The E1 visa is basically a non-immigrant visa also known as “treaty trader visa”. This visa allows the entry of foreign nationals into U.S. for trading purposes. However, the foreign nationals need to belong to one of the Treaty Nations with whom the U.S. has made a treaty for the implementation of trade relations.
You need to fulfill any of the following criteria in order to be eligible for an E1 visa such as:
- You are a citizen of a treaty country and are engaged in international trade.
- You are the 50% owner of a treaty nation company in the US.
- You are a specialist or an executive in the company of a Treaty Nation, functional in the U.S.
- You own 50% of the company’s stock and are a national of your country which is a treaty nation.
- You are the immediate family member of the person holding an E1 visa.
Being an E1 visa holder, if you maintain the E1 qualifications, you can enjoy certain advantages in the U.S., like:
- Your stay in the U.S. can be extended for 2 years at a time with infinite extensions.
- You can travel in and out of U.S. without any problem.
- Your dependents (spouse and unmarried children below the age of 21) can also be brought to the U.S.
- Your spouse can legally work in the U.S.
Changing Status to E1 Visa
Lawful non-immigrants present in the US and wanting to change their status to E1, have to file Form I-129 with the USCIS. In case of those lawful non-immigrant employees wanting to work in US concerns, their Form I-129 needs to be filed by their qualifying employers on their behalf.
Changing Status for Dependents
Dependents of persons applying to change status to E-1 can also file for a change of status. However, they will have to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. All dependents can be included on one application. Dependents are the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age. Both the I-129 and the I-539 can be filed together so that the USCIS can adjudicate them at the same time. However, the supporting documents for each application have to be attached and the instructions for both the applications need to be followed.
Process for Change of Status
Once the applications are received, the USCIS will send a receipt containing a case number on it. This number can be used to track the case status on the official website. The USCIS does not grant the change of status of E1 visa automatically. Even if you are eligible to change your status, you need to determine the duration of your visa extension period. Your passport needs to be valid for the entire duration on your stay in your new status. The USCIS takes into consideration the reason for your change of status to E1 classification, check why this category was not chosen in the first place and then the change is granted only when the reason is found to be genuine. USCIS will also determine for how long to grant this visa status. E1 visas are generally valid for 2 years.
Duration of Stay on E1 Visa
The period of 2 years stay is allowed to all qualified treaty employees and traders. The request for an extension of stay can be granted for another two year term. There is no limit to the number of extensions that can be applied for. With the expiration of the visa period, the E1 visa holders are required to leave the U.S. If the visa holder travels abroad and enter the US, when he/she is admitted for re-entry he/she is granted admission for 2 years automatically, so there is no need to apply for an extension. The same applies to dependents only if they are re-entering along with the primary visa holder.
Things to Remember
While applying for a change in status to a treaty trader, it is important that you provide substantial proof justifying this request. Check that your passport is valid for the duration of stay under the new status if that status is granted. Remember to file for the change in status when there are at least 60 days left for your I-94 to expire. There are very few exceptions for filing late. It is best you apply in advance.
If your application is not adjudicated and your status expires, you can remain in the US for as long as it takes for the USCIS to make a decision. However, during this period you will not have any status. If your application is denied you will be considered as being out of status and you will have to leave the US immediately. Also remember that you can start the activities associated with the new status only after the change in status has been approved. The changing of a non-immigrant’s status to E1 Classification depends entirely on the discretion of the USCIS.
Treaty Trader Countries
According to the USCIS, the following countries belong to the category of Treaty Nations: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy. Japan, Jordan, Korea (South), Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of (FRY), Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia.