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The E-1 visa is designed to allow a national of a treaty country solely to engage in international trade on his or her own behalf in the United States.  Certain employees of an E-1 treaty trader may also be eligible for this visa classification.

While if the treaty trader or his/her future employee is currently in the United States, he or she may apply for change of status to E-1 to the USCIS; if the person is physically outside the United States, then he or she may apply for an E-1 visa to a U.S. Consulate in his or her home country or in a 3rd country if qualified.

Qualifications of an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa:

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

  • Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation
  • Carry on substantial trade
  • Carry on principal trade between the United States and the treaty country which qualified the treaty trader for E-1 visa classification

Items of international trade include, but not limited to,: goods, services, international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, technology and its transfer, as well as some news-gathering activities.

Substantial trade generally refers to the “continuous flow of sizable international trade”, involving numerous transactions over time.  There is no minimum requirement regarding the monetary value or volume of each transaction. Usually, both the number of transactions and monetary value of transactions are important factors in considering substantiality.

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

Qualifications of an E-1 Employee Visa:

To qualify for E-1 visa, the employee of a treaty trade must:

  • Have the same nationality with the treaty trader
  • Be an employee who is either engaging in duties of an executive or supervisory character, or an essential employee in a lesser capacity having special qualifications

Special qualifications are skills which make the employee’s services essential to the efficient operation of the treaty trader’s business.  The factors to be considered in determining if the employee has special qualifications include, but are not limited to,:

  • The level of expertise in the employee’s field
  • Whether others also possess the employee’s specific skills
  • The salary that the special qualifications can command
  • Whether the skills and knowledge are readily available in the United States

Knowledge of a foreign language and foreign business culture does not, by itself, meet this requirement.

Period of Stay:

The maximum initial stay of an E-1 visa holder is two years. And, he or she may request an extension of stay for up to two years. An E-1 nonimmigrant, having a valid visa stamp at the time of reentry, may be granted a two-year of extension automatically by reentering the United States after traveling abroad. There is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E-1 nonimmigrant may be granted.

Family of E-1 Treaty Traders and Employees:

A treaty trader or an E-1 employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children under 21.  Their nationality need not be the same as the treaty trader or employee.  An E-1 spouse may work in the United States if and when obtaining an Employment Authorization from the USCIS.

E-1 Nonimmigrant’s Green Card Application:

An E-1 treaty trader may not apply for the permanent residency under the sponsorship of the business enterprise that he or she owns; an E-1 employee, however, may.  If an E-1 treaty trader receives an offer of a permanent occupation from a different U.S. employer, then he or she may obtain the Green Card through employment-based immigration process.


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