E1 Visa Lawyer Secrets: What Your Attorney Knows that You Don’t

What is E1 Visa?

It’s a type of nonimmigrant visa that is specifically designed for individuals who come from treaty countries and wish to engage in substantial trade with American companies. It’s different from other types of US visas in that it focuses solely on the aspect of international trade and commerce, as opposed to employment, education, or investment.

Obtaining an E1 visa can offer several benefits for individuals and businesses alike. For one, it allows you to work and live in the US temporarily, usually for up to two years, with the possibility of renewal.

This can give you the opportunity to establish a presence in the US market, network with potential partners and customers, and grow your business internationally.

Additionally, it doesn’t require a minimum investment or net worth, as some other visas do, which can make it more accessible and affordable for many entrepreneurs and traders.

Finally, visa holders may also be able to bring their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the US on E1 dependent visas, which can provide them with access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.

E1 Visa Requirements

To be eligible for an E1 Visa, one must adhere to the specific requirements.

  • You are a citizen of an E1 Visa Country.
  • Your activities constitute trade
  • Trade is substantial
  • Trade is primarily between the United States and your E1 treaty country
  • You plan to leave the United States when E1 status expires.
  • You have an executive or supervisory role, or possess skills that are vital to company operations in the United States.

You are a resident of an E1 Visa Treaty Country.

To be eligible for an E1 visa, the applicant must be a citizen of a country that has a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with the US. Citizenship determines nationality.

An individual must have a passport from an E1 treaty country to be eligible for an E1 visa. Being a permanent resident of an E1 visa country does not automatically make them eligible.

The United States has an E1 Visa treaty with 55 nations currently:

Argentina, Germany, Norway, Australia, Greece, Oman, Austria, Honduras, Pakistan, Belgium, Iran, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ireland, Philippines, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel, Poland, Brunei, Italy, Serbia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Chile, Jordan, Slovenia, China (Taiwan), Korea (South), Spain, Colombia, Kosovo, Suriname, Costa Rica, Latvia, Sweden, Croatia, Liberia, Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Thailand, Estonia, Macedonia, Togo, Ethiopia, Mexico, Turkey, Finland, Montenegro, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand

If you apply for E 1 visa as a company, citizenship is determined based on the nationality of the owners and traces back to the ultimate beneficial owners. At least 50% of the company must belong to nationals of a E1 treaty country and company owners who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents won’t be taken into account.

If you are a citizen of more than one E1 treaty country, when seeking to apply for the E1 visa, you should utilize the passport of the country with the most advantageous E1 visa terms. The lawyer could help with this.

You can bring foreign employees to the United States on an E1 visa to perform executive, supervisor, or essentially skilled work.

If you want to bring employees to the US, then a good E1 visa lawyer would tell you to think about the nationality of the prospective employees when deciding which country to use for the E1 visa. Because all E1 visa employees have to be citizens of the same country as the principal treaty trader, even if they have other citizenships too.

Your activities constitute trade

To meet the requirements of an E1 visa, there must be a mutual exchange of commodities, such as goods, money or services. This includes banking, insurance, transportation and technology transfer services like advertising and marketing, professional services, accounting, tourism and interior design.

The treaties are intended to promote international trade between the two countries, so the activities must be conducted at an international level.

To qualify for the E1 visa, import/export activities must demonstrate support of business activity in both the United States and the treaty trader’s country of citizenship.

When applying for an E1 visa, the individual or company must already be engaged in bilateral trade between the E1 visa country and the United States. The transactions should demonstrate a clearly traceable flow between the two countries.

An individual from outside the U.S. does not meet the requirements for an E-1 visa in order to establish a trading relationship.

According to E1 visa lawyer, you may not be eligible for an E1 visa unless you or your firm have already been engaged in international trade; merely seeking a trading partner does not satisfy the requirements.

Trade must be substantial

For two countries to achieve substantial trade, there must be regular and frequent exchanges of goods or services.

When assessing the substantial trade criteria for E1 visas, consular officers will consider the volume of transactions rather than the monetary value. However, the amount may also be considered.

