E-1Treaty Trader: Visa for the international business person

The B-1 visa and its ESTA equivalent enable employees of international businesses to visit the USA in furtherance of trading relationships--to meet with clients, negotiate contracts, and attend conferences.  As long as the stay is limited and the business conducted is limited to essentially liaison activities, the B-1 and ESTA are a great, economical means of maintaining an ongoing trading relationship.  Sometimes, however, a more durable or more flexible presence is required.  In such cases, businesses should consider the E-1 Treaty Trader visa.

By regulation, the E-1 visa is specifically for "individuals who will be in the United States solely to carry on trade of a substantial nature, which is international in scope, either on the alien's behalf or as an employee of a foreign person or organization engaged in trade, principally between the United States and the foreign state of which the alien is a national."

Like the E-2 Treaty Investor visa, the E-1 Treaty Trader visa is only available to nationals of countries that have a bilateral treaty with the United States that enables such visas to be issued.  That's why it is called a Treaty Trader.

In the UK, the treaty that enables E visa eligibility is the United Kingdom Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty of 1948 governing trade between the United States and The United Kingdom. Notably (and unique among such agreements), the UK-US treaty specifically limits eligibility not just to UK nationals, but to UK nationals residing in the UK.  This can become cumbersome when dealing with complex corporate ownership issues or when individuals have spent significant periods of time outside the UK.

Looking the regulatory requirements, the essential elements are:

  1. Nationality of the treaty trader or employee visa applicant. The treaty trader company (or solo treaty trader) must have the nationality of the relevant treaty. The ownership of the company conducting the trade must be UK majority owned and controlled.  Any employees applying for essential employee visas related to this company must be the nationality of the company as well, e.g., British.
  2. The sole purpose of the visa applicant entering the US must be to carry on the trade.
  3. The trade must be substantial in nature. Substantial usually means over $100,000, though no dollar amount is found in the law; and
  4. The international trade conducted by the treaty trader company or solo trader is principally between the US and the foreign state.

One further requirement is that the visa applicant have an intention to depart the United States upon the termination of E-1 status.  The E-1 visa applicant must affirm his/her intention to depart from the United States upon the termination of E-1 status.   For most applicants, this is done simply by providing a signed statement.  If the applicant has applied for an immigrant visa or has had a petition filed for an immigrant status in the past, this may be an issue.

To see if the E-1 visa is right for your service offering or product based business, please schedule a consultation.