Individuals interested in coming to the United States in order to engage in trade, may be able to qualify for a Treaty Trader (E-1), as long as they are a citizen of a country with which the United States “maintains treaties of commerce and navigation” and as long as other specific conditions are met.
In order to qualify for a Treaty Trader (E-1) Visa the following requirements must be met: (1) the foreign national must be a citizen or national of a treaty country, (2) at least half of the individuals who own the trading firm for which the foreign national intends to come to the United States must have the nationality of that treaty country, (3) the international trade must be substantial, or in other words, have “a sizeable and continuing volume of trade,” (4) more than half of the international trade must be between the treaty country and the United States, (5) because trade requires the “international exchange of goods, services, and technology,” the title to the items traded must pass from one party to another, and (6) the foreign national must be an essential employee that is employed in a supervisory or executive capacity or possess highly specialized skills essential to the operation of the trading firm.
Those applying for an E-1 visa from outside the United States must apply through the U.S. Department of State while those applying from within the United States under another nonimmigrant visa apply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An E-1 visa is granted initially for a minimum of two years, after which an E-1 visa holder may apply for and obtain an extension for additional two-year periods. There is no limit on the number of E-1 extensions that may be granted. An E-1 visa holder who departs from the United States and reenters will generally be automatically given a two-year period of readmission upon returning to the United States without the need to file for an extension. This does not however remove the requirement of all nonimmigrant visa holders of having the intention to depart the United States once their status expires, or in other words once the purpose of their stay is complete. Immediate family members of E-1 visa holders may accompany them to the United States as dependents and may generally remain in the United States for the same period of stay as the E-1 visa holder.
In order to maintain E-1 status, the foreign national is only permitted to work in the activity approved at the time the visa was granted. However, an E-1 employee may also work for a parent company or subsidiary of the approved treaty organization as long as that relationship can be established, the employment requires executive, supervisory or essential skills, and the terms or conditions of employment do no change.
For a list of participating treaty countries and for more information on E-1 visas visit the U.S. Department of State website.