The E-1 nonimmigrant classification allows a national of a treaty country (a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, or which the United States maintains a qualifying international agreement, or which has been deemed a qualifying country by legislation) to be admitted to the United States solely to engage in international trade on his or her own behalf.
Certain employees of such a person or of a qualifying organization may also be eligible for this classification.
Trade or Products or Services
The E-1 visa is available in situations where a treaty national or business invests in a new or existing US entity that engages in substantial international trade of goods or services with their home country. The treaty national (or another treaty national or business) must purchase (or own) at least 50% of the shares of the US company, and the volume of trade between the home country and US must be more than 50% of the trader’s total international trade volume.
The trade must also be substantial, regular, and continuous (i.e., cannot be based on one or non-regular trade transactions). Furthermore, the US company must take title to the imported or exported goods or services (i.e., shipping from abroad to a US customer, where the US entity only coordinates logistics and does not take title to the merchandise, does not qualify as trade). There must also be a meaningful exchange of money with a foreign entity in the treaty country.
If the US entity is a newly established company, it must have already begun trading with the treaty country or must have binding contracts that call for the immediate exchange of goods or services in order to qualify for a visa (in other words, the US government will not grant a visa to prospective traders looking for trading relationships).
If all these conditions are met, the treaty investor can obtain an E-1 visa if s/he directs the trade. The US company can also hire any treaty national (ie, who is not the investor himself) who will assume an executive, supervisory or essential skills position at the company.
Requirements for E1 Treaty Trader Visa
- The E-1 visa applicant must show they intend to engage in “substantial trade,” which is not strictly defined.
- At least 50% of the trade volume carried out must be between the United States and the designated treaty country (“principal trade”).
- The trade could be in the form of physical movement of goods, transportation, or non-physical services, including banking and insurance, tourism, technology, or journalism.
- The applicant must be a national of one of the treaty countries (this requirement does not apply to family members).
- As with other U.S. Visa terms, the applicant should be prepared to provide evidence that they intend to return to their home country at the end of the visa period (see extensions below.)
Benefits for E1 Visa
- There are many benefits to the E1 Visa. A few of these benefits are as follows.
- You can legally work in the United States.
- You can travel freely in and out of the United States.
- The visa can be renewed indefinitely for up to two years at a time
- Your spouse and dependent children (children who are unmarried and under 21 years of age) can also qualify for E1 status. With E1 status, your children can go to school and your spouse can apply for employment authorization (the EAD: Employment Authorization Document).
E-1 Visa for Employees
It is also possible for employees to come to the United States under an E-1 visa for trade purposes, provided they meet the following conditions:
- The employee must be a citizen or national of the treaty nation.
- They must be in a managerial or supervisory role that requires specialist skills or knowledge.
- The employer must either be in the United States on a current E-1 visa or, if the employer is outside the U.S., must prove that they could meet the conditions of E-1 qualification.
Terms and Conditions of E-1 Status
A treaty trader or employee may only work in the activity for which he or she was approved at the time the classification was granted. An E-1 employee, however, may also work for the treaty organization’s parent company or one of its subsidiaries as long as the:
- Relationship between the organizations is established;
- Subsidiary employment requires executive, supervisory, or essential skills; and
- Terms and conditions of employment have not otherwise changed.
Family of E-1 Treaty Traders and Employees
Treaty traders and employees may be accompanied or followed by spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Their nationalities need not be the same as the treaty trader or employee. These family members Spouses and children may seek E-1 nonimmigrant classification as dependents and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee.