The United States is a mecca of international trade, drawing significant interest from businesses across the globe.

If you are an individual, company, or employee who is looking to conduct trade in the U.S. without having to incorporate or set up an American company or entity, the E1 visa might be your best bet.

What is the E1 visa?

This nonimmigrant visa is made for people who wish to enter the U.S. in order to carry out international trade. They might be trading goods, services, even banking – the definition isn’t particularly strict. The most important factor is the number of transactions that take place between your foreign entity and your US clients or suppliers, as opposed to the dollar value underpinning the trade relationship.

E1 visa eligibility requirements

In order to be eligible for an E1 visa, the applicant must: 

  • Be a citizen of an E1 treaty country (for a full list, go to the end of this blog)
  • Be representing a company whose U.S. trade volume accounts for at least 50% of their total international trade volume
  • Prove they are aiming to engage in “substantial trade” – however, this term does not carry a strict definition
  • Be conducting trade that involves goods, transportation, or services, including banking, insurance, tourism, technology, or journalism
  • Demonstrate intent to return to their home country once the visa expires

How long is an E1 visa valid?

Your initial E1 visa will be valid for up to five years (depending on your country of citizenship). As long as the relevant conditions are met, you will be able to apply for an unlimited amount of extensions in two-year increments. If you terminate your employment with the company attached to your E1 visa, it will no longer be valid. 

Bear in mind that with each renewal, you will still need to demonstrate intent to return to your home country in the long-term. It is therefore uncommon to use the E1 visa as a path to permanent residence (unless you are sponsored as an employee of a US-based E-1 company).

Does the E1 visa extend to dependents?

Yes. E1 visa holders are able to bring their immediate family with them to the United States, i.e. their legal spouse and unmarried children under 21. Spouses may obtain a separate employment authorization but children may not. They can, however, attend school or university under this visa category.

Full list of E1 treaty countries

Argentina, China, France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Colombia, Germany, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Costa Rica, Greece, Korea, Oman, Thailand, Belgium, Denmark, Honduras, Latvia, Pakistan, Togo, Bolivia, Estonia, Iran, Liberia, Philippines, Turkey, Brunei, Ethiopia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Spain, United Kingdom, Canada, Finland, Israel, Mexico, Suriname, and Yugoslavia.

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