce department and the ministry of external affairs have been working together on several issues and we had a very good year in 2023 in our relationship with the US,” said Goyal in a media interaction. 

The joint statement added: “Minister Goyal highlighted challenges being faced by business visitors from India due to visa processing time periods and requested the US to augment processing.”

As for the H-1B visa, an official in the know of the matter said New Delhi had requested Washington to make the arrangement permanent. Currently, in the US, the state-side facility is in a pilot programme. The state-side facility means the person staying with an H1B visa can get it renewed in the US only.

“We are asking to extend this facility not only to the original visa holder but to his/her family also so that the family does not need to come back to India for renewal of visas,” the unnamed officials was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The two visa types, commonly referred to as E1 (the Treaty Trader) and E2 (Treaty Investor) were established to facilitate and enhance economic interaction between the United States and other countries. 

US immigration law explicitly states that “E-1 visa holders must enter solely to carry on substantial trade and E-2 holders solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which he or she has invested”. 

These visas are only extended to countries who are part of the treaty countries of the US. They can be renewed or extended only if the investment or trade continues to meet all applicable requirements of US immigration laws and regulations.

As many as 100 countries, including China (Taiwan), Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka have been granted treaty country status but India is yet to receive it. 

Notably, these visas are non-immigrant visas and thus ‘temporary’. Any individual wishing to remain indefinitely in the US may need to apply for the other appropriate immigrant visa option. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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