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FAQ: E-1 Treaty Trader Visa

The E-1 Treaty Trader visa is a nonimmigrant, employment-based visa classification that allows certain foreign nationals to engage in international trade with the United States. This visa category is designed for citizens of countries that maintain a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S. It allows them to be admitted to the United States for the sole purpose of conducting international trade on behalf of themselves or their employer. 

How do you qualify for E-1 status? 

To qualify for E-1 status, the applicant must:

  1. Be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation;
  2. Carry on substantial trade with the U.S.; and
  3. Carry on principal trade between the U.S. and the treaty country which qualified the treaty trader for E-1 classification.

What is “trade” under the E-1 visa? 

Trade encompasses a wide range of activities, including goods, services, banking, insurance, transportation, technology transfer, and news-gathering activities. For example, a business owner may need to enter the U.S. to provide services to U.S.-based clients pursuant to contracts between the U.S. client and foreign business.

What is “substantial” trade?

Substantial trade is an amount of trade sufficient to ensure a continuous flow of international trade items between the U.S. and the treaty country. The monetary value of each transaction is an important factor in considering substantiality, but greater weight is given to the volume of exchanges. 

What is “principal” trade?

Principal trade between the U.S. and the treaty country exists when over 50% of the total volume of international trade (not domestic) is between the U.S. and the trader’s treaty country.

How long is an E-1 visa valid? 

The length of visa validity under the E-1 category varies by country based on reciprocity agreements with the United States. Typically, for Canadians and most European countries, the E-1 visa is issued for a five-year period. Conversely, other countries may limit visa validity to 1-4 years or even a few months. 

How long can you stay in the U.S. with an E-1 visa? 

Please note that applicants are generally admitted for up to a two-year period of stay upon each entry to the U.S. For example, if you hold a five-year visa and enter the U.S. a month before your visa expires, you may still be admitted to the U.S. for a two-year period of stay. This also means that individuals cannot obtain a five-year visa and remain in the U.S. without leaving for the full five-year period. The E-1 visa holders must ensure they leave and re-enter the U.S. throughout their visa validity period to re-set their I-94 admission record—which generally permits two years of stay upon each entry.  

It is best practice for E-1 visa holders to check their I-94 admission record upon each entry to the U.S. to confirm how long they have been admitted in E-1 status. You can do this by clicking on this link: I94 – Official Website ( Simply click on “Get most recent I-94” and type in your passport information. 

Can the spouse of an E-1 visa holder work in the U.S.?

Yes! Unlike other categories, like the H-1B or TN, the E-1 allows both the principal applicant and their spouse to work while in the U.S. Notably, in November 2021, USCIS announced E spouses have employment authorization incident to their “E-1S” status. Meaning, an E spouse may present a valid I-94 record with the COA code “E-1S” to their U.S. employer as evidence of employment authorization under List C of Form I-9. This is a great benefit, especially in this crazy economy where a single income household is not always ideal. 

If you are interested in obtaining an E-1 visa, reach out to our office to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys