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E-1 Visa

The E-1 visa allows you to come to the US to carry out trade-related activity.

E-1 Visa

The E-1 treaty trader visa allows nationals of a treaty nation to enter the US to carry out ‘substantial trade’.

Before any individual application can be made for an E-1 visa, the company must first apply to be registered as an E-1 treaty trader business.

An application evidencing the foreign company’s eligibility must be filed at a US consular post abroad along with an initial E-1 employee visa application.

Filing requirements vary from post to post, and processing times can fluctuate based on consular workload. It is best to confirm estimated processing times at the appropriate consular post at the time the E-1 company registration and visa applications are filed.

NNU Immigration are here to help!

NNU Immigration are specialists across all classes of US visa, including the E-1 visa.

The application rules for the E-1 visa program are complex. The E-1 visa is particularly demanding in its eligibility criteria and requirements for supporting documentation.

With exceptional knowledge and insight into the visa application processes, we advise non-US entrepreneurs and investors, their dependents and their employees on available US visa and immigration options, including the E-1 visa, providing full support submitting applications to the relevant US authorities.

Contact our US immigration experts

For advice on any aspect of a US visa application, contact our US immigration attorneys.

Contact our E-1 visa experts

For advice on any aspect of the E-1 visa application, contact our US immigration attorneys. 

Contact our E-1 visa experts

For advice on any aspect of your E-1 visa application, contact our US immigration attorneys. 


E-1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

What is the E-1 visa?

An E1 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for citizens of countries with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. Under an E1 visa, the applicant must be coming to the US solely to engage in trade of a substantial nature in qualifying activities, principally between the US and the treaty country or, alternatively, to work in the treaty trader’s enterprise as either an executive, supervisor or essentially-skilled employee.

This type of temporary visa was established to facilitate economic and commercial interaction between the US and other treaty countries, including the UK. For example, where a UK-based clothing manufacturing company has been trading its goods to the States for the last several years, and over 50% of their international trade takes place exclusively between the US and the UK, the business may benefit from an E1 treaty trader visa. In this way, the business will be able to indefinitely move sales staff to the US to increase trade.


What are the conditions of the E-1 visa?

A Treaty Trader, or an employee acting on their behalf, come under certain terms and conditions to maintain their E1 status.

As a Treaty Trader, you may only work on the activity approved when the E1 visa was granted.

As an employee, you may also work for the Treaty Trader’s parent company or one of its subsidiaries on the condition that there is an established relationship between the two businesses, the role requires executive, supervisory or essential skills, and the terms and conditions of the employment have not changed in some other way.


What are the E1 Visa requirements?

There are various visa requirements that must be met, either as a treaty trader or the employee of a treaty trader, where it is often best to secure expert legal advice from an immigration specialist to ensure that these requirements are met prior to submitting an application. However, below we set out an outline of the general qualifications for each.


What are the E-1 visa requirements for Treaty Traders?

To be eligible for an E1 visa as a Treaty Trader:

  • The applicant and/or company must hold the nationality of the relevant treaty country
  • Persons with the treaty country’s nationality must own at least 50 percent of the company
  • The activity must qualify as ‘trade’
  • Trade between the treaty national company and the US must be evidenced as ‘substantial’
  • Trade is principally between the treaty nation and the US
  • The applicant intends to depart the US at the end of the visa


The applicant must, whether as an individual or as a business, possess the nationality of a country with which the US maintains either a treaty of commerce and navigation or a qualifying international agreement, or is otherwise deemed a qualifying country. The nationality of a business will be determined by the nationality of the individual owners of that business, where nationals of the treaty country must own at least 50% of the business when the investor is an organisation.


Substantial trade

‘Substantial’ trade, in this context, is defined as ongoing sizable international trade involving numerous transactions. There is no set monetary value or number of transactions.

