Immigration Law Associates
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The E-1 Treaty Trader Visa

The E-1 Treaty Trader visa category allows foreign nationals to work temporarily in the U.S. in order to carry on substantial trade between the United States and the foreign country of which they are a national. E-1 visa holders are initially granted a period of admission for two (2) years with an unlimited number of two-year extensions of status. Spouses of E-1 visa holders are eligible for employment authorization.


E-1 Visa Eligibility
Nationality of the Treaty Trader: Whether an individual, business or employee of an individual or business, the Treaty Trader must be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation. Please click here to view the State Department's current list of Treaty Countries.

Nature of the Trade Undertaken: A foreign trader who seeks E-1 visa status must meet all of the following requirements:

  1. The trade must constitute an exchange. There must exist an actual exchange of qualifying commodities such as goods, monies, or services to constitute transactions to be considered "trade." Furthermore, title to the trade item must pass from one treaty party to another.
  2. The trade must be international in scope. The purpose of the established treaties is to develop international commercial trade between the foreign country and the United States. Thus, the traceable exchange in goods or services must be between the United States and the treaty country. Engaging in purely domestic trade is not allowable under the E-1 visa category. In addition, trade between the treaty country and the United States must already exist (evidenced by existing binding contracts).
  3. The trade must involve qualifying activities. For E-1 purposes, trade involves the commercial exchange of goods or services in the international market place.

Ownership of the Trading Business: The nationality of the company's stockholders is significant. At least 50% of the corresponding E-1 business must be owned by nationals of the Treaty Country.

Qualifications and Activities of the Treaty Trader: Employees of an E-1 company must be engaged in activities that are executive, managerial, or supervisory in character; or possess special qualifications that will be rendered essential for the efficient operation of the business.


E-1 Visa Eligibility
Filing for an E-1 visa abroad at a U.S. consulate results in a totally new and independent adjudication by the consular office. If the case has been previously approved by USCIS in the U.S., it must be reviewed and adjudicated again at the consulate. Moreover, the standards used by consular offices abroad are often more demanding and difficult to meet than the standards used by USCIS.

For this reason, a prospective treaty trader should consult with an attorney about the possibility of entering the U.S. in some other legitimate status (for example, B-1 business visitor and then changing status to E-1 after arrival.

Filing in the U.S. for change of status to E-1 may or may not be the best option for all potential treaty traders. If the foreign national wishes or needs to travel abroad during the duration of his E-1 status, it will be necessary for him to apply for a visa in his country of origin before returning to the U.S. This will trigger a re-adjudication of his case, which may take weeks or months, and in some cases lead to a denial.

Immigration Law Associates, PC has prepared many E-1 visa applications on behalf of established foreign corporations seeking to bring essential executives and personnel to the U.S. In addition, our firm also helps foreign entrepreneurs comply with the immigration requirements necessary to establish a viable E-1 enterprise and apply for E-1 visa or status.


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Skokie, IL 60077
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