An E-1 visa is a Treaty Trader Visa and allows nationals from certain countries to live and work in the United States to engage in international trade between the U.S. and their home country. In order to be eligible, the foreign national must come from a Treaty Country and a full list of Treaty countries can be found by clicking here.
What is Trade?
International trade is the import and export of goods and services between countries and the definition of what constitutes trade under an E-1 Visa is quite broad. For example, the following items can be classified as trade:
- Products and goods such as merchandise, food, mechanical equipment, manufactured products, commodities, natural resources and more.
- For example, a company that is resident in a treaty country may offer IT services to companies in the U.S. and this would be considered Trade
- Finance and Banking Transactions – The flow of financial products or services between the U.S. and a treaty country
- Insurance – the offering of insurance products or services between countries
- Transportation – the offering of transportation services (eg. an airline, bus, etc.) between countries
- Tourism services offered between countries
- Any good or service that can be exchanged
What are the Requirements of an E-1 Visa?
An E-1 Visa has three main requirements as follows:
- You are a national of a treaty country:
- A full list of Treaty countries can be found by clicking here. Being a member of a Treaty country means having a passport from that country.
- You carry on “substantial” trade of goods and/or services:
- 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.
- 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.)
- You carry on “principal” trade of goods and/or services between the U.S. and your home Treaty country:
- Principal trade means that the trade that occurs between the treaty country and the U.S. represents approximately 51% of the total trade of your business
- The documentation involves producing extensive documentation regarding the trade that has occurred over a period of time.
What is the Type of Evidence Required for an E-1 Visa?
The primary evidence required for an E-1 visa is proof of the international trade between the Treaty country and the U.S.. As such, the documentation usually includes the following:
- Purchase orders or bills of lading showing shipping of goods
- Contracts between the treaty country enterprise and U.S. companies (clients) for services
- Customs documentation and/or import export duties documents
- Documentation showing payment receipts/payments to foreign enterprises
- Accounts receivable (A/R) and accounts payable (A/P) ledgers showing cross border clients
- Client lists
- Other documents showing international trade is substantial and that at least 51% of the trade is between U.S. and the treaty country.
How is an E-1 Visa Different from an E-2 Visa?
An E-2 visa is a visa that requires a foreign national to invest a certain amount of money in the U.S. and also hire U.S. workers. A full list of E-2 visa requirements can be found by clicking here.
A comparison of the two visas is listed below:
|Question||E-1 Visa||E-2 Visa|
|Do you have to make a financial investment?||No||Yes – investment amount is not clearly defined but usually over $100,000.|
|Do you have to hire U.S. workers?||Not as per regulations but employees will always help an application.||Yes – no defined amount but business cannot be just for the applicant and his/her family|
|Can Spouse get Employment Authorization?||Yes||Yes|
|Do you have to be a member of a Treaty Country?||Yes||Yes|
|Business Plan Required||Not required but good to describe the business and show the Government where the business will be going.||Yes unless company has been in operation for 3 years with profit.|
|Can children under 21 get an E-1 visa?||Yes||Yes|
|Can the E-2 Visa be renewed indefinitely?||Yes||Yes|
What are Some Examples of an E-1 Business?
- A fashion company or clothing seller that has a significant amount of international sales to U.S. customers.
- An Information Technology company that provides services (at least 51% of services) to U.S. clients
- An import/export company that exports a large number of products (food, commodities, car parts, etc.) to the U.S.
- A Television or production company that wants to make a movie or TV show in the U.S. and has done this often in the past such that greater than 50% of the services they are offering are in the U.S..
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