There must be a sizeable and continuing flow of international trade items between the US and the treaty country. This means that there must have been numerous transactions over a period of time, although there is no minimum requirement in relation to monetary value or volume of each transaction to satisfy the substantial trade requirement. However, even though the value of the transactions is a relevant factor in considering substantiality, greater emphasis is typically placed on the volume of transactions between the US and the treaty country.


Traceable exchange requirement

The trade must constitute an actual traceable exchange of qualifying commodities such as goods, services, international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, technology and its transfer, as well as some news-gathering activities, between the US and the treaty country.


Trading relationship requirement

A trading relationship must already exist, for example, where there are contractually binding agreements that call for the immediate exchange of qualifying items of trade between the US and the treaty country.


Principal trade requirement

Over 50% of the total volume of international trade must be between the US and the treaty country for principal trade to exist. However, the remainder of the trade may be international trade with other countries or domestic trade.


Intention to leave

The applicant must intend to depart the US when their E1 visa comes to an end. However, the treaty trader does not need to establish intent to only stay in the US for a specific temporary period, nor to retain any residence in a foreign country. An expression of unequivocal intent to leave the US upon termination of E1 status is normally sufficient to satisfy the intention to leave requirement.


E-1 visa employee requirements

If you are seeking E1 status as an employee of the trading business, there are further eligibility criteria:

  • You must be of the same nationality as the Treaty Trader or your principal employer.
  • You must meet the relevant legal definition of ‘employee’.
  • You must be employed in an executive or supervisory role or have special qualifications.

Nationality requirement

The employee must be the same nationality as their employer, who must have the nationality of the treaty country. If the employer is not an individual, it must be an enterprise or organisation at least 50% owned by persons in the US who have the nationality of the treaty country. These owners must either be maintaining nonimmigrant treaty trader status or, if the owners are not in the States, they must be, if they were to seek admission, classifiable as nonimmigrant treaty traders.


Employee status requirement

The applicant must meet the legal definition of “employee” with regards to their employment status with the E1 company.


Job role

The applicant must be destined to work in an executive or supervisory position or, if employed in a lesser capacity, possess special qualifications which make their services essential to the efficient operation of the US treaty enterprise.


Intention to leave

The employee must intend to depart the US when their E1 visa expires although, again, the applicant’s expression of an unequivocal intent to depart the US upon termination of E1 status will normally be sufficient.

Duties which are executive or supervisory in character are primarily those that provide the employee with control and responsibility for overall operations, or a major component of it, whilst special qualifications include skills and/or aptitudes which make the employee essential. 

There are several qualities and/or circumstances that could satisfy the essentially-skilled employee requirement, including the degree of proven expertise in the employee’s operational area, whether others possess these specific skills, the salary that the employee’s special qualifications can command and whether the skills are readily available in the US.


How does a foreign company apply for E-1 company registration?

A foreign company may register as an E-1 Treaty Trader at a US consular post to facilitate the transfer of the business owner to the United States and as well as sponsorship of foreign employees to work in the US for the business.

A company is eligible for E-1 company registration if it is engaged in trade with the United States and its owners are nationals of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US (a “treaty country”).

Below are some key requirements a company must fulfil to apply for an E-1 company registration.


Requirement 1

The foreign company must be owned by nationals of a treaty county.

The foreign company must be owned and controlled at least 50% by individuals holding passports from a treaty country (e.g., United Kingdom). Ownership interests must be traced to the individual level.


Requirement 2

The foreign company must be engaged in trade with the US.

Qualifying trade is defined as the existing international exchange of items of trade for consideration between the US and the treaty country of the foreign company. Items of trade include: goods, services, international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, technology, and newsgathering activities.


Requirement 3

The foreign company’s trade with the US must be substantial.

Substantial trade refers to the continuous flow of sizable international trade items or services, between the US and the treaty country of the foreign company, involving numerous transactions over time. There is no minimum requirement regarding the monetary value of trade or volume of each transaction, however greater weight is given to more numerous exchanges of larger value.


