E-1 Visa: Treaty Trader Visa
What is an E-1 Visa?
If you’re like many people, you qualify to come to the U.S. as an E-1 nonimmigrant – but what is an E-1 visa, and what does it cover?
This guide explains E-1 visas, including who qualifies for this type of business visa, how to get one, and additional information regarding family members and special circumstances.
Who Qualifies for an E-1 Visa?
E-1 visas are limited to people who meet certain criteria. Generally, you must:
- Be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation
- Carry on substantial trade
- Carry on principal trade between the U.S. and the treaty country that qualified you for E-1 classification
In order to qualify for E-1 classification as an employee of a treaty trader, you must:
- Be of the same nationality as your principal employer, who must have the nationality of the treaty country
- Meet the official definition of an employee under the law
- Be engaging in duties that can be considered executive or supervisory, or have special qualifications (if you’re not engaging in executive or supervisory duties)
If you employer is not an individual, it has to be an enterprise or organization that’s at least half-owned by people in the U.S. who have the same nationality as the treaty country. The owners must maintain nonimmigrant treaty trader status. If the owners aren’t present in the U.S., they must be classifiable as nonimmigrant treaty traders.
What is Substantial Trade?
The term substantial trade refers to “the continuous flow of sizable international trade items, involving numerous transactions over time.” Items of trade include things like:
- International banking
- Technology and the transfer of technology
- Some news-gathering activities
You can bring your immediate family to the U.S. if you get an E-1 visa. However, you can only bring spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Their nationalities do not need to be the same as the treaty trader or employee. It’s important to note, however, that when an E-1 treaty trader travels abroad, comes back to the U.S., and gets an automatic new 2-year extension, that extension does not cover family members unless they’re present for the travel as well. That means the family members must apply for an extension of stay before their visas expire.
How to Get an E-1 Visa
Getting an E-1 visa isn’t incredibly difficult, but as with most immigration applications, it requires paperwork and time. You’ll have to file certain forms, attend certain interviews, and pay fees for things like biometrics. For many people, it makes sense to work with an immigration attorney who understands the law – and who has access to the most current information – to petition the U.S. government for an E-1 visa.
Forms for E-1 Visa Applications
You’ll need to file the right forms for the U.S. government to consider your petition for an E-1 visa. You’ll have to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, as well as certain employment-based forms. You can discuss these forms with your immigration attorney, who will know exactly what you need to file.
How long can you stay in the U.S. on an E-1 visa?
If you qualify for treaty trader status and get an E-1 visa, the U.S. government will allow you to stay in the U.S. for up to 2 years. Before that period expires, you can request an extension of stay, and the government can grant you an extension for up to 2 years. There is no limit to the number of extensions the government can give you, but you must maintain an intention to depart the U.S. when your status expires or is terminated.
Additional Documentation You May Need
Before you file your E-1 visa application, you’ll want to gather all the documents you may need to support your application. You may also need to bring extra documents to your immigration interview. Some of the documents you should begin to gather include:
- Your passport. Your passport must be valid for travel to the United States, and it must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your anticipated period of stay (unless you’re exempt from this requirement because of the country in which you live; your attorney can provide you with further guidance).
- Copies of receipts for application fees.
- A cover letter. The cover letter should describe the enterprise and the beneficiary, as well as several other things. Your attorney will explain what else the cover letter needs.
- A letter explaining the job in detail if you are not an investor but an employee.
- A copy of any changes or extensions of status previously granted by USCIS.
- Evidence of your ongoing residency in the country from which you are applying.
- Articles of Incorporation (for corporations), Articles of Organization (for LLCs), or other similar documents for U.S. businesses.
- Share certificates, share ledgers or other documents that confirm ownership.
The consular officer you deal with will let you know which documentation you need to determine your eligibility for an E-1 visa. You and your attorney can discuss these requirements, as well.
