E-1 Treaty Trader Visa
The treaty trader visa allows foreign nationals to enter the United States for the purpose of directing and developing import/export trade between the U.S. and the treaty country. By virtue of the various reciprocal treaties of trade and navigation between the United States and selected foreign countries, certain foreign investors may qualify for the E-1 treaty trader visa.
This highly desired non-immigrant visa is available to nationals of treaty countries who conduct import or export trade between the United States and the trader's home country and whose presence is necessary to direct and develop that import/export enterprise. This visa classification has several significant advantages for qualified foreign investors.
The treaty trader visa specifically allows (requires) the trader to own the United States business. This ownership may be as an individual proprietor, majority partner, or majority corporate shareholder. Unlike many countries, the United States does not require that a United States citizen or resident owns any interest in the investment.
Once awarded, the E-1 visa status may be maintained indefinitely through a continuation of qualified trading activity. Extensions can be granted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the United States State Department.
Since the E-1 is a non-immigrant visa, there is no need to satisfy a quota waiting period. Applications for change of status to E-1 in the United States require only 90 to 180 days depending upon location of the Immigration and Naturalization Service office having jurisdiction over the investment.
For those traders making applications abroad, the processing time may vary from two days to several months, depending upon the complexity of the application and the availability of State Department personnel.
Employment in the U.S.
The E-1 visa allows the principal trader to be actively employed in the investment enterprise. They may be paid salary and/or draw dividends or receive benefits similar to those of United States workers.
Under newly enacted law, E-1 spouses accompanying E-1 visa holders are allowed to work. However, E-1 children are still not allowed to be employed.
Includes Spouse & Children
Qualified traders are entitled to request E-1 dependent status for their spouses and children. Spouses can maintain this status indefinitely, assuming that the principal trader continues to qualify and that the marriage continues intact.
Children can retain E-1 dependent status until they reach 21 years of age.
Includes Key Employees
In those enterprises with a sufficient number of United States employees, additional E-1 visas may be available for key managerial employees who are determined by the United States State Department to be necessary to the operation of the business in the United States.
The number of employee E-1 visas to be granted to employees depends on the size and complexity of the United States business. The E-1 employees must also be nationals of the same treaty country as the principal treaty trader.
The dependents of the key E-1 employee are entitled to derivative status as in the case of the primary E-1 trader. These dependents may remain in the United States in E-1 visa status as long as the key E-1 employee remains employed by the E-1 enterprise.
Dependents Permitted to Attend School or College
The treaty trader and key employees may attend school on their E-1 visa status. Their dependents are permitted to attend school or college until their 21st birthday without obtaining additional visas so long as they continue to qualify under the E-1 criteria. (Many colleges will allow attendance but will consider the E-1 students to be non-residents for tuition purposes.)
Ownership of Real Estate
E-1 visa holders are free to purchase homes or other real estate while in the United States. Upon termination of E-1 status, the traders are not required to liquidate these holdings. (However, loss of visa status may affect the ability to enter and remain physically present within the United States.)
Nationality of Trader
The trader must be a national of the treaty country through which reciprocal trade is allowed. Visa status is not available to traders who are merely residents of the treaty country, or who hold "inferior" passports due to secondary nationality status within the treaty country.
The countries that currently qualify as treaty-investor countries are set forth in Exhibit A following this section.
Substantial Trade Volume (Transactions)
The treaty trader must demonstrate that the import/export activity of the business is substantial in terms of the number of transactions within a given time period. This requirement is qualitative in nature and varies according to the nature and value of the items being traded.
Substantial Trade Volume (Dollars)
The treaty trader must demonstrate that the total amount of trade, when valued in U.S. dollars, is substantial. While there are no definitive guidelines, there should be sufficient dollar volume to justify the presence of the treaty trader to direct and develop the trade activity from the United States location.
Majority Trade Rule (Transactions)
The trading company must demonstrate by sufficient financial evidence that the majority of the trade transactions have occurred and will occur between the United States and the treaty country of which the trader is a national.
Majority Trade Rule (Dollars)
The trading company must demonstrate by sufficient financial evidence that the majority (51 percent) of the dollar volume of trade has and will occur between the United States and the treaty country of which the trader is a national.
Business Acumen of Trader
The trader must demonstrate that they have sufficient acumen to conduct the intended trading activity.
Intent to Depart U.S.
The trader must demonstrate an ability and willingness to depart the United States upon the termination of E-1 status.
The trader must demonstrate a past history of conducting trade between the treaty country and the United States.
Since the E-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, it must be renewed periodically to allow the trader and their qualified dependents to remain in the U.S. Renewal periods vary from one year to a maximum of five years.
Maintenance of Visa
Each of the requirements for obtaining E-1 status must be maintained throughout the term of the visa status. Failure to maintain these requirements may lead to termination of the E-1 status of the treaty trader and their dependents.
Non-Convertible to Permanent Residence
The E-1 visa is not generally convertible to lawful permanent residence status. The issuance of this visa does not preclude the trader from qualifying for permanent residence in the United States by alternative means.
The treaty trader visa offers excellent opportunities for traders and their families to live and work in the United States, while also enjoying the potential financial profits of their trading activities. With proper legal and financial guidance, the trader can qualify for this highly beneficial visa status.
List of Treaty Trader Countries (Updated April 1, 1999)
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brunei (Borneo), Canada, China, (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia.
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