What is an E-1 visa?
Like the E2 visa, the E1 visa is available to foreign nationals of treaty countries. This non-immigrant visa, also known as the Treaty Trader Visa, allows individuals to enter the US in order to engage in “substantial international trade” with the US. The visa may also be issued to employees of such individuals or companies for the same purpose. The E1 Treaty Trader visa has an allowed maximum initial stay of two years with the option to request for unlimited extensions in two-year increments.
Difference Between E1 and E2
For both the E1 and E2 categories, the applicant must be a citizen of one of the treaty countries of the US. There are some variances between E-1 treaty trader countries and E-2 treaty countries, with more countries listed in the latter than the former. You may find the link to the most current list under the “E1 Visa Treaty Trader Countries” section below.
The primary difference between the E1 and E2 outside of the treaty country lists is that the E2 visa requires a substantial investment into a US business while the E1 visa requires substantial trade between one of the treaty countries and the US. While both E visas involve engagement in significant commerce within the US, investors under the E2 must also produce sustainable income through their business while there is no such condition for the Treaty Trader Visa.
Treaty Trader Visa
E1 Visa Requirements
Who Qualifies for the E-1 Visa
The primary requirements for the E1 visa are for the applicant 1) to be a citizen of one of the treaty trader countries, and 2) to engage in substantial international trade or be a qualifying employee of an individual or company that engages in substantial international trade. For entrepreneurs who are not treaty country nationals, the L1 visa may also be considered.
“Substantial trade” indicates bulk and continuous trade of products, services, or other commodities. While USCIS does not specify an exact value or volume, the number of transactions is highly regarded. Of this international trade, 50% or more should be between the treaty country and the US under the “principal trade” rule.
For employees of qualifying individuals or companies to meet the requirements of the E1 visa, they must be of the same nationality as the trading individual or company, and be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess specialized skills.
E1 Visa Treaty Trader Countries
Treaty countries are those with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. Only citizens of treaty trader countries are eligible to apply for an E-1 visa. A list of current E-1 treaty countries is available here. The list varies slightly from the E-2 treaty countries.
E1 Visa Processing Time
Processing time for the E1 visa varies based on current caseload at the time of filing and whether your petition was filed from within the US or oversees. A processing period of between two to four weeks is generally considered reasonable.
E1 Visa Spouse Work Permit
The spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 of the primary applicant may apply for the E1 visa as a dependent simultaneously with the primary applicant. Spouses may obtain a work permit as a dependent by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. All E-1 dependents are also permitted to study in the US, and visa duration is the same as for the primary visa holder at two years initial stay with unlimited two-year extensions available.
E1 Visa to Green Card
Unfortunately, there is no direct route to transition from the E1 visa to a green card. The E1 Treaty Trader Visa requires holders to prove intent to return home once work is complete, making the transition difficult. If you are already in the US under the E1 visa and wish to obtain residency, the easiest option is to apply for a family visa if you have family in the US who have resident or citizenship status. If this is not an option, you could seek a different non-immigrant visa such as the H1B and make the transition toward EB1, EB2, or EB3 employment based green card categories.
If you are an entrepreneur considering the E-1 visa, but permanent residence is your ultimate goal, we recommend exploring other solutions.
If you have a large amount of capital to invest, EB5 is a direct way to obtain a green card. Though the entire process to receiving your permanent green card can take several years, there are provisions for investors and their families to live in the US under a conditional permanent residency once the petition is approved.
Alternately, the L1 allows for entrepreneurs and/or their employees to work in the US without significant investment of capital. Though it is a temporary visa like the E-1, there are no restrictions on seeking permanent residence while in the US on the L1 visa.
E1 Visa Lawyer
For foreign entrepreneurs considering the E1 visa, it is always important to consult with a qualified immigration lawyer for a successful petition. Our immigration attorneys are highly experienced in E-1, as well as many other business and investor visa options such as EB5, E2, L1, and H1B. Our passion is to guide our clients toward the best plans and strategies for your immigration success.