1. What is E-1 visa?
The E-1 treaty trader visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign nationals of a treaty nation to enter into the U.S. and carry out substantial trade. A treaty trader belongs to a nation that maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation or a bilateral agreement with the U.S.
Note: Trade includes commercial transactions in goods and trade in services and technology like banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, communications, data processing, advertising, accounting, design and engineering, management consulting, technology transfer and other measurable services which may be traded.
2. How do I qualify for E-1 visa?
You may qualify for E-1 visa if:
- You are an executive, manager or specialist in a treaty nation company operating in the U.S., or you own 50 per cent of the company
- The nationals of your country own at least 50 per cent of the stock of the company, i.e., the firm has the nationality of the treaty country
- You are a citizen of a treaty trade country, and are involved in international trade
- You are the immediate family members of a principle E-1 visa holder
3. What privileges do I enjoy on E-1 visa?
On E-1 visa, you may:
- Work legally in the U.S. for a U.S. company where more than 50 per cent of the business is trade between the U.S. and your home country
- Travel freely in and out of the U.S.
- Stay in the U.S. on a prolonged basis with unlimited two year extensions as long as you maintain E-1 qualifications
- Bring your dependents to the U.S. Your spouse can also work in the U.S.
4. What are the limitations of E-1 visa?
The limitations of E-1 visa are:
- You are restricted to working only for the specific employer or self-owned business that acted as your E-1 visa sponsor
- Visas are available only to foreign nationals of countries having trade treaties with the U.S.
- Authorized stay is granted for two years at a time which makes the application or extension process cumbersome
5. How long can I stay in the U.S. on E-1 visa?
You may stay in the U.S. on a prolonged basis with unlimited five year visa extensions or two year status extensions as long as you maintain E-1 qualifications. You may apply for unlimited extensions as long as you are qualified for an E-1 visa.
6. How do I apply for extension of stay on E-1 visa?
To apply for E-1 extension you must submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, along with E supplement, and Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Status, for accompanying relatives. Along with it you must submit:
- A copy of your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure document
- A copy of original Form I-797, Notice of Action, if your status was previously approved or extended in the U.S.
- A copy of your complete passport including the E-1 visa
- A letter from your employer stating that your extension is required
- A copy of your personal and U.S. business income tax returns for the past two years, including payroll tax returns
7. Can I revalidate my E-1 visa?
No, you may not apply for visa revalidation of your E-1 visa by mail without leaving the U.S.
8. Can I change status while on E-1 visa?
Yes, you may apply for change of status while on E-1 visa. You must submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, or Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant status, indicating your change of status with appropriate supporting documents
9. Are there any travel restrictions on E-1 visa?
No, there are no travel restrictions on E-1 visa. You may travel as many number of times as required before the expiry of your E-1 status. The USCIS does not impose any time limit on your stay abroad.
10. Can I study on E-1 visa?
Yes, you may study on E-1 visa. However, you may not join full-length study programs. You may take up a few credits at a university provided they do not harm the primary interest of your visa.
11. Can I bring my dependents on E-1 visa?
Yes, you may bring your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years to stay along with you. They may stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain your E-1 status. You may bring a domestic or personal servant on nonimmigrant status, provided you can show that:
- He or she is not abandoning his or her residence abroad
- He or she has served you for at least one year, or has had an ongoing employment relationship with you and has at least one year of experience as a servant
13. Can my dependents study on E-1 visa?
Yes, your dependents may attend U.S. schools, colleges and universities on E visa, and do not have to apply for separate student visa such as an F-1 visa.
14. How do I apply for E-1 visa?
The following documents are required while applying for E-1 visa:
- Completed and signed Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Completed and signed Form DS-156E, Treaty or Trader Investor Application
- Documents which establish the identity of your company’s nationality
- A letter from your employer detailing your position and stating that you possess highly specialized skills essential for the efficient operation of the firm or that you are an executive or manager
- Evidence of substantial trade for at least one year between the U.S. and your home country
- Other documents relevant to your case, such as marriage and birth certificates of you and your family members
- A passport valid for travel to the U.S. with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay
- Color passport style photographs (37 x 37mm) for each member listed in the visa application. The picture should be taken before a light background with the head uncovered
15. Where should I file my E-1 visa application?
- If you are in a lawful status in the U.S., submit the visa application to a USCIS Service Center office in the U.S.
- If you are outside the U.S., submit the visa application to the U.S. consular office in your home country
16. What is the processing time for E-1 treaty trader visa?
The processing time for E-1 treaty trader visa is generally between two and four weeks from the filing of the application. This may vary depending upon the work load in the consulates.
17. Can I apply for Green Card while on E-1 visa?
Yes, you may apply for Green Card while in the U.S. through the following options:
- Family Based Immigration: If you have close relatives who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, the relatives may file an immigration petition for you as the beneficiary
- Employment Based Immigration (Labor Certification): You can attain immigrant status through employment-based immigration. You may find an employer who is willing to file a Labor Certificate for you with the DOL
- EB-1: You may also file an immigration petition based on the classification of ‘Alien of Extraordinary Ability’ – EB-1(A) or ‘Multinational Executive or Manager’ – EB-1(C)
- National Interest Waiver: You can also file an immigration petition through a National Interest Waiver (NIW). National Interest Waivers are available to foreign nationals who are seeking work in a profession and who have an advanced degree (or equivalent experience) or can prove themselves as ‘aliens of exceptional ability’, and who can show that their work will substantially benefit the U.S. interest.
18. Must the trading company exist and or the investments be made before the visa is issued?
Trade must already be established at the time the E-1 visa application is filed. Investments, however, may be prospective, provided that the funds are irrevocably committed to the investment, contingent only upon the issuance of the visa. Investment funds may come from any country, including the U.S., as long as they are controlled by the investor applicant.
19. What is 'substantial trade'?
Substantial trade is that volume sufficient to ensure continuous flow (numerous transactions over time) of international trade between the U.S. and treaty country. There is no value or volume minimum. However, smaller businesses are expected to yield income sufficient to support the treaty trader and his or her family.
20. What is 'principal trade'?
When over 50 per cent of the volume of the treaty trader’s international trade is conducted between the U.S. and the country of nationality it is termed as principal trade.