E-1 Trader Visa


An E-1 Visa is a Visa Classification that is available for foreign nationals who wish to live in the U.S. based on international trade that exists between the U.S. and the Treaty Country.   In order to qualify for the Visa, applicants must meet specific requirements outlined in the requirements/eligibility section below.


There are the key requirements for the E-1 Visa:

1.      You Must Be National of A Treaty Country

The E-1 Trader Visa is only available to people from the countries that the U.S. has a Treaty with.  Many Western countries are on the list but there are also countries from Africa, Asia and the Middle East on the list.  A complete list of the countries on the list can be found by clicking here.

2.      You Carry on Substantial Trade of goods or services between the Treaty Country and the U.S.

In order to satisfy this part of the test, you must fulfill these requirements.

  1. Substantial is not defined in the statute but the higher both the volume of trade in terms of number of transactions and dollar value the better.
  2. Trade under $100,000 would generally be too low and the trade should be sustained over a period of time (usually at least a year but shorter times could be considered.)
  3. Trade must be ongoing. As such, normally only existing businesses will qualify.
  4. The trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country and the trade that occurs between the treaty country and the U.S. must represent at least 50% of the total international trade of your business
  5. The documentation involves producing extensive documentation regarding the trade that has occurred over a period of time.

3.      You must intent to return to your Home Country after the expiration of the E-1 visa

Application Process

There are two ways you can apply for an E-2 visa and these are described below.

  1. Applying for an E-1 Visa While in the U.S. (Change of Status)

If you are in the U.S. on a visa (eg. H-1B or F-1), you can file a petition to change status to an E-1 Visa with the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS).  The I-129 form you file is the same form that you file for many other non-immigrant visas (eg. H-1B) and you would also complete the E-1 visa supplement.  This petition is a document intensive application and you must provide documentation to support all of the elements outlined in the E-1 visa requirements.   If your petition is granted, it is best to think of yourself as “in E-1 Status” rather than having an E-1 “visa” as the change of status does NOT permit you to reenter the country the way an E-1 visa would.  E-1 status is typically granted for a 2-year period.  Finally, if you have dependents that are also in the U.S. that are dependents on your visa (eg. H-4) where you want to change their status, you must also file an I-539.

  1. Applying for an E-1 Visa at a Consulate (Obtaining an E-1 Visa)

If you are outside of the U.S., you must file a DS-160 and this long application is completed online.  You must also complete a DS-156E supplement also.  The exact instructions of how you apply for the visa are usually outlined on the website of the relevant consulate and the documentation that you must provide is generally the same as the documentation you would provide if you were filing in the U.S..  That being said, the consulate may impose some additional specific procedural requirements.  The visas are typically granted from between 2 & 5 years and you are permitted to leave and enter the U.S. whenever you like.  If you have dependents, separate DS-160 applications must be completed for them.  Click here to find out more about deciding whether to apply for an E visa at a consulate or through a change of status.

How long does the Visa last for?

If processed as a change of status, the time period will generally be 2 years.  If processed at a consulate, the visa can be valid for up to 5 year but the actual time will depend on the reciprocity agreement between countries and the decision taken by the consulate. See more detail on E Visa length and E visa reciprocity by clicking here.

How are Family Members Treated?

E-1 Treaty Traders can get an E-1 derivative visa for spouse and children under 21.  The spouse can get work authorization but the children cannot. All parties may attend school in the U.S..

Other Considerations or Related Articles

Articles about the E-1 Visa

Common Questions & Answers

Click here to see additional E-2 Questions and Answers.