E-1 Visa for Foreign Business Nationals

The E-1 visa allows nationals of a foreign country with which the U.S. maintains a trade treaty to come to the U.S. to engage in business with a U.S company.

The E-1 visa allows nationals of a foreign country with which the U.S. maintains a trade treaty to come to the U.S. to engage in business with a U.S company. Spouses and children of E-1 visa holders are eligible to come to the U.S. as the E-1’s dependents.

This article will give you guidance on who qualifies for an E-1 visa and how to complete the E-1 visa application process.

Countries Whose Nationals Are Eligible for an E-1 Visa

The U.S. maintains E-1 visa eligible treaties with fewer than 100 countries. You can find the list of eligible countries (which include China, Germany, France, Poland, Mexico, and Canada, just to name a few) at the Department of State’s E-1 visa website.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for an E-1 visa, you must be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a trade treaty. As a general rule, if you hold a passport from the foreign country, you will meet the nationality requirement. For more complicated issues with determining your nationality, look up the actual treaty between your country and the U.S. (which will provide a definition of the term ‘national’) or contact the U.S. consulate in your country and ask whether you qualify as a national.

In addition to the nationality requirement, to be eligible for the E-1 visa you must also be able to show that you are coming to the U.S. to carry on "substantial trade." Per U.S. regulations, substantial trade includes but is not limited to: goods, services, international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, technology and its transfer, and some news-gathering activities. You can refer to U.S. regulations located at 8 C.F.R. 214.2(e)(9) for more details.

Length of Stay and Numerical Limits

Generally, the initial E-1 visa will be valid for a maximum of two (2) years. One of the best things about applying for an E-1 visa is that you will not face any numerical limitation on the number of E-1 visas that may be issued. What's more, the visa has no maximum amount of stay; an E-1 visa holder could potentially extend E-1 status for as long as he or she wants.

Application Process

The E-1 visa is a bit different from other nonimmigrant visas in that most applicants aren’t required to file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to start the application process. Instead, you file an application with the U.S. consulate in your home country. (Please note that if you are in the U.S. in a different nonimmigrant status, such as H-1B, B1/2, etc., you have the option of changing status to E-1 by filing an I-129 petition with USCIS.)

In order to show that qualify for an E-1 visa, when you apply at the U.S. consulate you should include the following evidence in your application:

  • Form DS-160 confirmation page (showing that you filled out Form DS-160 online) for all applicants and dependents.
  • Form DS-156(E), which must be completed by the company you will be working with in the U.S.
  • One 2"x 2" passport-style photograph for each applicant.
  • Civil documents establishing the relationship between the principal applicant and any accompanying dependents (such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, and adoption certificates).
  • Proof of your nationality (your passport should be sufficient).
  • The business organization documents for the company you are working with (such as articles of incorporation, partnership agreement, and business license).
  • Sales contracts/contracts for services.
  • Inventories.
  • Trade brochures.
  • Insurance papers documenting U.S. imports.
  • Accounts receivable/payable ledgers.
  • Client lists.
  • Any other additional evidence to demonstrate the ongoing trade.

Please bear in mind that this only a general list of documents, and you should contact your U.S. consulate to obtain its full and complete requirements.

Fees and Costs

The fees and costs associated with applying for the E-1 visa may vary from country to country as they  depend upon the U.S.’s reciprocity agreement with the foreign country. Be sure to contact the U.S. consulate for exact information regarding applicable fees and how you can pay them.

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