E-1 Treaty Traders

E-1 visas are for foreign nationals who seek to come to the United States temporarily to engage in trade.

Requirements

The treaty trader must be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation (see link below). Furthermore, the treaty trader must both engage in “substantial trade” and “principal trade” between the U.S. and the treaty country that provided the basis for E-1 eligibility.

Trade is defined as “the existing international exchange of items of trade for consideration” between the United States and the treaty country.  Examples of trade include:

  • Goods
  • Services
  • International banking
  • Insurance
  • Transportation
  • Tourism
  • Technology and its transfer
  • Some news-gathering activities.

“Substantial trade” refers to the continuous flow of sizable international trade items via numerous transactions over time.  Although there are no clearly defined minimum requirements for what qualifies as “substantial,” immigration laws and regulations give greater weight for larger number of exchanges and higher individual value. In addition to the “substantial trade” requirement, “principal trade” is found when over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the U.S. and the trader’s treaty country.

Employees of E-1 Treaty Traders

E-1 Treaty Traders may hire employees, and those employees may also be granted nonimmigrant employment visas. The employee must meet specific requirements:

  • Be the same nationality of the principal alien employer (who must have the nationality of the treaty country);
  • Meet the definition of “employee” under the relevant law; and
  • Engaging in duties of an executive or supervisory character, or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications.

If the employer is not an individual, it must be an enterprise or organization that is, at a minimum, 50% owned by foreign nationals in the U.S. who have the same nationality as the treaty country and who are maintaining their own E-1 treaty trader status.  If for some reason the owners are not in the U.S., they must be legally eligible to receive an E-1 visa if they were to apply for status.

E-1 Visa Terms and Conditions

A treaty trader or employee is only permitted to 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; the subsidiary employment requires executive, supervisory, or essential skills; and the terms and conditions of employment have not otherwise changed.

Period of Stay

The maximum initial period of stay in E-1 status is two years, and requests for extension of status may be granted in two-year increments.  Although there is no maximum limit on the E-1 extensions, the foreign national must document and maintain an intention to depart the U.S. when their status expires.

E-1 Family Members

Treaty traders and employees may petition for spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age for E-1 dependent status.  The nationalities of the family members do not have to be the same as the treaty trader or employee.  Spouses of E-1 holders may apply for work authorization with no specific restriction as to where they may work.

Helpful Links

U.S. Department of State – Treaty Countries