E-1 Visas for Foreign Nationals Engaging in Trade With Treaty Nations
In order to promote business and stimulate the country’s economy, the United States has entered into treaties with various countries to allow foreign nationals to conduct business in the U.S. The E-1 Treaty Trader visa is a visa for a foreign national of a country with which the United States has a treaty of commerce and navigation, who is coming to the U.S. to engage in substantial trade between the U.S. and the treaty nation. The E-1 visa holder can trade in goods, insurance, transportation, tourism services, technology, and more as long as the principal trade is primarily between the U.S. and the treaty country.
According to USCIS, substantial trade is defined as the continuous flow of sizable international trade items, involving numerous transactions over time. Principal trade denotes that the trade between the U.S. and the treaty country comprises over 50 percent of the total volume of international trade by the E-1 visa holder.
In order to apply for an E-1 visa, an individual needs to complete and present the following documents:
A statement detailing the individual’s job title and his or her duties;
Paperwork to show ongoing trade between the individual’s nation and the U.S.;
An affidavit of intent to leave the U.S. once the E-1 visa expires;
The individual’s passport;
The individual’s birth certificate and marriage certificate if the individual is married; and
A copy of the individual’s U.S. visa and Form I-94 if the individual is already in the U.S.
The E-1 Treaty Trader visa is a non-immigrant visa, which means it is temporary. E-1 visa holders will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for a maximum initial period of two years. Individuals can seek extensions that may be granted in increments of up to two years each. There is no limit to the number of extensions that an E-1 visa holder can receive, provided that his or her business is active and the trade remains substantial. Since the E-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is not a road to a green card or U.S. citizenship.
One benefit of the E-1 visa is that there is no quota on the number of E-1 visas that can be issued every year. As such, an E-1 can be obtained at any time of the year. Additionally, unlike other work visas, the E-1 visa does not require any specific educational background. E-1 visa holders are free to travel in and out of the U.S. while they have a valid E-1 visa.
E-1 Visa Employers
A foreign national also may qualify for an E-1 visa when they do not meet the qualifications personally but are employed by a qualifying non-citizen individual or entity and:
Are the same nationality as the non-citizen employer (and the treaty country)
Meet the legal definition of an “employee”
Are engaged in executive or supervisory duties or possess special qualifications that make them essential to the operation of the treaty enterprise
E-1 visa holders may be accompanied by their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. The nationality of the dependent spouse and children does not matter. These dependents can live in the U.S. for the same duration of time as the principal E-1 visa holder. Spouses of E-1 visa holders are considered employment authorized incident to status, but may obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing Form I-765 and paying the appropriate fees. If the E-1 visa spouse's I-94 Form indicates that they are an E dependent spouse, they may use that as evidence of employment authorization.