E1 Treaty Trader Visa

The E1 visa is for foreigners who either own or work in companies that do international trade between the United States and certain treaty countries.

The foreigner must be citizen of the treaty country.

The trading company must also have at least 50% ownership by citizens of the treaty country. You do not qualify for an E1 visa if you are not a citizen of a treaty country or the company is not at least 50% owned by citizens of that country. Qualifying citizens can have other nationalities, but they must also have the nationality of the treaty country. Investors from other countries such as the U.S. can make up the remainder of investors.

International trade must be substantial, and primarily between the U.S. and the treaty country.

  • Trade is the existing international exchange of goods or services for profit between the United States and the treaty country. The range of goods and services is broad.
  • Substantial trade is a volume sufficient to ensure continuous flow (numerous transactions over time) of trade between the U.S. and treaty country. There is no value or volume minimum. However, smaller businesses are expected to yield income sufficient to support the treaty trader. Operations should be expandable to include hiring other employees.
  • Principal trade means that over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the U.S. and the treaty country.

International trade must be ongoing and substantial at the time the E1 visa application is submitted.

Allan Scott Lolly

managing attorney

The foreign applicant can be an owner; a company executive or supervisor; or an essential employee.

  • An owner is a treaty trader who owns at least 50% of the treaty trading company. The company can be sole ownership or a corporate structure such as an LLC. Companies must comply with all Federal, State, and local rules and licensing in order to do business in the U.S.
  • A company executive or supervisor is an employee who:
    • has the same nationality as the treaty trading company;
    • meets the definition of an employee under applicable law; and
    • has ultimate control and responsibility for the organization’s overall operation, or a major component of it.
  • An essential employee has the same nationality as the treaty company plus special qualifications which make the employee’s services essential to the efficient operation of the business. There are several qualities or circumstances which could help meet this requirement, including,
    • The degree of proven expertise in the employee’s area of operations;
    • Whether others possess the employee’s specific skills;
    • The salary that the special qualifications can command; or
    • Whether the skills and qualifications are readily available in the United States.

The E1 visa holder cannot work for another company in the U.S., but can attend school part time. Immediate family members can work at any job.

Allan Scott Lolly

managing attorney

Two Year Renewable

The E1 visa is valid for 2 years and may be renewed indefinitely, so long as the business remains strong.


The E1 does not lead to a green card. The foreigner must intend to depart the US when the business comes to an end or is sold.  Someone who is in the U.S. on an E1 visa might qualify for a green card in some other way.

Family Members

Immediate family members of the investor may join the investor and reside in the U.S. A family member includes a spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 years. Family members can obtain work authorization to work at any job. Minor children must attend school.

Multiple Entry

E1 visas that are obtained at a U.S. consulate abroad are multiple entry visas. Those foreigners already in the U.S. on some other visa may apply in the U.S. for a change of status to an E1 status. 

It is possible to obtain a reentry permit valid for international travel.

Allan Scott Lolly

managing attorney

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