The E-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for a national of a country that the United States has a commercial treaty agreement. The trade must involve an international exchange of items of trade between the United States and a treaty country (including trade in services or technology). This must be demonstrated by successfully negotiated contracts that are binding on all parties.
The individual entering the United States is to solely engage in substantial international trade principally between the United States and the individual’s country of nationality. The trade conducted by the E-1 applicant must be more than 50 percent of the international trade between the United States and the country of the applicant’s nationality. If the applicant is not the principal trader, he or she must be employed in an executive or supervisory capacity, or possess special qualifications that make his or her services essential to the successful and efficient operation of the enterprise.
An E-1 nonimmigrant must have an intention to depart the United States upon the completion of his or her role and not permanently remain. No proof of a foreign residence is required.
To qualify for E-1 status, at least 50 percent of the U.S. entity must be owned by nationals of the treaty country who are residents abroad or who are in the United States in E status. Ownership by nationals of the treaty country in any other status cannot be counted. If the company is publicly traded, the company’s nationality is considered to be that of the country in which its stock is listed and traded on a stock exchange.
A current list of qualifying treaty countries can be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/fees/treaty.html.
How to Apply
Before an individual can apply, the U.S. company for which he or she will work must become E-1 qualified. This is done by filing a request to register the U.S. company for E-1 status, along with at least one individual's E-1 visa application, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that has jurisdiction over the treaty country.
If the individual is outside of the United States, he or she applies for an E-1 visa on his or her own behalf directly to a U.S. Consulate abroad. This classification does not require a petition for employment if the alien is outside of the United States.
If the individual is in the United States, Form I-129 and the E supplement may be used to apply for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employer. However, the E-1 worker cannot travel internationally without applying for an E-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. For this reason, most applicants apply for their visas initially at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
The E-1 visa is renewable indefinitely, as long as the company and the individual continue to qualify for E status. E-1 visas generally are granted for a two-year period, with extensions of stay for up to two years at a time.
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for E-1 dependent visas, and spouses may apply for work authorization in the United States.