What is an E-1 Visa for Treaty Traders?

The E-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that permits nationals of certain designated treaty countries to be admitted to the United States to engage in international trade. The E-1 visa may also be available to persons other than the principle. For example, some employees of an individual (or organization) treaty trader eligible be eligible as well. (See Below)

The treaty trader must:

1- Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation

2- Carry on substantial trade. This means a continuous flow of sizable international trade items, involving numerous transactions over time. There is no minimum requirement regarding the monetary value or volume of each transaction. While monetary value of transactions is an important factor in considering substantiality, greater weight is given to more numerous exchanges of greater value.
3- Carry on principal trade between the United States and the treaty country which qualified the treaty trader for E-1 classification. Principal trade between the United States and the treaty country exists when over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the U.S. and the trader’s treaty country.

What is meant by Trade?

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:

1- Goods
2- Services
3- International banking
4- Insurance
5- Transportation
6- Tourism
7- Technology and its transfer
8- Some news-gathering activities.

Requirements for the E-1 Visa for Employees of a Treaty Trader
To qualify for E-1 visa, the employee must:

1- Be the same nationality of the principal alien employer (who must have the nationality of the treaty country)
2- Meet the definition of “employee” under the relevant law
3- Either be engaging in duties of an executive or supervisory character, or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications.

If the principal alien employer is not an individual, it must be an enterprise or organization at least 50% owned by persons in the United States who have the nationality of the treaty country. These owners must be maintaining nonimmigrant treaty trader status. If the owners are not in the United States, they must be, if they were to seek admission to this country, classifiable as nonimmigrant treaty traders.

Duties which are of an executive or supervisory character are those which primarily provide the employee ultimate control and responsibility for the organization’s overall operation, or a major component of it.

Special qualifications are skills which make the employee’s services essential to the efficient operation of the business. There are several qualities or circumstances which could, depending on the facts, meet this requirement. These include, but are not limited to:

1- The degree of proven expertise in the employee’s area of operations
2- Whether others possess the employee’s specific skills
3- The salary that the special qualifications can command
4- Whether the skills and qualifications are readily available in the United States 

How Long May E-1 Visa Holders Stay in the United States?

Qualified treaty traders and employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of two years. Requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to two years each. There is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E-1 nonimmigrant may be granted. All E-1 nonimmigrants, however, must maintain an intention to depart the United States when their status expires or is terminated.

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
Terms and conditions of employment have not otherwise changed.

USCIS must approve any substantive change in the terms or conditions of E-1 status. A “substantive change” is defined as a fundamental change in the employer’s basic characteristics, such as, but not limited to, a merger, acquisition, or major event which affects the treaty trader or employee’s previously approved relationship with the organization.

May Family Members of E-1 Treaty Traders and Employees Accompany or Join the Principle E-1 Visa Beneficiary?

Yes, 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.

How to Apply for an E-1 Visa?
The E-1 is a nonimmigrant visa and must be applied for at the US Embassy or consular office having jurisdiction over the applicant. However, certain foreign nationals lawfully present in the U.S may be eligible to obtain E-1 visa status by applying directly with the Department of Homeland Security / USCIS.