E1 Visa

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E1 Treaty Trader Visa

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.

A complete list of the countries on the list can be found by clicking here.

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.

Trade of Products or Services

In order for someone to be eligible for an E1 visa, the work they are conducting must be considered trade. 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.

In the E-1 framework “goods” are defined as tangible commodities or merchandise having extrinsic value. “Services” are defined as legitimate economic activities which provide something other than tangible goods.

According to the US Department of State, trade requires there to be:

(1) a “meaningful” exchange,

(2) international in scope, and

(3) a qualifying commodity such as goods, money, or services. Additionally, there must be existing trade between that individual or entity and the United States.

Terms and Conditions of E-1 Visa

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:

Note: The E-1 visa does not permit a trader to come to the United States to seek out trade relationships where no trade currently exists. Under the regulations, binding contracts that show there will be an immediate exchange of trade items can meet this requirement, although in practice many Consulates require several months or a year of existing trade before they will grant an E-1 visa.

Qualifications of a Treaty Trader

To qualify for E-1 classification, the treaty trader must:

Trade is the existing international exchange of items of trade for consideration between the United States and the treaty country.  Items of trade include but are not limited to:

A non-exhaustive list of the documents that can be submitted to satisfy the E-1 trade requirements is below.

Requirements for E1 Treaty Trader Visa

Note: For startups, entrepreneurs, and smaller private companies, particularly those engaged in trade of services, the Department of State is likely to consider if the income derived from the international trade is sufficient to support the treaty trader and his or her family.

Benefits for E1 Visa

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:

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 may seek E-1 nonimmigrant classification as dependents and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee.  If the family members are already in the United States and seeking change of status to or extension of stay in an E-1 dependent classification, they may apply by filing a single Form I-539 with fee.  Spouses of E-1 workers may apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with fee.  If approved, there is no specific restriction as to where the E-1 spouse may work.

Validity of E1 Treaty Trader Visa

If processed as a change of status, the time period will generally be 2 years.  If processed at a consulate, the visa can be valid for up to 5 years but the actual time will depend on the reciprocity agreement between countries and the decision taken by the consulate.

Examples of an E-1 Treaty Business

Application for an E1 can be processed either from within the US through USCIS or from outside the US through a US Consulate.

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