What’s the best advice our experienced E1 visa lawyer can give regarding substantial trade?

To be eligible for an E1 visa, there is no minimum level of conducted trade required; however, the commercial activity should be enough to cover employment costs in the United States.

Cultural, commercial and/or trade activities with the United States for a period of 12 months or more totaling $100,000 may qualify a person for an E1 visa, although other levels of activity may be acceptable depending on the circumstances.

E1 visa lawyers in the US advise that a small business may be eligible for an E1 treaty trader visa, provided it can demonstrate adequate transaction volume and pattern of activity.

Smaller businesses may be eligible for an E1 visa when there is a pattern of many transactions, regardless of the value of each transaction.

Trade is mostly between the US and E1 treaty country

The requirement dictates that over 50% of volume of international trade should occur between the United States and the treaty trader’s country of citizenship (i.e. individual or company), meaning more than half of import/export activity should be to and from the United States.

Other transactions may involve international or domestic trade with other countries.

You plan to leave the United States when E1 status expires

Once the E1 status expires, you must leave the United States. However, applying for an E1 visa extension or renewal is still possible as an alternative.

You have an executive or supervisory role, or possess skills that are vital to company operations in the United States.

To apply for an E1 visa, you have to match your employer’s nationality and show that you are necessary for the company to run efficiently or fill a supervisory or executive position. Whether you’re a supervisor, manager, executive, or have other special qualifications.

E1 Visa Application Process

An E1 visa can be applied for in two ways – at a US consulate abroad or directly with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

An E1 visa lawyer can provide information regarding the different methods of applying for an E1 visa at a US Consulate or USCIS.

What’s different about applying at a US Consulate vs. USCIS:

  1. A U.S. consulate can issue an E1 visa for up to 5 years, subject to the visa treaty between the country of citizenship and the U.S., but eligibility for the E1 status by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is generally limited to a maximum of 2 years.
  2. An E1 visa issued by a US consulate enables the individual to come and go between the United States and other countries, while an E1 status granted by USCIS ceases when the person leaves the US.

Documents needed for E1 visa

You’ll need a variety of documents when applying for an E1 visa. Here is an approximate list:

  • Form DS-160 for nonimmigrant visa applicants
  • Form DS-156E for nonimmigrant investor applications
  • A copy of your passport (should be valid 6 months beyond your stay)
  • Color ID photograph showing your full face
  • Proof of one year’s worth of trading activity
  • Your CV/resume
  • Evidence of skill and/or employment
  • Evidence of US remittance (bank loans, transfer exchange permits, etc.)
  • Evidence of establishment in the US
  • Evidence of nationality
  • Evidence of trade between the treaty country and the US
  • Evidence that the business is real and legit (annual reports, news articles, etc.)

It is important to begin the process of gathering and organizing documents for an E1 visa application in a timely manner with accurate records, forming a comprehensive file that may be accessed and shared easily.

E1 Visa Processing Time

Processing an E1 visa application typically takes between 2 to 4 months, although the exact time frame may vary based on a variety of factors such as volume of applications, case complexity, and embassy or consulate workload.

When applying with USCIS while in the United States you can select premium processing service. In that case the process will take only 15 calendar days.


E1 Visa Spouse and Children

An E1 Visa allows the holder to bring along their spouse and unmarried children under 21 to the United States.

An E1 Treaty Trader visa allows the business owner, investor or entrepreneur to bring their spouse and children to reside in the US.

Spouses and dependent children of a principal E1 visa holder can enter the United States on an E1 visa, irrespective of their nationality.

When you have an E1 visa, your spouse can get work authorization to work in the US in any lawful capacity. It’s great for couples looking to start a career in the US. In addition, E1 visa holders’ kids can go to school in the US, including elementary, middle, and high schools.

You have to keep in mind that spouses and children of E1 visa holders can’t work or study without the proper authorization and must maintain their dependent status. In addition, they have to leave the US if the E1 visa holder’s visa expires, or if they change their status.