E-1 Visa FAQ
E-1 visas can be a little confusing, particularly when it comes to documentation requirements. Check out this E-1 visa to find the answers you need – and if you don’t see your question here, please feel free to call us. We’ll be more than happy to provide you with information.
Can a person with an E-1 visa apply for a green card?
If you have an E-1 visa, you can apply for a green card if you meet certain conditions. In fact, many people use this type of visa as a stepping stone to eventual U.S. citizenship. However, this visa doesn’t automatically qualify you for a green card.
Instead, you can get your green card through immediate family sponsorship or marriage, or a handful of other routes. It’s best to talk to an immigration attorney about your situation if you’re interested in getting a green card.
How long does it take to get an E-1 visa?
The E-1 visa’s processing time varies, but generally, it takes a few months. You can check the status of your petition here by entering your receipt number. Your immigration attorney can also help you check the status of your visa application, provided you have set up an account online, which enables you to get information quickly.
Is there an interview for an E-1 visa?
Interviews are required for many E-1 visa applications. However, if you are bringing dependents to the U.S. with you who are age 13 or under, or if you’re bringing dependents who are age 80 and over, interviews usually aren’t required. For the most part, though, you must attend an E-1 visa interview if you’re aged 14 to 79.
You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate where you live – in most cases.
During your E-1 visa interview, a consular officer will attempt to figure out whether you qualify for this type of visa. You’ll also have to prove that you meet the right requirements. During this time, you might also be fingerprinted (unless USCIS already has your biometric data, but sometimes even if they have your fingerprints, you’ll be asked to resubmit them).
After you have your visa interview, USCIS might need to spend more time on your application. The consular officer will let you know if further processing is necessary for your application.
How Much Does an E-1 visa cost?
The fee for an E-1 visa is currently $205. However, that can change – and you may still have additional fees, such as a biometrics fee (when the U.S. government needs to collect your fingerprints, take your photograph and gather your digital signature).
It’s best to ask your immigration attorney what the current E-1 visa fee is at the time you apply, because it can change quickly.
You may also need to pay a visa issuance fee. It’s not applicable in every country, though. Your attorney can help you determine whether you’ll have to pay an issuance fee – and in any case, you won’t have to pay it until the visa is approved by the U.S. government.
Do I need an attorney to get an E-1 visa?
Most people find that it’s easier to get an E-1 visa when an attorney fills out and files paperwork for them. Additionally, your attorney can help answer your questions and prepare you for the interview – and if something goes wrong with your application and results in a denial, your attorney can let you know what options are available to you. You may even be able to appeal the immigration decision, which your lawyer can help you do.
Can a spouse work on an E-1 visa?
The E-1 visa allows people to enter the U.S. to carry out international trade – but what about their spouses? Spouses of E-1 workers can apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 and paying the appropriate fee (it’s currently $410, plus an $85 biometric services fee, which brings the total to $495). If the U.S. government approves the spouse’s work authorization petition, there are no restrictions on where he or she can work.
How do I renew an E-1 visa?
To file for an extension on your E-1 visa, you must file Form I-129 and Form I-539 together. Your attorney can help you prepare both forms and submit them for you. However, if you’re being granted an automatic two-year period of readmission when you return to the United States from abroad, you usually don’t need to file Form I-129.
That’s because your stamp usually covers an automatic two-year period of readmission, which technically extends your stay. It may be best to check with an attorney, however, to make sure that you’re really not overstaying your visa and that you’re authorized to stay in the United States based on what you have.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About an E-1 Visa?
If you’re interested in coming to the United States as a treaty trader on an E-1 visa, we may be able to help you. Your first step is to determine whether you’re likely to qualify for this type of visa. If you are likely to qualify, you may wish to begin gathering documentation that proves your eligibility.
You can always call us and set up a free consultation – our immigration attorneys are well-versed in E-1 visas and know how to help. If you are eligible for an E-1 visa, we can walk you through the entire process from start to finish, answering your questions every step of the way.