The Ultimate Guide to the E1 Visa

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • The E1 visa is for individuals, companies, or employees engaged in international trade with countries having a trading treaty with the US.
  • It allows traders to conduct trade activities and grants a stay of up to 2 years, with possible extensions, covering immediate family members.
  • Applicants need to meet specific criteria, agree to depart the US when the visa expires, and provide required documents including forms, proof of trading activity, CV/resume, and evidence of establishment and trade.
  • The visa can be extended, and dependents can work and study while on the E1 visa. It’s also possible to apply for a Green Card.

When you are not a native of the United States, it might be relatively difficult for you to remain in the country if you do not have the necessary paperwork to keep you there. So, you will need a visa – or an E1 visa, in this particular scenario.

By reading this article, you can find out what the E1 visa is and what are the requirements to get one. From eligibility to how you can get such a visa, this guide will teach you everything that you should know.

What Is an E1 Visa?

The E1 visa is the kind of visa that you apply for as an individual, company, or employee in order to enter the US and conduct international trade. In other words, if you want to trade in the US while living there, you will need this visa.

What kind of “trade” it is, that can be debatable. For example, trade may refer to services, goods, all the way up to banking. There is no actual limit on how much trade should happen in order for the visa to take effect – but they do place great emphasis on the number of transactions. In other words, the more transactions you make, the better value your visa will hold.

Aside from the main beneficiary, the E1 visa will also cover the immediate family (e.g. the spouse or any unmarried children that are under the age of 21).

Who Is Eligible for an E1 Visa?

Any international trader or their senior employee who wishes to enter the United States with the purpose of trading may opt for an E1 visa. In order to qualify for this classification, the treaty trader will have to:

  • Be a national citizen from a country with which the US has regular trading and commerce.
  • Carry substantial trade to and from the United States.
  • Have principal trade between the US and the treaty country which gave the potential visa beneficiary their qualification.
  • Be an immediate family member of the main E1 visa holder.

Finally, but very importantly, the applicant needs to agree to the fact that they have to depart the United States if their E-1 status comes to an end. This visa is only temporary, and it must be regarded as such.

E1 Visa Terms

In order to keep hold of your E1 visa, there is a certain set of terms that you will need to respect. Some of these terms will provide privileges, whereas others will place restrictions.

E1 Visa Privileges

The E1 visa will allow its holder to remain in the United States for as much as 2 years. If they meet the conditions, their length of stay may go even beyond 2 years – provided they apply for an extension. There isn’t any limit on the number of extensions that may be applied.

The employer or treaty trader can leave the US at any time – and upon readmission, they will automatically get a 1-year extension. However, this extension is not automatically granted to family members – which is why you should closely follow the E1 visa procedure.

E1 Visa Restrictions

The E1 employee or trader is only permitted for working in the activity that they have been approved for under the visa. Still, if the employer also features a parent company, they have the possibility of working for that organization.

Documents Required for an E1 Visa

When applying for the visa, you must have the following documents:

  • Form DS-160 for nonimmigrant visa applicants
  • Form DS-156E for nonimmigrant investor applications
  • A copy of your passport (should be valid 6 months beyond your stay)
  • Color ID photograph showing your full face
  • Proof of one year’s worth of trading activity
  • Your CV/resume
  • Evidence of skill and/or employment
  • Evidence of US remittance (bank loans, transfer exchange permits, etc.)
  • Evidence of establishment in the US
  • Evidence of nationality
  • Evidence of trade between the treaty country and the US
  • Evidence that the business is real and legit (annual reports, news articles, etc.)

Sometimes, not all of these documents may be required. This is why you have to work with an attorney during this process.

How to Apply for an E1 Visa

In order to apply for the E1 visa, you must take the required documents, complete them, and then submit them. This may be done either by mail using the address provided by USCIS – or it may be done online. Once your application has been accepted, you will be granted an interview to obtain your visa.

How Much Does an E1 Visa Cost?

The general application fee for the E1 visa is $205. Aside from that, you may be required to pay extra fees such as reciprocity fees or insurance fees – but this will depend on the country that you are originally from. Ideally, you should use a fee calculator from USCIS.

E1 Visa Processing Time

Once the application has been sent to USCIS, the processing time may take up to 6 months. If you are already in the US, your status will be changed automatically to E1. However, if you are not inside the US, then you might be required to undergo consular processing. If you are in a rush, you may also opt for premium processing.

E1 Visa Extension

Yes, you can extend your visa. In order to apply for an extension, you need to submit form I-129 along with I-539 – together with the required documents that prove an extension is necessary.

E1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to E1 visas, there are bound to be a few questions. Here are some of the most common.

How long can I stay in the US on E-1 visa?

In the first stage, the E1 visa is only valid for two years. However, if you maintain the qualifications, you may opt for two years extensions (for unlimited times). If trading is maintained, you may remain in the US for as long as needed.

Can I revalidate my E-1 visa?

No, you can’t apply for revalidation of your E1 visa (online or mail) without first leaving the United States. You may only opt for an extension or go through the entire process of obtaining a new E1 visa.

Can I change status while on E-1 visa?

Yes, you may change your status while you are on an E-1 visa. You just have to download Form I-129 (Petition for Non-Immigrant Workers) or Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change a Non-Immigrant Status), indicating that you want to change your status by bringing the appropriate documentation.

Are there any travel restrictions on E-1 visa?

No, there aren’t any travel restrictions when it comes to the E1 visa. You may come and go from the US as many times as necessary before your E1 status expires. USCIS also does not impose any limits on how long you may remain abroad.

Can I study on E-1 visa?

Yes, while you are on an E1 visa, you may study in the US. You cannot, however, join any full-time study programs. You can only take up a few university credits, provided they do not harm the visa primary interests.

Can I bring my dependents on E-1 visa?

Yes, you may bring your spouse or unmarried children aged under 21 years old with you on your E1 visa. They will be able to remain with you for as long as you maintain your visa. You may also bring a personal employee, as long as you can demonstrate that they are not abandoning their residence abroad and have been working for you for at least one year.

Can my dependents work on E-1 visa?

Yes, your dependents can work while they are on the E1 visa. They simply have to download Form I-750, complete it, and apply for Employment Authorization. However, this will only apply to your spouse, because your children cannot work while under the E1 visa.

Can my dependents study on E-1 visa?

While your children cannot work under the E1 visa, they may attend school, college, or university. They are not required to apply for separate student visas (e.g. the F1 visa).

Can I apply for a Green Card while on E-1 visa?

Yes, you may apply for a green card while on a visa, provided you meet the conditions. Most of the time, the options are family-based immigration, labor certification (employment-based immigration), EB-1, and National interest Waiver. You might want to discuss with your attorney on how to perform your form visa stamping so that everything goes flawlessly.

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Concluding Remarks

The E1 visa is a very efficient method to temporarily keep you in the US while conducting trade. Unlike other visas, this does not limit your travel – which means that you can go to your home country or a holiday any time you want. It is a fairly flexible kind of visa that will allow for many opportunities. Hopefully, we have managed to provide some insight on how to get an E1 visa.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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