Working with an experienced E1 visa lawyer is the best way to make sure your family members are fully informed about their rights and obligations, and to maximize their opportunities in the US.

What do E1 Visa Lawyers advise clients about their spouses and kids?

For an E1 visa, the family members of the applicant do not need to be of a nationality from an E1 treaty country.

The E1 visa spouse or child’s nationality is not taken into consideration in the E1 visa process, provided that the principal applicant is a citizen of an eligible E1 treaty country and otherwise meets the requirements for the visa.

The spouse of an E1 visa holder is permitted to seek employment from any US company, including self-employment, in either full or part-time capacity.

Starting in November 2021, the spouse of an individual with an E1 visa does not need to apply for work authorization as they are deemed employment-eligible due to the E1 status.

Children of E1 visa holders do not have authorization to work in the United States.

Children are not eligible to receive work authorization upon obtaining an E1 Visa, however they are allowed to take part in full-time or part-time studies at any public or private school in the United States without requiring a student visa.

Who qualifies for E1 Visa?

Individuals from treaty countries who are engaging in substantial trade or running a business may be eligible for an E1 Visa. To be eligible for an E1 Visa, the individual must be from a country with which the United States has a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation.

The E1 visa is designed for entrepreneurs with an existing business and customer base in the U.S., who wish to continue their current services with customers in America, or to establish their company in the United States.

Due to the requirement to demonstrate a history of significant commerce, early-stage startups may have difficulty qualifying for the E1 visa.

The E1 visa is available to treaty traders, business owners and entrepreneurs, and their employees of the same nationality who are planning to come to the US in an executive or managerial role or possess specialized skills or knowledge.

Citizens from the countries listed here qualify for an E1 visa: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey and United Kingdom.

The U.S. Department of State’s Treaty Countries List provides a updated list of countries eligible for an E1 Visa.

How long is E1 Visa valid?

The validity of the E1 visa varies depending on the country and reciprocity with the US.

An E1 visa has a validity period ranging from two months up to five years.

The E1 visa is valid for up to 5 years, granting a 2-year authorized period of residence in the United States upon entry.

Those with an E1 visa can receive additional two years of authorized status if they choose to re-apply and depart from the US after the initial two years.

The duration of an E1 visa is determined by the agreement between the United States and the particular treaty country.

To apply for a renewal or extension of your E1 visa, you must submit an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You must also include evidence that your trade or investment is still substantial and principal.

The renewal or extension of an E1 visa can be a complex and lengthy procedure. Working with an experienced E1 visa lawyer will maximize your chances of success, as they will provide guidance throughout the process. Proper preparation is essential for successful outcomes.

How to go from E1 visa to Green Card?

Individuals with E1 visas may have various options to obtain a Green Card. Here are some of the more popular procedures for transitioning from an E1 visa to a Green Card:

  1. Employment-related immigration may allow you to apply for a Green Card if an employer in the United States is willing to attest that you possess unique skills, knowledge, and expertise which are needed in the country and not available from domestic workers. For instance, if you are a Japanese software engineer currently on an E1 visa employed by a US-headquartered tech company, they may be able to assist in sponsoring your employment-related Green Card application.

  2. Family-related immigration may be available to those who have a spouse or close relative who is a US citizen or Green Card holder. This requires showing that there is an authentic and trustworthy relationship with the family member, and meeting other qualifications. For instance, someone holding a German E1 visa with a marital partner who is a US citizen can potentially be eligible for a family-related Green Card.

  3. The US Diversity Visa Lottery is a random draw that grants permanent resident status to a limited number of individuals. To be eligible, applicants must meet the criteria set out by the relevant authorities each year, and should generally originate from countries with low immigration rates to the US.

  4. It is possible to obtain a Green Card through investment-based immigration. To be eligible, applicants must show that their investment is substantial and has a beneficial effect on the US economy.


The E1 visa application process can be complex and several eligibility criteria must be met for successful completion. Working with a knowledgeable E1 visa lawyer is recommended to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible and that the desired outcome can be achieved.