Requirement 4

The foreign company’s international trade must be principally between the US and the treaty country of the foreign company.

Over 50% of the total volume of international trade (i.e., excluding domestic UK trade) of the foreign company must be between the US and the treaty country. The Embassy/Consulate will look at the one full year preceding filing the application to determine whether the foreign company satisfies this requirement.

What supporting evidence is required in the E-1 company application?

In order for a foreign company to be granted E-1 registration as a treaty trader, it will be necessary to provide information and documentation evidencing that each of the aforementioned requirements has been met.

Such information and documentation generally includes the following, but depends on the consulate/embassy where the application is filed:

  • A description of the qualifying goods or services;
  • Spreadsheets listing qualifying transactions, copies of invoices, copies of air bills, and copies of shipping invoices to establish substantial trade with the US; and
  • A calculation of the percentage of documented international trade between the US and the treaty country.

What is the E-1 visa application process?

Both treaty traders and their employees receive the same kind of E1 visa, although they must go through different application processes to successfully obtain E1 classification.


How to apply for an E-1 visa as a Treaty Treader

When applying for an E1 visa, treaty traders must first register their business with the E-Visa Unit. An application must be made electronically using Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) and the DS-156E.

Visit the Visa Appointment Service website to create an account, pay the machine-readable visa (MRV) application fee, and arrange the return of your passport once you have attended your visa interview. You will need to retain a copy of your MRV fee receipt.

Once you have completed your online application process, print off the confirmation sheet to provide at your interview.

Once the review has been completed, the E-Visa Unit will contact the applicant to arrange an interview date. They must then attend this interview at their local Embassy or Consulate within 90 days.


Which supporting documents will you need for the E-1 application?

The documentation you submit will be critical in determining if your application will be granted. Any errors or issues with your supporting documents are likely to result in delays or even refusal of your application. Take legal advice if you have any questions or concerns about the information you should be submitting.

There are various strict requirements that must be met to qualify for an E1 visa. This means that extensive documentation will be needed in support to show that the applicant meets each one of these requirements, whether as a treaty trader or employee of a treaty trader.

For the treaty trader, this will include evidence of ownership of the treaty enterprise, together with proof of international trade between the US and the treaty country over a period of time, as well as proof that the trade in question is substantial. For the employee of a treaty trader, evidence will be required that they will be working for the treaty trader’s enterprise in the US as either an executive, supervisor or essentially-skilled employee.

At interview, the treaty trader will also need to provide a cover letter describing the nature of the treaty enterprise and their position within it. This should describe in detail how its trade with the US is both substantial ‘and’ occurring principally between the US and the treaty country. If applying as an employee, the cover letter must describe the executive or supervisory role, or the skills that they possess essential to operations in the US.

A number of other documents will also need to be provided at interview, including a copy of the confirmation page for Form DS-160, the appointment confirmation page, proof of payment, Form DS-156E which requires detail of the treaty trader enterprise, the applicant’s passport, and a colour passport photo if one has not already been provided.

However, when making an application for an E1 visa, especially when looking to first register the treaty enterprise, legal advice should always be sought from an immigration specialist. One of the main challenges when applying for an E1 visa is that many of the requirements are not defined by statute, for example, what constitutes “substantial” or “trade”, making it difficult to know precisely what information and/or documentation needs to be provided to ensure an application is approved by the E-Visa Unit.

Equally, for an employee of a treaty trader, it can often be tricky to establish whether the executive or supervisory character of their new role grants the employee sufficient control and responsibility for the enterprise’s operation. For essentially skilled employees it can be virtually impossible to predict, with any degree of certainty, whether their skills will be regarded as essential to the efficient operation of the enterprise. This can only really be assessed in light of all the circumstances on a case-by-case basis, where securing help from an experienced adviser can help to maximise the prospects of a successful outcome.

