E-1 Treaty Trader Visa for Foreign Nationals Doing Business in the U.S.

E-1 Treaty Trader Visa for Foreign Nationals Doing Business in the U.S.

E-1 Treaty Trader Visa for Foreign Nationals Doing Business in the U.S.

If you’ve thought about living and working in the U.S. you’re likely familiar with the E-2 investor visa and the TN NAFTA visa.  Both these visas give Mexican professionals and other foreign nationals a quick and efficient path to living and working legally in the U.S. But there is a lesser-known and equally powerful option that could be an even better fit for you, your business, and your future in the U.S – the E-1 Treaty Trader Visa

If you have a U.S.-based company that engages in trade with your home country, your business could qualify for an E-1 visa. The E-1 Treaty Trader Visa is for anyone coming to the United States “solely to engage in substantial trade, including trade in services or technology . . . between the United States and the treaty country.”  The E-1 is similar to the E-2 Investor Visa in many regards but is better than the E-2 in some key ways that can make this visa a more accessible option for those who qualify. 

The E-1 Treaty Trader Visa is a powerful option for many professionals because 1) it does not require a showing of long-term profitability or employment of U.S. workers, 2) it does not require a substantial investment of funds to qualify and 3) it is renewable indefinitely. For service-based businesses that don’t require extensive start-up capital and don’t need to employ many U.S. workers, the E-1 Treaty Investor Visa can be a fantastic option. 

Who Qualifies for an E-1 Visa?

Treaty Exists Between the U.S. and Your Home Country

If your home country has an active trade treaty with the U.S. then you could qualify for an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa to come and work in the U.S. while you engage in trade between the U.S. and your home country. The U.S. maintains treaties of trade and commerce with many countries around the world and individuals from any country on the list can qualify. 

Business and Applicant are From the Same Country

To qualify for an E-1 visa, there must be a U.S. company, owned at least 50% by individuals from the treaty country. If your business qualifies because its owners are from an E-1 treaty country, then you must show that the person applying for the visa has the same nationality as the owners of the U.S. business. If both the business and the visa applicant share the same nationality, that applicant can qualify for an E-1 visa.

If you are from Mexico and you own a U.S. business with another Mexican national, then the U.S. business is owned 100% by individuals from the treaty country. Any qualifying employee from Mexico could be eligible for an E-1 visa. 

U.S. Business Engages in Trade with Home Country

The purpose of the E-1 visa is to develop international commercial trade between the U.S. and your home country. An exchange of goods or services must flow between the U.S. and your home country and be traceable or identifiable.

To count as a trade for an E-1 visa, there must be an actual exchange of qualifying commodities such as goods, money, or services between the United States and your home country. The trade must be ongoing and active, not speculative or prospective, and trade between the U.S. and your home country must make up at least 50% of the total trade volume for your business.

Development of the domestic market without international exchange won’t qualify you for an E-1 visa. You must be able to show a traceable exchange in goods or services between the United States and your home country. Similarly, if your U.S. company trades with multiple countries and you can’t show the trade with your home country is at least 50% of your trade volume, you can’t qualify for an E-1 visa. 

Remember that even if your business doesn’t qualify for an E-1 visa because of the reasons noted above, you could still have success with an E-2 investor visa, which doesn’t require a showing of trade with your home country.

Visa Applicant is an Owner or Eligible Employee

A majority owner of the U.S. business can qualify for an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa. But the U.S. business can also bring employees to the U.S. from your home country if the employee will be working in the U.S. business and engaging in trade, as defined above.  

An employee can qualify for an E-1 Treaty Investor Visa if they are either 1) going to fill an executive role in the company or 2) possess skills essential to the firm’s operation in the United States. A visa applicant can apply under more than one category so it may be possible to qualify as an owner, executive, and essential employee. This is particularly true in the case of start-ups or newer companies that are run by a small group of individuals. 

When is the E-1 Better than an E-2?

Often a business can qualify for both an E-1 and E-2 visa, and the question then becomes which one is better. The E-1 can often be better for those who qualify for both since the E-1 can be easier to qualify for and easier to renew than the E-2 visa. 

For an E-2 visa, you have to be able to show you’ve invested a substantial sum of money in your U.S. business, that you will employ U.S. workers or otherwise positively impact the local economy, and that your business will be quite profitable above and beyond just providing a salary and living expenses for the visa applicant. None of these requirements are part of the E-1 visa.  

To qualify for an E-1 visa you don’t have to show any investment of money, you don’t have to employ U.S. workers, and you don’t have to show any amount of profit above that needed to ensure the business keeps operating.  If you have a business that engages in the trade of goods or services with your home country, the E-1 visa could be a better option for you since many of the rules that raise issues with E-2 visa applications don’t exist in the E-1 context.

Next Steps:

If you have a U.S. business or are thinking about starting one, and you engage in trade with your home country, then the E-1 Treaty Trader Visa could be a great fit for your future in the U.S.  This highly flexible visa option puts you in control and allows you to pursue your career and your future in the U.S. now, without the need for outside sponsorship from a family member or employer.  

There are many fantastic ways for foreign professionals to live and work in the U.S. and we can help you evaluate your options and identify the best fit for you, your family, and your business.  Give us a call at 512-675-2945 to schedule a time to chat with me and get your process started. Regardless of the options you qualify for and which path you chose, your future in the U.S. can very much be within your control. 

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