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How long does my company have to be trading with the U.S. before I can apply for an E-1 Treaty Trader visa?

By February 2, 2024E-1 Visa
International trade

The E-1 Treaty Trader Visa is available to foreign nationals who are citizens of treaty countries and who seek to enter the U.S. to facilitate international trade that exists between the U.S. and the Treaty Country. The trade must consist of an actual exchange of goods, money, or services. It must also be international, meaning there is international commercial trade happening between the treaty country and the U.S. Additionally, the trade must be substantial, meaning that there must be a continuous flow of numerous transactions over a period of time. A full list of E-1 visa requirements can be found here.

A common question is whether the applicant can apply for the E-1 visa to come to the U.S. to look for clients to facilitate international trade. While it may be possible to visit the U.S. on a B-1 business visitor visa for some initial business meetings, if the applicant wants to qualify for the E-1 treaty trader visa, the trade must already be in existence.

Another common question is how long the trade must be in existence before the applicant can apply for the E-1 visa. Under the regulations, trade is considered to be in existence if the company or trader has binding contracts that require the immediate or imminent exchange of the trade items. This suggests that even if the trade items have not been shipped yet, an applicant can apply for an E-1 visa and show these binding contracts to prove that the trade already exists. However, in practice many U.S. Consulates expect to see that trade has been in existence for at least a year. A common request is for the E-1 applicant to provide a spreadsheet and supporting documentation showing all qualifying trade transactions for the last calendar year. If the applicant wants to submit the E-1 application before a year has passed or even before any trade items have shipped, they can arguably do so based on the language in the regulations as long as they have binding contracts as proof of trade, but this would be a riskier application.

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