E1 Visa Basics: Unlocking International Trade Opportunities

The Treaty trader visa, also known as E1 visa, is a little different from the E2 Visa, but nevertheless, it supports business owners and executives who want to grow their operations in the U.S. This article will give you a general overview of the visa, the E1 visa process and the E-1 visa requirements.

What is the E1 visa?

The E1 visa is a non-immigration visa for international traders and certain employees of international traders to travel to the U.S. in order to pursue an increase in trade between the trader’s home country and the U.S.

Who is eligible for the E1 Visa?

Just like with the E2 visa, those who are eligible for the E1 visa must be from a treaty country.  However, it’s crucial to remember that certain nationalities are eligible for an E1 visa, but not an E2 visa – and vice versa.  Make sure to look up your eligibility on the list of treaty countries.

Is the E-1 visa flexible?

The flexibility of the visa is incredible – the holder of an E1 visa can travel back and forth from the U.S. frequently or live nearly full-time in the U.S.  (But be sure to check your country’s visa reciprocity.) There is no amount of time that the E1 visa holder must be or must not be in the U.S.  In addition, your spouse can work and your children can go to school during your stay in the United States.

What are the E1 visa requirements?

The E-1 visa doesn’t require investment for starting a future business in contrast to the E2 Visa. Instead, it emphasizes previous commerce and seeks to promote both the growth and continuation of existing trade relationships.  In other words, the focus of this visa is on showing a history of trade and the promise of growing the ongoing trade between the U.S. and the trader’s home country.

Substantial trade Requirement:To be eligible for an E1 trader visa, you must demonstrate that the qualifying E1 visa business has “substantial trade” between the home country and the U.S.  We, your E1 visa lawyers, must demonstrate that your business either exports goods or services from your home country to the United States or imports goods or services from the United States to your home country.

Note that a service-based business can potentially qualify for the E1 visa. 

Example:  Jean, from Canada, owns a real estate marketing company in Montreal.  He has three employees in Canada who work on the marketing projects, create marketing strategies and assist with other marketing-related activities.  Jean has 4 Canada clients and finally signs two, big U.S. clients.  The U.S. clients remain in the U.S. but pay Jean’s Canada-based marketing company for services delivered to the U.S. company.  (In other words, marketing services leave Canada and are imported by the U.S. company; and money leaves the U.S. and goes to the Canada company.)  This is an exchange.

After a few years, Jean has a great reputation among real estate companies in the U.S.  He now has eight U.S. clients.  The revenues in his Canada business are about $1,000,000 USD.  About $700,000 USD come from U.S. companies and $300,000 USD come from Canada companies.  Now the trade is starting to look substantial.  Jean may consider applying for the E1 treaty trader visa in other to come to the U.S. and try and get even more U.S. clients for his Canada marketing company.

Percentage of trade with the U.S. The ongoing trade between the home country and the U.S. must be the majority of the international trade (minimum of 50 percent) of the qualifying business.  This can sometimes be a bit tricky when looking at the total trade of a company.  Let’s take a look at an example, which will help illustrate this point.

Michelle is a U.K. citizen and owns a clothing company in the U.K.  She creates fashion forward looks for women and sells only to three countries – the U.K., Finland and the U.S. 

The U.K. company has sales of $1,200,000 USD in the last year.  Approximately $800,000 USD (67% of total revenue) came from U.S. customers and $100,000 USD (8.3% of total revenue) came from customers in Finland. 

The remaining amount comes from sales to U.K. customers. Seems like a slam dunk, right?  But what if we dig a little more…

We find out that Michelle creates and manufactures the looks, but she orders the fabrics from a manufacturer in Spain.  She pays the Spanish company $400,000 USD for fabric to be shipped to the U.K.

Now it looks like the total international trade is $1,300,000

  • $800,000 exports to the U.S.
  • $100,000 exports to Finland
  • $400,000 imports from Spain

Now we discover that the exports to the U.S. are only 61.5% of the total international trade. Luckily for Michelle, the trade is still primarily between the U.S. and the U.K., but you can see how the imports and exports combine to create total international trade.  So it’s not always as simple as it appears…  When trying to determine if your company has trade primarily with the U.S., be sure to add the total imports AND exports for your company.

Who is a good candidate for the E1 visa?

The best candidates are those who own a company or are employed as an executive in a company located in an E1 treaty country that has ongoing substantial trade with the U.S.  Most of our E1 visa clients are the owners of the company, and they frequently travel to the U.S. to meet with clients and get new clients.  These traders may already have B1 visas, but they are concerned about “too frequent” travel and/or inadvertently acting outside of the visa limitations.

That said, some E1 visa clients move to the U.S. in order to develop even more customers/clients or vendors in the U.S. and only travel back occasionally to their home country to oversee operations there.  They bring spouses and children as E1 visa derivatives, who are free to also live in the U.S. – the spouse can work and the kids can go to school.

Interested in the E-1 visa? Contact our team at Rupert Law Group, and we will be happy to discuss the eligibility, requirements and timelines of the visa.

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