You can either apply for an E-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad or you can file a Change of Status petition with USCIS. If you are applying for an E-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate, you will have to go to an E-1 visa interview in order for the visa to be approved.
One thing to keep in mind is that the E-1 visa interview is not a formality and is extremely important part of the E-1 visa application process.
For example, if you have a company that is based in Canada and this company provides services to U.S. clients, here are some things to consider for your E-1 visa interview:
Know your Table of Contents and know your Supporting Documentation binder: You should go to the interview with a binder that contains exactly what the Consulate was sent and you should know the contents. Some Consulates have a page limit for the E-1 application. In that case, you should bring the shorter version that was submitted to the Consulate and also the longer version that has all the additional documents in case the Consular Officer wants to see them. You should review the Table of Contents and know what documents are in which Tab. For example, if the officer asks to see your Company’s tax returns, you should be ready to point him to the tab where he/she can find the tax returns.
Be prepared to talk about your business/company: Often, one of the first questions the officer asks is what your company does. You should be ready to explain in couple brief sentences what products does your business sell/what services it provides. The officers usually have to review a lot of applications in advance, so by the time you come to the interview they may not be familiar with what your company does.
Be prepared to demonstrate that the trade is international: When explaining what your business does, you should also incorporate a sentence explaining why the trade is international, so it is clear to the officer that you qualify for the E-1 visa. For example: My company XYZ that is based in Canada and has 15 employees sells clothes to U.S. companies.
Be prepared to talk about the trade between the U.S. and your home (treaty) country
- One of the E-1 visa requirements is that the trade is substantial. You should know:
- what was the volume of trade between the U.S. and your home country in the past 3 years (g. In 2018, my company XYZ that is based in Canada provided services to U.S. clients and the clients paid my company the total of $800,000) ;
- how many clients you had in the past 3 years (g. In 2018, my Company had 25 U.S. clients) ;
- and how many transactions there were each year (g. in 2018, my company XYZ that is based in Canada issued the U.S. clients 350 invoices) ;
- what was your biggest client each year ;
- what are the 5 highest $ amount invoices ;
- show some proofs that you were paid by the U.S. clients
- Please note that it is fine if you will not know the exact amounts and the estimates will be sufficient. You can always point the officer to the Tab in your E-1 application where he can find the information.
If you are planning to hire U.S. employees, you should definitely mention it during your E-1 visa interview. While hiring U.S. employees is not required for E-1 visa, but hiring U.S. workers is always good.
The officer may ask you some general questions such as when exactly you plan to move to the U.S., where do you plan to live etc.
Know Your DS-160 Application. You should review your DS-160 application before the interview and pay particular attention to any questions on the application where they asked you a “yes” or “no” question or to “explain”. For example, (Has anyone ever filed a Immigrant Visa (Green Card) on your behalf? If yes, explain.) Also, if you have any criminal history, you should review the Consulate’s website in advance of the interview to see if there are any special instructions as to what documents you have to bring to the interview regarding the arrest. You should bring the arrest record all the documents you have regarding the arrest. If you answered any of these questions “yes” these areas may be a focus of the interview. Often examiners will ask some of the same questions that are on your DS-160 application and your answers during the interview should be consistent.
Answer Questions Briefly. Many applicants ramble on when asked a question by an examiner and provide detailed explanations to simple questions. If a question is a yes/no question, just answer yes or no and if the examiner wants more detail they will ask for it. Often applicants speak and speak and reveal information that may ultimately lead to a denial of their application.
Answer Questions Honestly. It is imperative that a visa applicant answers all questions honestly. If you do not remember something, just say that you do not remember. If a visa is denied because of lack of documentation, you can always apply again in the future. If a visa is denied because an officer thinks you lied, you will have a tough time getting a visa in the future.
Listen to the Question. While many are nervous, you should focus on the question and provide an answer to the question being asked. If you go off on a tangent or do not answer the specific question, the officer may think you have something to hide and are avoiding the question.
Bring additional documentation with you if needed. If things have changed or documentation has been updated since you submitted the E-1 petition, you should bring additional documents to the interview. For example, if you submitted the application in January but your interview is in April, you should bring the documents (such as trade summary, invoices, and proofs of payments) showing the ongoing trade between the U.S. and your home country from January-April. In addition, if you have any new clients you should bring the contracts to the interview. You should try to anticipate the questions that an examiner may ask and bring any additional documentation to support what you say to an examiner. It is always better to explain something and then show the examiner a piece of paper that backs up your claim.
Bring documentation showing your ties to your home country. While a letter attesting that you plan to return to your home country after the termination of E-1 status is supposed to be sufficient, you should bring documentation showing your ties to your home country if you have it. For example, you could bring a house deed, evidence of family in the country or a lease.
Dress the part and be courteous. You should wear business attire to your interview as a first impression cannot be taken back. Also, under no circumstances should you argue or be disrespectful to the officer. At time they will do everything in their power to provoke you but you should always be respectful. (even if they are not). They have an enormous amount of power and they are the person that will make the decision. Keep in mind that their decision CANNOT be appealed.
The examiner is asking questions to see if you meet the criteria and if you used a lawyer you likely have a good submission. Relax and do not stress about this interview. Often the interviews last 5 minutes and in many cases the examiner just asks 3 or 4 questions. That being said, the interview can be longer if the examiner has doubts about the application.
I am going to the interview with my spouse and children who are applying for an E-1 dependent visa. Will they be asked any questions?
The officers usually do not ask the E-1 visa applicant’s children any questions especially if there are very young. One thing to keep in mind when you have young children is to check the website of the Consulate where you will be applying for an E-1 visa to see if the Consulate waives the interview requirement for children. For example, the U.S. Consulate in Toronto does not require children under the age of 14 to go to the interview and you can just bring your children’s passports and birth certificates. If the visa is approved, they will be issued visas in the passport.
The officers usually do not ask the E-1 visa applicant’s spouse a lot of questions. Usually, the officer will ask your spouse what he/she does, what he/she plans to do in the U.S., or whether he/she plans to work. Please keep in mind that your spouse will first have to apply for a work authorization and only after the work authorization application is approved by USCIS will h/she be able to start working in the U.S.
Please see our blog post about E-1 renewal when you click here.
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