Over the years, the United States of America has been establishing trustworthy international connections. The reliability of these relations was supported by signing treaties of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between the US and partner countries, providing reciprocal rights for both parties.

Such treaties were originally developed to encourage prospective trade relations between the USA and other contracting countries. This made it possible for particular representatives of countries with treaties to come to the United States in order to engage in trade missions. The E-1 Treaty Trader visa is required for any business or individual representing trade partners who wants to cross the US border.

What is an E-1 Visa?

The E-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a foreign national of one of the treaty countries to enter into the United States of America for a temporary stay, solely to carry out specific international trade operations.

Here is a list of treaty countries with whom the US has signed treaties of commerce and navigation (regarding only an E-1 visa):

Country

Effective Date

Argentina

October 20, 1994

Australia

December 16, 1991

Austria

May 27, 1931

Belgium

October 3, 1963

Bolivia

November 09, 1862

Bosnia and Herzegovina

November 15, 1882

Brunei

July 11, 1853

Canada

January 1, 1993

Chile

January 1, 2004

China (Taiwan)

November 30, 1948

Colombia

June 10, 1848

Costa Rica

May 26, 1852

Croatia

November 15, 1882

Denmark

July 30, 1961

Estonia

May 22, 1926

Ethiopia

October 8, 1953

Finland

August 10, 1934

France

December 21, 1960

Germany

July 14, 1956

Greece

October 13, 1954

Honduras

July 19, 1928

Iran

June 16, 1957

Ireland

September 14, 1950

Israel

April 3, 1954

Italy

July 26, 1949

Japan

October 30, 1953

Jordan

December 17, 2001

Korea (South)

November 7, 1957

Kosovo

November 15, 1882

Latvia

July 25, 1928

Liberia

November 21, 1939

Luxembourg

March 28, 196

Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of (FRY)

November 15, 1882

Mexico

January 1, 1994

Montenegro

November 15, 1882

Netherlands

December 5, 1957

Norway

January 18, 1928

Oman

June 11, 1960

Pakistan

February 12, 1961

Paraguay

March 07, 1860

Philippines

September 6, 1955

Poland

August 6, 1994

Serbia

November 15,1882

Singapore

January 1, 2004

Slovenia

November 15, 1882

Spain

April 14, 1903

Suriname

February 10, 1963

Sweden

February 20, 1992

Switzerland

November 08, 1855

Thailand

June 8, 1968

Togo

February 5, 1967

Turkey

February 15, 1933

United Kingdom

July 03, 1815

Yugoslavia

November 15, 1882



If a person comes from one of the partner countries and their business conducts a sufficient amount of trade with the United States, they may be qualified to live and work on an E-1 visa. Or, if a person’s employer lives in one of the treaty countries and does a substantial amount of trade with the USA, they may apply for an E-1 visa to supervise or implement operations in America.

Note: The international exchange between the treaty country and the US may include (but is not limited to): goods, services, banking, transportation, tourism, insurance, communications, data processing, advertising, accounting, design and engineering, management consulting and technology transfer.

Privileges that come with an E-1 Visa

Although an E-1 visa is designed for business duties, a holder gets certain advantages that are not connected to its main purpose.

An E-1 visa holder can work legally in the United States for an American company in which more than 50 percent of business is trade between the USA and the partner country.

An E-1 visa holder is free to travel to any of the 50 states, and he or she can travel out of the United States without special permission.

Moreover, an E-1 visa holder is allowed to take dependents with them to America. We will cover that in more detail later.

Qualifications for an E-1 visa

To perfectly qualify for an E-1 nonimmigrant visa, an applicant (a future treaty trader) should meet certain requirements:

  1. Be officially employed as a manager, executive or specialist working in a treaty nation company, and should own 50 percent of the company
  2. Satisfy the official definition on an “employee” under the law
  3. The members of the company should own at least 50 percent of the stock of the company, in other words, the company has the same nationality as the treaty country
  4. Be of national of the treaty trade company and taking part in international trading activities
  5. Be an immediate family member (spouse or de facto partner,
    dependent child or stepchild under 18 years, parent or stepparent) of an E-1 holder
  6. Possess or being able to obtain special qualifications – be engaged in executive or supervisory duties
  7. A future E-1 visa owner should prove that they are going to carry on a substantial trade
  8. A future E-1 visa owner should prove that they are going to carry on a principal trade
  9. Trades should be executed in the form of transportation of physical goods and non-physical services, like insurance, banking, tourism, journalism etc.
  10. Be a citizen of one of the treaty countries. However, this criteria is not applied to family members who are going to move to the the US with an E-1 visa holder
  11. Provide evidence that they will return to their homeland when an E-1 visa period expires (as is the case with all types of other US visas).  Most of the time, a personal statement will satisfy this requirement.
  12. Titles of trade items must meet international standards and be passed from one party to another

Special Qualifications of a Treaty Trader

By special qualifications, we mean skills that make a treaty trader’s services valuable and helpful for business relations. These skills may vary from case to case, considering their peculiarities, but we will name those that occur most frequently. Special qualifications include the following (but are not limited to):

  • Approved expertise in the field of the employee’s professional activity
  • Having special skills not possessed by other employees
  • Earning a salary that is equitable for a high qualification status
  • Possessing skills that are relevant and in-demand in the US

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Note:Foreign language certification and knowledge of culture and traditions are not necessarily required, but may work to the advantage of an applicant. But, as we have already mentioned, these requirements can change, depending on the type of treaty company and its contract with its US partner. For more precise information, visit the 8 CFR 214.2(e)(18) page.