As a guide, supporting documents include:


Section A: Cover letter

A cover letter which describes your enterprise and proves your eligibility for the E1 Treaty Trader visa. You should include information such as:

  • who will benefit from the enterprise
  • details of your Treaty country nationality
  • the trade activities you will take part in
  • that the trade is substantial
  • that the trade will mainly be between the USA and the related Treaty country
  • if an employee, that the role will be executive, supervisory or require special skills essential to the enterprise’s operation
    your intention to leave the USA when your E1 status comes to an end

Section B: Forms

You must provide the following:

  • the confirmation sheet from your DS-160 application form
    parts 1, 2 and 3 of the DS-156E form
  • copy of the MRV fee payment receipt
  • if an employee, a letter on company letterhead that details the company, the job title and role, salary with all allowances and benefits, employee qualifications for the job, company’s contact information
  • if using a legal representative, a letter of agreement between the Treaty Trader and the representative

Section C: Applicant Information

You should provide the following:

  • colour photocopy of the biometric data page of your passport (the page that shows your photo)
  • colour photocopies of any US visas, US entry/exit stamps and I-94s
  • copy of any changes of extension of USCIS granted status
  • if from the UK, evidence of your ongoing residence in the UK
    your resume or curriculum vitae
  • copies of your educational certificates, diplomas and transcripts
  • your signed statement of intent to leave the USA when your E1 status comes to an end

Section D: Ownership

To prove ownership of the enterprise, you should provide:

  • Articles of Incorporation (for corporations), Articles of Organisation (for LLCs) or equivalent documents for a US business
  • Operating Agreement, share certificates, share ledgers or other documents that may prove ownership
    colour photocopies of the biometric pages of the passports of the ultimate parent company owners
    where the US business is a subsidiary or affiliate of a foreign corporation, incorporation and ownership documents should be provided
  • where the foreign company is based in the UK, a copy of their most recent Companies House AR01 report should be provided
  • where the company is large with several owners or subsidiaries, or where the chain of ownership includes intermediaries, provide a full ownership structure organogram and legal proof of ownership within that chain
  • where the investor is a public company with many shareholders (none owning more than 50%), provide an affidavit signed by the relevant corporate official confirming that the company is traded exclusively on the relevant stock exchange and a copy of the latest stock trading information

Section E: Trade Activity

You should provide:

  • spreadsheet of every qualifying transaction of international trade between the Treaty country and the USA during the previous year, including data, invoice number, dollar value, total number and value of transactions and summary
  • copies of all invoices mentioned in the spreadsheet
  • copies of all shipping invoices or air bills as proof that the good or services moved between the two countries
  • for a US entity, the latest US federal tax returns or where the entity has a different nationality, the equivalent document, signed by the appropriate government official

Once all of the above have been submitted, your case will be accepted for review and an email confirming receipt will be sent to you or your representative.

Your application will now be reviewed to ensure it is eligible for an E1 visa. The period of review is likely to take up to 30 days.

Once your case has been reviewed, either you or your representative will be informed. At this point, additional documents may be requested and you will be told of appointment availability at your local Embassy or Consulate. You must attend an interview within 90 days of this notification.


How does an employee apply for an E-1 visa?

For the validity of the E-1 company registration, foreign nationals whom the foreign company wants to employ to support trading activities in the US may apply for E-1 status at the consular post where the E-1 registration application was filed without having to submit documents substantiating the foreign company’s US trading activities.

Such individuals must:

  • Have the same nationality as the principal owner(s) of the foreign company;
  • Be performing an executive, supervisory, or essential role in the USA, as defined by US Immigration law;
  • Intend to return to their residence abroad following completion of their work in the US; and
  • If they are UK citizens, present evidence of their residence in the UK.

The validity period of the E-1 company registration will be determined by the consular officer at the initial applicant’s visa interview, and the maximum allowable time granted depends on the foreign company’s owners’ country of citizenship. For UK citizens, E-1 company registrations may be valid for up to five years following the initial employee’s visa application, and can be renewed indefinitely.

