The E-1, “Treaty Trader” visa is available to nationals of certain countries, including Germany, with which the United States has a qualifying treaty. Such persons must seek to enter the United States to carry on trade principally between the United States and the country of which they are a national.
“Trade” for E-1 purposes must meet the following three requirements:
- Trade must constitute an exchange;
- Trade must be international in scope; and
- Trade must involve qualifying activities.
There must be an actual exchange of qualifying commodities such as goods, moneys, or services to constitute transactions considered trade. An exchange of a good or service for consideration must flow between the two treaty countries and must be traceable or identifiable.
E-1 trade must develop international commercial trade between the two countries. Development of the domestic market without international exchange does not constitute trade in the E-1 visa context.
One cannot qualify for E-1 status for the purpose of searching for a trading relationship. Trade between the treaty country and the United States must already be in progress on behalf of the individual or firm to entitle one to treaty trader classification. Existing trade includes successfully integrated contracts binding upon the parties that call for the immediate exchange of qualifying items of trade.
In addition to an international exchange of goods, the term “trade” includes many services including international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, communications, and news gathering activities. Essentially, any service item commonly traded in international commerce would qualify.
The word “substantial” is intended to describe the flow of the goods or services that are being exchanged between the treaty countries. There must be a continuous flow that should involve numerous transactions over time. Greater weight is given to cases involving more numerous transactions of larger value.
The general rule requires that over 50 percent of the total volume of the international trade conducted by the treaty trader regardless of location must be between the United States and the treaty country of the alien’s nationality. The remainder of the trade in which the alien is engaged may be international trade with other countries or domestic trade.
E-1 visas are available to both principal traders as well as certain employees of traders. E-1 employees must normally be employed in either a supervisory or executive capacity.
An employee also may be granted E-1 status if he has “essential skills” (i.e. special skills which are truly essential to the firm’s U.S. operations).
E-1 visas for traders and employees are generally granted for a period of up to five years and are indefinitely renewable so long as the trading entity can prove a continued need for the services of the trader/employee. E-1 spouses may obtain an employment authorization document. E-1 children (unmarried and under the age of 21) may attend school without a student visa.