Limitations of an E-1 Visa

There are several important limitations for future E-1 visa holders:

  • You should work only for the particular employer or business that is specified as your E-1 visa sponsor
  • E-1 visas can be given only to foreigners who (or whose companies) have treaties with the United States
  • The authorized period of stay is given for two years at a time, making the application and extension process quite laborious

Applying for an E-1 Visa

The application for an E-1 visa requires a lot of patience, perseverance and a little bit of zen. So, if you want to get this cherished visa, you need to pluck up your courage and collect the following documents:

  • Form DS-160 – Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Form DS-156E – Treaty or Trader Investor Application
  • documents that approve your company’s nationality
  • a recommendation letter from your current employer with a detailed description of the applicant’s position and duties, stating that the applicant is qualified and specialized enough to obtain an E-1 visa, and that his or her work is essential for international relations between the United States and the other contracting treaty country
  • strong evidence of substantial trade (for one year minimum) between the US and the other contracting treaty country
  • business plan
  • the business organization documents in the foreign company
  • documents supporting business/trade activities
  • trade brochures
  • inventories
  • insurance papers showing the bonds on import
  • a valid passport with an expiration date at least six months beyond the planned period of stay
  • color photographs (37 x 37mm) for the applicant and each family member listed in the application. Note: the photo should be taken on a white background with the head uncovered and without loose hair, showing every facial feature
  • other relevant documents (applicant’s and family members’ marriage and birth certificates, etc.)

Where to file an E-1 visa application?

If you are lawfully admitted for either a permanent or temporary stay in the US, you can submit the visa application to the USCIS Service Center office in the US.
If you live outside the United States, you can submit the visa application to a consular office in your homeland.

Period of Stay

Admitted treaty traders are allowed to stay in the US for two years. However, this stay can be extended by up to two years, and the number of extensions is not limited.

A treaty trader who travels out of the United States, will automatically get a two year extension after the readmission process. In this case, it is not necessary to file a new I-129 Form.

Note: the readmission extension is not automatically given to an E-1 visa holder’s family, so it is important that every family member keeps an eye on their expiration date and applies for an extension in time.

How to apply for an E-1 visa extension?

The extension process takes time and energy, but it is absolutely worth it if you are planning to implement essential trade duties. First of all, you must fill out Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (with an E supplement), Form I-539, and an application to extend or change your family’s status. Secondly, you must submit the following documents:

  • a copy of Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure document)
  • a copy of your original Form I-797 (Notice of Action) – in the case where your status has previously been approved/extended within the US
  • a copy of your passport with your E-1 visa
  • a letter from your current employer, affirming that the extension is really needed
  • copies of your personal and US business income tax returns (for the period of the past two years, including payroll tax returns)
  • other supporting documents that show the ongoing substantial trade.

What happens if you fail to depart?

Failure to depart the US on the appointed date will have a negative impact, not only on your company’s authority, but also on your visa history, because the bearer of the visa will be considered out of status. This means your visa will definitely be voided.

An overdue stay may result in your being deemed ineligible for future visa applications. See the visa denials information to understand the repercussions of overstaying your visa.

More to the point, if you have a multiple-entry visa and it was voided once,  you will not be allowed to enter the US in the future.

How to change your status while on an E-1 visa?

It is absolutely possible for you to change your status if you have an E-1 visa. You should complete and sign Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant status). As an applicant, you must give bulletproof evidence and supporting documentation on why you should be given a change of status approval.

Travel Restrictions and Study Restrictions While on an E-1 Visa

A person with an E-1 visa is not restricted from traveling around the world during the period of an approved stay in the US. You can travel as often as needed, within the E-1 time frame. The USCIS does not limit the length of time a visa holder can remain outside of the US.  However, if the status was received while in the US, E-1 status holder must re-apply in the embassy for visa after leaving the US.

As for studies, you can study in the US at any educational institution of your choice, however you cannot enroll full time in a degree program. You may take only several credits that will not conflict with the primary purpose of your visa.

Life With Family on an E-1 Visa

E-1 visa holders are allowed to bring spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age with them to the US. The dependents’ nationality must be the same as the treaty trader (or employee). If an E-1 nonimmigrant classification as companions is approved, the family may stay in the US as long as the treaty trader stays.

In the case where some family members already live in the US and want to change their status or extend an E-1 dependent classification, they must fill out Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant status) and pay the required fee.

Treaty traders’ spouses have to fill out Form I-765 and pay the required fee to apply for work authorization in the United States. Note: there are no restrictions regarding the type of work.

As we have already mentioned, all E-1 holders can travel abroad and will be given a two-year period of admission after their return to the US. But if an E-1 holder’s family members remained in the US during the period of the trader’s travel, they will not be granted the same readmission period.

Everyone who is going to accompany an E-1 visa holder should be made aware that it is extremely important to keep track of expiration terms for both  E-1 status and extension.

Applying for a Green Card While on an E-1 Visa

Some E-1 nonimmigrants attempt to obtain Green Cards to continue their essential trading duties on an ongoing basis. The good news is that anyone who comes to the US on an E-1 visa can apply for a Green Card, choosing from the following options:

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Conclusion

An E-1 visa will help you develop your professional skills, along with international experience, if you are a business representative from one of the treaty countries, and you are planning to engage in substantial trade with a company in the United States.

Before applying for an E-1 visa, we strongly recommend preparing a business plan that illustrates how your skills and business meet the E-1 visa requirements.

Once you fulfill all of the above-mentioned requirements, you will definitely reach your goal and get an E-1 visa. Do not be intimidated by the difficulties of obtaining your E-1 visa, just go through the process with confidence.