What is an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa?

The E-1 (treaty trader) and E-2 (treaty investor) visa categories arose in connection with bilateral treaties of commerce (including Treaties of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation (“FCNs”) and Bilateral Investment Treaties (“BIT”) between the US and the country of which the treaty trader or investor is a citizen or national. A list can be found at US Department of State. These visas enable investors, traders and their employees to enter the United States on a non-immigrant basis to trade or invest, provided they are a member of a treaty country and satisfy the relevant criteria.

Do I qualify for E-1 Treaty Trader Status?

In order to be considered eligible for an E-1 Treaty Trader visa, you must:

Be a national of a treaty country

If you are a company, a minimum of 50% of the shares/membership interests must be owned by natural persons holding the nationality of the treaty country. If you are an employee of a treaty trader company, you must share the nationality of your company.

To determine the nationality of your company, you must consider, inter alia, the following factors:

  • The nationalities of stock holders;
  • Percentage of stock owned by nationals of a treaty country;
  • If the company is publicly traded, where it is listed and whether it is listed solely on one exchange; and
  • Whether members hold US lawful permanent residency.

Enter the United States for the purpose of carrying on:

  • Substantial trade;
  • Principally between the United States and the foreign country of which you are a citizen or national.

Substantial trade

Substantial trade is defined as an amount of trade sufficient to ensure a continuous flow of international trade items between the United States and the treaty country. Essentially, trade is considered substantial when there are numerous transactions over a period of time and the income derived is sufficient enough to support the treaty trader. A one-time transaction does not amount to “substantial trade” no matter the value or subject matter.

Items of trade

Items of trade include but are not limited to goods, services, international banking, insurance, monies, transportation, communications, data processing, advertising, accounting, design and engineering, management consulting, tourism, technology and its transfer, and some news gathering activities.

Principal trade

Principal trade between the United States and the treaty country exists when over 50 percent of the volume of international trade of the treaty trader is conducted between the United States and the treaty country of the treaty trader’s nationality.

For how long is an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa granted?

It depends on your country of origin. With a strong application, British citizens are generally granted for 5 years but can be approved for as little as 2 years.

Can I bring my family?

Yes – your spouse and children (under 21 years) can also obtain E-2 visas. The basis for their eligibility is their relationship with you, the principal E-2 visa holder.

Can my family work and study?

Your spouse can work (upon successful application made after entry) and/or study and your unmarried children under the age of 21 can study without requiring an F-1 Student Visa. Employment Authorization will need to be obtained before a spouse may work. Children can attend school without further action.

Spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21, of an E-1 non-immigrant may be granted the same status to accompany the E-1 or E-2 visa holder. Spouses may be authorized to work in the US although must apply; children may not work but are permitted to study during their stay.

What are the benefits of E-1 Treaty Trader Visas?

– Duration
– Processing time and cost
– No investment requirement
– Profitability requirement lower than E-2 and L-1
– Staffing requirement lower than E-2 and L-1

What are the limitations of E-1 Treaty Trader Visas?

– Substantial trade must already exist at the time of filing
– Inappropriate for new businesses

Where do I file?

There are two ways of filing for E-1 – change of status (in the US) and consular processing (outside the US). If you are not already lawfully present (in lawful status) in the US, change of status will not usually be available to you. If you are present in the US, call us to discuss the best option for you.

Is there a direct route to obtaining a green card through an E-1 Visa?

There are no direct routes to obtaining a green card but it is possible that you may qualify for lawful permanent residency through EB-1C, EB-5 or other options depending on the features of your circumstances.

Which employees can obtain E-1 visas?

Employees must:

  • Have the same nationality as the treaty employer; and
  • Either be employed in a position which is executive or supervisory in nature; or
  • Be an essential employee, in a non-supervisory role, with special qualifications.

What is an Executive/Supervisor?

In establishing whether an applicant is employed in an executive or supervisory role, relevant factors include control and responsibility.

What is an Essential Employee?

In determining whether an employee is “essential”, the relevant factors for consideration include but are not limited to: employee’s degree or proven expertise; uniqueness of skills to the particular organization; commanded salary; and availability of US workers.