What is the E1 Visa?
The E1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that is available for citizens of eligible countries who are engaged in international trade.
The purpose of the visa was to establish and enhance economic cooperation between the United States and select other countries.
The E1 Visa is issued to individuals known as treaty traders, while the E2 Visa is for those who are treaty investors.
To be issued this visa, the applicant must solely intend to “carry on substantial trade” and not make plans to settle in the U.S.
They must undertake “substantial trade,” including trade in services or technology, in qualifying activities.
The E1 Treaty Trader Visa may be extended if the applicant meets the eligibility requirements.
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Who can apply for this visa?
There is no single description of the type of person who can apply for the E1 Visa.
Some of the eligible forms of enterprise that meet the State Department’s definition of trade include:
- International banking
E1 Visa eligibility requirements
- Applicants must be a citizen of an eligible treaty country.
- Your business must be based in the treaty country (this means that at least 50% of the business must be owned by individuals with the nationality of that country).
- The trade must be considered ‘substantial trade’ (i.e., it is considered sizable and there is a continuing volume of trade involved in your enterprise).
- Over 50% of the international trade of your business is between the United States and the treaty country
- Trade is defined as “the international exchange of goods, services and technology. Title of the trade items must pass from one party to the other”
- As the treaty trader, you must be an essential employee working in a supervisory or executive capacity, possessing highly specialised skills which are essential to the business’s operations.
Treaty trader visa requirements
The treaty trader is a complex application, involving extensive supporting documentation to prove your eligibility and demonstrate the existing international exchange in which your business is engaged.
The US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual outlines in detail the requirements of this visa:
- You are the citizen of an eligible country where the treaty agreement is in place
- You and your business have the nationality of the treaty country
- Your business activities meet the requirements of trade under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act
- Your business’s trade is substantial
- Proof that your business has engaged in a consistent stream of ‘sizable international trade items’ and involving numerous transactions
- The trade is primarily between the treaty country and the United States
- You are the owner of the business or you are employed in an executive or supervisory capacity which is essential to the successful operations of the business in the United States
- You intend to leave the U.S. when your visa expires
How to apply for the E1 Visa
The application process for the treaty trader visa involves a number of stages. It is important to follow each step as required according to your circumstances to ensure that your application is processed without delay.
The steps involved for foreign nationals (including UK nationals) are outlined below.
Complete the online visa application form
- You will be required to complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and print off the confirmation page for your visa interview.
- Upload a passport photograph when requested
Schedule your visa interview
- If you are aged under 13 years old or over 80 years old, you will likely not be required to attend a visa interview.
- Your interview will take place at your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. There may be long waiting times so it is advised to book as early as possible.
Prepare for your visa interview
- You should gather the documents required for your visa interview.
- Pay the non-refundable application fee for your E1 Visa.
Attend your interview
- The immigration official who interviews you will make a decision on whether you are a suitable visa candidate.
- Your biometric information may be taken at the interview (fingerprints and facial photograph).
- If additional information or documents are required, you will be notified of this
- Your visa will be issued if your application is approved and you will be notified of when you can expect to receive your passport back.
- You may now travel to the United States and request entry based on your visa. Note that the visa does not guarantee entry into the country.
What documents do you need?
The documents required for the E1 Visa include the following:
- Form DS-160 confirmation page and Form DS156E, Nonimmigrant Treaty Trade Application Form
- Proof of payment of the visa application
- If you are not the business owner, but an employee, a letter outlining the nature of your role, printed on company headed paper outlining the following:
- The company’s business
- Your role and title
- Your salary, benefits, and other forms of remuneration
- Your qualifications and how your expertise makes you suitable for your role
- The company’s contact information
- A letter of agreement signed by the applicant and your legal representative (where relevant)
- Colour passport photograph aligned with U.S. passport regulations
- Information related to previous visas or visa extensions
- Proof of the applicant’s primary residency in the UK (or their home country)
- Your CV, educational certificates, or proof of other qualifications
- Signed statement of intent to leave the US following the expiration of the visa
- Proof of ownership of the business (e.g., Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization (as appropriate))
- Share certificates, operating agreements, share ledgers or other documents to demonstrate ownership (as appropriate)
- Photocopies of the photo page of the passports belonging to the owners of the company
- Incorporation and ownership documents (where relevant)
- Organisational structure chart
- Spreadsheet with all qualifying transactions of trade in the last 12 months with the following information:
- Invoice number
- Dollar value of the transaction
- Copies of the invoices in the table
- Copies of bills or shipping invoices
- Federal tax returns or annual reports (depending on U.S. or UK entity)
Can you extend the treaty trader visa?
For citizens of the UK, visa holders are granted permission to live in the U.S. for up to five years. It may be possible to extend the visa, where the individual meets the eligibility requirements.
The U.S. embassy in London will typically issue the E1 Visa for up to three years because many of the businesses may not be successful.
If renewing the visa, the embassy will generally renew it for a maximum of five years’ duration.
If your business is a larger company with a high turnover which employs several U.S. citizens, the visa will typically be issued for five years.
What to bring to the visa interview
If you are required to attend the visa interview as part of your application, you must bring the relevant documents with you to show your eligibility.
These documents include:
- The appointment date invitation letter
- Form DS-160 Confirmation page
- Completed Form DS-156E
- Valid passport or travel document
- One 5x5cm (2”x2”) recent colour facial photograph
- If not a UK national, proof of UK immigration status
- Copies of any previously issued U.S. visas
- Job description letter outlining in detail the nature of your role, the company, salary, benefits, other forms of remuneration, and the contact information for the company
- Chart outlining the structure and hierarchy of the organisation
- CV or resume
- Proof of educational qualifications
- Copy of the approval letter on behalf of the treaty company
- Signed document stating the applicant’s intention to leave the United States when their visa expires
- Where relevant, proof that you have changed your name legally by deed pool
- A police certificate if the applicant has ever been arrested, cautioned, or convicted in the UK
- Where relevant, a letter from a doctor outlining the nature of any medical conditions that could impact eligibility for the visa
- Details of previous entrances, deportations, or removals from the U.S.
Depending on your specific circumstances, additional documents may be required.
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The vsa application costs $205, but there may be additional costs involved. These could include visa issuance fees, reciprocity fees, or fees for faster processing.
There may be additional fees involved depending on your circumstances. It is advised to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer if you are unsure of any part of the process.
The processing time for the E1 Visa is between approximately two and four weeks from the date of submission of your application.
Depending on the resources of the embassy or consulate where you apply, and the complexity of your application, this time may be shorter or longer.
The current wait time for the U.S. embassy in the UK is approximately 45 days, but this may change. It is recommended to check current waiting times with your local embassy when applying.
The E1 Visa is for eligible individuals engaged in certain forms of ‘substantial’ and ongoing trade. They must own a business whose international trade is primarily with the United States.
The applicant and the business must have the nationality of an eligible treaty country. E1 visa holders are also known as treaty traders.
If you require expert immigration services, contact our experienced immigration advisers today for support and assistance. We are ready to work with you to help you achieve your goals.