E-1 employees will need to bring the following to their Consular interview:

  • Confirmation page of the DS-160 form
  • Completed form DS-156E, part 3
  • Visa appointment confirmation page
  • Passport or travel document
  • Suitable colour photograph (5 x 5 cm)
  • If from the UK, evidence of your status
  • Details of any previously issued US visa
  • Letter on company letterhead that describes the company, the job title and role, salary with all allowances and benefits, employee qualifications for the job, company’s contact information
  • Organizational chart which shows their position in the company and who they report to
  • Curriculum vitae or resume
  • Copies of educational certificates, diplomas and transcripts
  • Copy of the approval letter for the registered Treaty company
  • Signed and dated statement of intent that they will leave the USA when their E1 status comes to an end
  • If already living in the US without a valid E visa, a photocopy of the I-797 Notice of Action stating the change of USCIS granted status
  • Documents to explain any change in name by deed poll
  • Police certificate if you have ever been arrested, cautioned or convicted
  • Doctor’s letter if any medical conditions apply which could affect eligibility for a US visa
  • Documents providing details of any previous entry refusals into the US, or any deportations or removals from the US.


What E1 visa interview questions will be asked?

The purpose of the E1 visa interview is not only to validate the information provided in the online application, but also to ensure that the applicant satisfies the eligibility criteria and that their declared intentions are legitimate.

The interview will usually be conducted by a single consular official, who may ask a wide range of questions about all aspects of the application. They will typically start by asking a few simple questions, often based on information contained within the visa application, building up to more detailed and in-depth questions for which the applicant may be asked to produce documentation in support. It is therefore important to be well prepared.

General E1 visa interview questions could include things like how long the applicant plans to stay in the United States and if they intend to return home on expiry of their E1 visa status. More specific questions will depend on who the applicant is.

For businesses being reviewed for E1 visa eligibility for the first time, more specific questions will focus on details of ownership and the nature of the trading relationship with the US. For an employee of a treaty trader, they could be asked about the nature of the role for which they are destined to fill in the US, as well as their past experience.

If the applicant fails to fully and correctly answer all questions, or to attend the interview without reasonable explanation, it is likely that the visa application will be rejected. Again, by securing expert advice prior to attending an E1 visa interview, this can help the applicant to prepare for possible questions, maximising their chances of a successful outcome.


Can dependents apply under the E-1 visa?

The spouse and children of an employee granted an E-1 visa may apply for E-1 visas which will allow them to reside with the employee in the US.

Dependent visa applications may be made at the time of the E-1 employee’s interview, or by scheduling a separate interview at a US consular post following approval of the E-1 employee’s visa application.

Once in the US in E-1 status, an E-1 employee’s spouse may apply for employment authorization which will allow him/her to legally work in the US for any employer.


Can the E-1 visa be renewed?

Treaty traders and employees of treaty traders will be allowed a maximum initial stay of 2 years.

Extensions of stay may be granted to Treaty Traders in 2-year increments, with no limit to the number of extensions allowed, although all E1 nonimmigrants must maintain an intention to depart the US when their status expires. This is because the E1 visa is not a dual-intent visa, where the visa-holder cannot work in the US while applying for permanent residence by way of a green card.

E-1 company registrations and employee visas are also renewable indefinitely, provided the foreign company continues to meet E-1 requirements, and the employee remains an employee of the foreign company.


Does the E-1 visa lead to a Green Card?

No, the E-1 visa does offer a direct path to US permanent residence. To remain in the US beyond your E-1 visa eligibility, take advice on alternative immigration options.

While the E1 visa does not create a path to US permanent residence or citizenship, it will still allow the visa-holder to stay in the States indefinitely while they remain compliant with the visa requirements.

Need specialist advice? Speak to our experts.

Need specialist advice? Speak to our experts.