What is the E-1 Visa?
The E-1 visa allows certain individuals who participate in the trade of goods with the United States and who are citizens of countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States to come to the United States as nonimmigrants. Thus, the E-1 visa is available to treaty traders who conduct substantial trade in goods. E-1 visa holders are admitted to the United States solely to participate in international trade on their own behalf. Certain employees of an E-1 visa holder or of a qualifying organization may also receive an E-1 visa.
Who is Eligible for an E-1 Visa?
To qualify for an E-1 visa, an individual must:
- Be a treaty trader;
- Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation or qualifying international agreement, or has been granted qualifying status by legislation;
- Participate in substantial trade;
- Participate in principal trade between the United States and the individual’s treaty country.
Who is Eligible to Be an Employee of an E-1 Visa Holder?
Certain employees of the E-1 treaty trader may receive a visa as well. The employee may be employed by an individual treaty trader or an enterprise or organization.
Requirements for Individual Treaty Traders and Enterprises
In order to qualify, the employee must:
- Meet the definition of employee under the relevant law;
- Be the same nationality of the principal alien employer who also has nationality of the treaty country;
- Engage in supervisory or executive duties or have special qualifications that make the employee’s services essential;
- Supervisory duties include those that provide the employee ultimate control and responsibility for the business’ operation or a major component of it;
- Special qualifications depend on the circumstances; however, they are generally the skills which make the employee’s services essential but must be more than knowledge of a foreign language or culture.
Requirements for Enterprises Only
The enterprise or organization must have at least 50% ownership by persons who are in the United States and who have the same nationality as the treaty country. These owners must also have nonimmigrant treaty status themselves, or would qualify for this status if they sought admission to the United States.
What Countries Qualify Under the E-1 Visa?
The United States has treaties with numerous countries under which foreign citizens may come to the United States under an E-1 visa.
E-1 eligible countries include:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- China (Taiwan)
- Costa Rica
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
What Qualifies as Trade Under the E-1 Visa?
Trade is defined as the existing international exchange of items for consideration between the United States and the treaty country. Some items include goods, services, transportation, tourism, technology and its transfer, international banking, insurance, and some news-gathering activities.
Substantial trade refers to an amount of trade that ensures a continuous volume of international trade items between the United States and the treaty country. There is no minimum monetary value requirement for each transaction; instead, the amount of exchanges combined with their value is relevant to determining substantiality.
Principal trade exists when over 50% of the volume of international trade of the treaty trader is between the trader’s country and the United States.
Some items of trade include:
- International banking
- Technology and its transfer
- Some news-gathering activities
What is the Process to Obtain an E-1 Visa?
The application process for obtaining an E-1 visa is generally straightforward; however, some distinctions may exist depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant submits his or her petition.
Generally, the applicant must:
- Submit form DS-160 online along with a photo of the applicant that conforms to the photo requirements to the United States Department of State;
- Register with the online Yatri system and pay applicable visa fees for the applicant and his or her family members;
- The E visa application should be emailed to the applicable U.S. Embassy or Consulate with all required documentation included;
- After the application has been reviewed, the applicant will be prompted to schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country.
Attend Visa Interview at Consulate or Embassy
After an applicant has submitted the above documentation and paid all necessary fees, he or she along with any employees, must attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them.
Prior to the interview, the applicants should compile the following documentation to bring with them to the interview:
- Receipt showing payment of the non-refundable application fees;
- Completed form DS-156E for both employer and employee applicants;
- Form G-28 for applicant’s represented by an attorney;
- Form DS-160 barcode confirmation pages for principal E visa applicant and family members;
- Additional documentation as required by the Consulate or Embassy.
- Marriage certificate or children’s birth certificates for principal applicants accompanied by family members;
- Principal applicant’s resume or curriculum vitae;
- If applicant is an employee and not the business owner, a job letter from the company should be included and should describe:
- The business;
- The job the applicant will do and his or her qualifications for the job;
- Signed statement from applicant vowing to leave the United States upon termination of E visa status;
- Copies of any changes or extensions of status granted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via form I-797.
Ownership Verification Information:
- Evidence that nationals own at least 50% of the business:
- Articles of incorporation or organization for a United States business;
- Share certificates and/or operating agreements to verify ownership;
- For firms with several owners or subsidiaries:
- Organization chart showing full ownership structure of company;
- Legal proof of ownership within structure;
- Color photocopies of passports of each unit holder of the parent company and the percentage of ownership;
- For firms publicly traded with many shareholders, where none own more than 50%:
- A written declaration authorized by a corporate official that states the stock exchanges on which the firm has traded;
- A copy of recently issued trading information reflecting the nationality of the stock’s owners;
- A chart of ownership of the enterprise and certificate of registration from the state or province in which the company is incorporated, if incorporated outside the United States.
- Detailed cover letter describing how the enterprise and visa applicant qualify for the E-1 visa, including evidence tracing and identifying traded goods and the quantity traded with the United States.
How Long Can an E-1 Visa Holder Stay in the United States?
An E-1 visa holder and his or her eligible employees may live in the United States for an initial stay of up to two years. Extensions may be obtained after the initial two year stay in increments of two years and there is no limit on the amount of extensions granted.
How Much Does it Cost to Obtain an E-1 Visa?
The application fee for an E-1 visa is $205. An issuance fee may also need to be paid one the applicant’s visa is approved, depending on the applicant’s nationality.