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I want to apply for an E-1 visa but the trade is not substantial yet. Can I come to the U.S. on a B-1 visa, meet with potential U.S. clients and negotiate contracts? What activities can I do?

By April 15, 2020May 14th, 2021E-1 Visa, Immigration
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If you want to apply for an E-1 visa, you will have to demonstrate that the trade is already in existence, the trade is between the U.S. and a treaty country, the trade is substantial, and more than 50% of the volume of international trade is between the U.S. and a treaty country.

Also, while not required, you may want to set up a business entity in the U.S. before you apply for E-1 visa.

Some of our clients do not meet the substantiality requirement when they first reach out to us. The E-1 visa substantiality requirement means that there must be numerous transactions over time to prove that there is a continuous flow of trade items between the U.S. and the treaty country. For example, if the trade for 2019 between the U.S. and the treaty country was only $50,000 and you only had 3 clients and there were only 12 projects, it is advisable that you have more clients and a higher volume of the trade before you apply for an E-1 visa.

Many of our clients want to come to the U.S., meet with potential clients and negotiate contracts with new clients before they apply for the E-1 visa. Our clients often ask us which visa they can use to visit the U.S. during the time when they are trying to increase the volume of trade in order to get the E-1 visa. The B-1 business visitor visa is often a good option for these types of clients.

Can I come to the U.S. on B-1 visa before I apply for an E-1 visa?

Yes. You can come to the U.S. on a B-1 visa or on ESTA (as a business visitor) and you can engage in the following activities:

  • Set up a business entity in the U.S.
  • Enter into a lease agreement
  • Interview and hire U.S. employees (you are not required to hire U.S. employees on E-1 visa, but hiring U.S. workers is always good for the application)
  • Meet with potential U.S. clients
  • Negotiate contracts with your U.S. clients
  • Consult with your business associates

Please note that the B-1 visa does allow for limited business activities but does not permit the person to engage in work, so you should consult with an immigration attorney to ensure you are engaging only in permissible activities on the B-1 visa.

Besides visiting the U.S. on a B-1 to increase the volume of trade, another step that E-1 applicants can take to strengthen their case when their business is just getting started is to submit a business plan with the application. If you want to find out whether you need a Business Plan for E-1 visa, you can click here.

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