Many treaties of ‘Friendship, Commerce and Navigation’ have been signed by the United States with the aim of promoting investment and trade and ensuring development of peace and good relations with friendly countries. In fact, many bilateral investment treaties have been signed by the United States which intends to promote investment but does not bestow any privileges regarding trade-related immigration.
Argentina, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, Austria are some of the countries with whom the U.S has signed the trade treaty.
In order to trade and develop their investment within USA, visas can be obtained by the nationals of those treaty countries. In these cases, the visa required is the E1 visa.
Who is a Treaty Trader?
To qualify as a treaty trader, one must be:
- a national of a treaty country with which US maintains ties of navigation and commerce.
- one who carries on substantial international trade.
- one whose principal trade is with the US. By principal trade, it means that this country has 50% or more of its international trade with the US.
E1 Visa – What Is It?
The treaty trader E1 visa is basically a non-immigrant visa that allows the entry of foreign nationals of a treaty nation into the United States. A treaty trader belongs to the nation which maintains a bilateral agreement or treaty of navigation and commerce with the United States. It is to be kept in mind that trade comprises of commercial transactions in goods. In case of trade in technology and services, it includes but is not limited to banking, transportation, communications, advertising, engineering and design, technology transfer, insurance, tourism, data processing, accounting, management consulting and other measurable services.
Employee Qualifications for E1 Visa
To qualify for the E1 visa, the employee must meet certain conditions:
- The employee should be of the same nationality as that of his primary alien employer, whose nationality is that of the treaty trade nation.
- The employee meets all the requirements of being employed legally.
- The employee should be a manager or an executive, or if not employed in this capacity, he/she should possess special qualifications. (Special qualification means that the services of this employee are vital for running the business effectively.)
Privileges of E1 visa
There are certain privileges that can be enjoyed by you, after obtaining the E1 visa like you can work legally in the U.S. for a U.S. company. In this case, more than 50 percent of business of the company should have trading relations with your home country. With this visa, you can also travel freely in and out of U.S or can stay in the United States with unlimited two year extensions. Though the stay can be on a prolonged basis, the E1 qualifications need to be maintained. You can bring your dependents and your spouse might be allowed to work in the United States.
Limitations of E1 visa
There are some limitations for E1 visa, like:
- You can only work for the specific employer or self-owned business which acted as your sponsor for the E1 visa.
- The visa is approved for only 2 years at a time which makes the visa extension or application process uncomfortable.
- This visa is available to only foreign nationals of treaty trade nations.
Duration of stay in the U.S. on the E1 visa
Initially, the visa is valid for two years but if you maintain the E1 qualifications, the stay in the U.S. can be prolonged with unlimited two year status extensions or five year visa extensions.
Change of Status
Application for change of status can be done while on E1 visa. For this, you need to submit Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) along with necessary supporting documents, indicating your status change.
No Travel Restrictions
E1 visa does not impose any kind of travel restrictions. You are free to travel the required number of times but before the expiry of the visa status. No time limit on your stay abroad is imposed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The Process of Procuring an E1 visa
While applying, the case must be documented properly and supporting evidence should be attached to prove that all legal requirements are fulfilled. Usually, the relevant US Consulate or Embassy judges the initial visa application. The Citizenship and Immigration Service Center processes the further extensions. E1 visas can also be obtained by the dependents (children and spouses) of the E1 and E-2 visa holders. Later, the E1 spouses can also apply for work authorization in the U.S