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Do you want to know what the E-1 visa is? In short, this visa for the United States allows aliens from a treaty country to be admitted to the US solely to engage in international trade on their own behalf.

Individual traders or companies that qualify for this visa can travel and enter the US and continue their business operations. The trade can be in any type of industry, such as transportation, communication, administration, advertising, banking or another. 

Our New Jersey immigration lawyers are experts in all types of business visas. Our firm has over 10 years of experience helping aliens process any type of American visa, both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Contact us today by phone, email or book an appointment at our offices in Ridgewood or Newark, New Jersey.

How to obtain the E-1 visa for Treaty Traders In 2024

The E-1 visa for the United States can be obtained in two ways:

visas for trade agreements in the united states

1. Application Within The US

If the treaty trader is inside the US in lawful nonimmigrant status, they can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS to request a change of status to the E-1 category.

A qualified US employer can also file the I-129 on behalf of the beneficiary, as long as the beneficiary is in the US in lawful nonimmigrant status.

2. Application Outside The US

If the treaty trader is located outside the US, it will not be possible to apply for the E-1 visa through the I-129. To request it, they will need to follow these steps:

  1. Complete Form DS-160 online.
  2. Pay the visa application fee.
  3. Schedule the interview with the US embassy or consulate.
  4. Gather all the necessary documents for the interview.
  5. Attend the scheduled interview.

Once the E-1 visa is issued, the alien can apply for admission at a US port of entry.

What Are The Requirements To Apply For The E-1 Visa For The United States?

In order for a treaty trader to be eligible to apply for the E-1 visa, the treaty trader must:

  • Be a national of a country that has an agreement or treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States, or maintains a qualified international agreement, or was considered a qualified country by law.
  • Carry on trading of a substantial nature.
  • Carry on principal trade between the US and the treaty country that qualified the trader for the E-1 visa classification.

Treaty Trader Employee Requirements

  • Be the same nationality as the principal noncitizen employer (whose nationality must be of the treaty country).
  • Meet the definition of “employee” under the law.
  • Participates in executive or supervisory functions. If you are employed in a lesser capacity, you must have unique qualities that are suited to the services the employees provide to the efficient operation of the treaty business enterprise.

If the principal noncitizen employer is an organization or business, the partnership must be 50% owned by individuals who are inside the US and possess nationality of the treaty country. These owners must maintain one of the following two requirements:

  1. Nonimmigrant treaty trader status.
  2. Be admitted to the US classified as a nonimmigrant treaty trader (if the owners are not within the US).

Executive or supervisory responsibilities give the employee full control and responsibility for the overall operation of the business or a major component of it.

Special qualifications are skills that make the employee’s services important to the efficient operation of the trade agreement company. To meet this requirement, you must take into account:

  • The salary that special qualifications can get.
  • Whether the skills and qualifications are available in the US.
  • The degree of demonstrated experience of the employee in the operational area.
  • Whether there are others who possess the employee’s specific skills.

Documents Required To Apply For The E-1 Visa For The United States

The alien beneficiary of the E-1 visa must have the following documents:

  • Any document that proves the nationality of the company you work for and that it belongs to one of the countries of the trade agreement.
  • A photograph that meets the photo requirements.
  • Printed DS-160 form confirmation page.
  • Interview confirmation letter. 
  • Evidence that you intend to return to your country of origin, whether it is a property title , lease or other documents.
  • Letter or document evidencing that you or the company you work for have substantial trade with the US.
  • Receipt of fees paid.
  • Valid passport with at least 6 months validity.
  • Letter from employer describing your position and how you as an employee are essential to international trade.
e-1 visa for treaty traders

Treaty Countries Eligible For the E-1 Visa

Alien citizens of the following countries may be eligible to apply for the E-1 visa:

  • Argentina.
  • Australia.
  • Austria.
  • Belgium.
  • Bolivia.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Brunei.
  • Canada.
  • Chili.
  • China (Taiwan). 
  • Colombia.
  • Costa Rica.
  • Croatia.
  • Denmark. 
  • Estonia.
  • Ethiopia.
  • Finland.
  • France.
  • Germany.
  • Greece.
  • Honduras.
  • Ireland.
  • Israel.
  • Italy.
  • Japan.
  • Jordan. 
  • South Korea.
  • Kosovo.
  • Latvia.
  • Liberia.
  • Luxembourg.
  • North Macedonia.
  • Mexico.
  • Montenegrin.
  • Netherlands.
  • New Zealand.
  • Norway.
  • Oman.
  • Pakistan.
  • Paraguay.
  • Philippines.
  • Poland.
  • Serbian.
  • Singapore.
  • Slovenia.
  • Spain.
  • Surinam.
  • Sweden.
  • Swiss.
  • Thailand.
  • Togo.
  • Turkey.
  • United Kingdom. 
  • Yugoslavia.

For further information, visit the US Department of State’s Trade Agreement Countries page.

What Is Considered Trade And Substantial Trade?

  • Trade: Is the international exchange of goods between the US and the treaty country. Items include goods services, insurance, tourism, transportation, international banking, technology and transfer, and newsgathering activities.
  • Substantial Trade: This is the sufficient amount of trade to ensure the continued flow of international trade items between the US and the trade agreement country. 
  • Continuous flow of items: These are transactions over time and there is no minimum requirement of the volume and value of each transaction. 
  • Principal Trade: When more than half of the volume of international trade conducted by the treaty trader is between the US and the trader’s treaty country.

How Long Can I Stay In The United States With The E-1 Visa?

Traders and treaty employees who qualify for the E-1 visa will have a maximum initial allowable stay of 2 years. Extensions of stay or change of status may be granted in increments of up to 2 years maximum each.

There is no limit on the extensions granted. However, all immigrants under this visa must maintain the intent to depart the US after their status ends. 

As a general rule, when an E-1 nonimmigrant travels abroad, they will be granted an automatic 2-year readmission period once they return to the US, as long as the CBP officer determines their admissibility. 

How Long Does It Take To Process The E-1 Visa For The United States?

E-1 visa processing time is typically 2-4 weeks. However, this time may take longer if the US embassy or consulate has a large number of applications.

Once the processing period for this visa is over, you will be notified if the visa was approved or denied.

To expedite processing time, Form I-907, Application for Premium Processing, may be filed with USCIS .

Terms And Conditions Of The E-1 Visa For The United States

A treaty employee or trader may only work in the activity for which they were accepted at the time the E-1 visa was issued. However, they may also be able to work for the treaty company’s parent company or subsidiary, as long as:

  • The terms and conditions of employment have not changed.
  • Subsidiary employment requires supervisory, essential, or executive skills.
  • A relationship between the companies is verified.

USCIS must authorize any material change in the terms and conditions of the E-1 visa holder. Such as:

  • An acquisition or merger.
  • The sale of the division in which the alien is employed.
  • Other significant event affecting the treaty trader or a previously approved treaty trading company.

If a substantial change occurs, the treaty trader or company wishes to continue to employ the alien under the E-1 visa or seek advice from USCIS for substantial changes, they must file a new I-129 petition. Non-substantial changes do not need to be reported to USCIS.

The treaty company can also apply for an extension of stay simultaneously. To do this, they must include evidence that the employee continues to qualify for the E-1 visa. If the employer will no longer hire the employee, the employee must notify USCIS immediately upon termination of employment. 

Strikes or other labor disputes can affect obtaining the E-1 visa.

Family Members Of Employees And Treaty Traders For The E-1 Visa 

Treaty traders and employees may be accompanied by their spouses and/or unmarried children under 21 years of age under the E-1 category. Besides:

  • The nationalities of the relatives do not necessarily have to be the same as that of the E-1 visa holder.
  • If the authorization for spouses and children is approved, the period of stay will be the same as that of the holder of the E-1 visa. 
  • If family members are in the US and wish to obtain a change of status or extension of stay, they can file Form I-539 , Application for Extension or Change of Nonimmigrant Status.
  • Dependents are authorized for employment based on their status, so they do not need to file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
    • Upon request, dependents may submit employment authorization document (EAD) to employers as evidence of identity and that they are authorized to work. 

Dependent Employment Considerations

DHS takes certain steps to amend Forms I-94, arrival/departure records that evidence E-1 status for dependents. In this way, the spouses of the children can be distinguished on the front of the document. 

After DHS makes the changes, the updated Form I-94 includes a statement that the owner is an E dependent spouse and will be accepted as proof of employment authorization under List C of Form I-9.

Certain E-1 dependent spouses qualify for an automatic EAD extension if they meet the following requirements:

  • File Form I-765 to renew their EAD based on the same E-1 nonimmigrant status.
  • Have a current Form I-94 indicating E-1 nonimmigrant status.
obtaining the e-1 visa for the usa

The automatic extension of an EAD will continue until one of the following happens first:

  • The date the EAD renewal application is approved or denied.
  • 180 days have passed since the date shown on the “Card Expires” in front of the EAD.
  • The expiration date of the spouse’s Form I-94 showing valid E-1 status.

Eligible spouses may submit employers with the following documents as evidence of the automatic EAD extension:

  • Form I-94 showing current E-1 nonimmigrant status.
  • Form I-797C EAD Renewal Application indicating “selected class” (a)(17).
  • The expired EAD under category A17.

The readmission period for E-1 holders will not apply to dependents and they must apply for an extension of stay before their own validity period expires.

What Is The Cost Of The E-1 Visa For The United States?

The filing fee for Form I-129 is $460. On the other hand, the DS-160 form for the E-1 visa application is priced at $160. In addition, to file the I-907 form, the cost will be $2,500.

A Law Firm Helping Traders And Investors

If you wish to travel to the US as a treaty trader under an E-1 visa, our attorney Carolina can help you. For over 10 years we have helped individuals and companies with business, trade and investor visas who are willing to enter and offer their services and activities in the country.

The first step will be to know the circumstances surrounding the case, determine if you qualify for this visa or if you can obtain another one in case you are not elegible. Call us today and we will provide you with expert advice on your case.