If you want to live in the USA for a longer period of time, a U.S. E visa is a good option. The E-1 visa is available for both employees and self-employed persons.
Unlike most other visa types, E visas can be extended indefinitely. However, the visas do need to be renewed every two to five years. While an L visa requires the holder to leave the USA again after seven years at the latest and bars them from entering the USA again with an L or H visa for one year, an E visa practically allows permanent residence - at least as long as the relevant requirements are met.
Contents on this page:
- What type of commercial activity is required for an E-1 visa?
- What requirements do companies need to fulfil?
- What are the requirements for applicants for an E-1 treaty trader visa?
- What is necessary for the application and the processing time?
- Can I bring my family with me to the U.S. on an E-1 visa?
- Our worldwide advice on the E-1 treaty trader visa
An E-1 visa is only issued to self-employed persons or employees of U.S. companies who trade between the treaty country (e.g. Germany) and the USA.
The term "trade" is to be understood relatively broadly in this context. It includes not only the exchange of goods but also the provision of services in the transport sector as well as in the banking and insurance industries and in the tourism industry. It is important to note that the exchange takes place directly between the USA and the contracting country.
The trade must be of a certain size or substantial. The turnover amount plays a role that should not be underestimated here; however, the regularity and frequency of the exchange of goods or services over a longer period of time are more important.
It is indispensable that the trade already exists. Anyone looking to first set up a business in the USA in order to then engage in trade must apply for the E-2 investor visa; the E-1 visa is not initially available in this case.
In order to work on an E-1 treaty trader visa for a company located in the USA, that company must be at least 50 percent owned by natural persons of the other treaty country. Thus, an indispensable requirement is that the U.S. target company is at least 50 percent owned by German citizens if Germans are applying for the E-1 visa. If, for example, U.S. citizens also intend to operate within the company, a minimum of 50 percent German participation must be particularly heeded when founding the company. Caution is also advised when Germans who already hold a permanent residence permit for the USA (Green Card) are involved or intend to be involved. In the present context, they are not considered German citizens.
Particularly in the case of larger companies, it is also important to note: If, in the course of time, the shareholder structure changes in such a way that the requirements related to nationality are no longer met, previously issued E visas will become invalid, even if the validity date printed on them is still current. Employees who are in the USA during the change of ownership would be considered illegal after the change is completed.
These requirements also apply accordingly to cases from Austria, Switzerland or other states with which an E-1 agreement exists.
Both the E-1 and E-2 visas are available to citizens of those countries that have bilateral trade agreements with the USA. In Germany, this is the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, which entered into force on July 14, 1956. German citizens are therefore generally entitled to apply for an E visa.
The applicant for the E-1 visa must be either the direct or indirect owner of the company, an executive employee or an employee with company-specific specialized knowledge, e.g. concerning the products being traded.
The application process for the E-1 treaty trader visa includes several forms to be completed and an application package to be assembled. The documents must be sent by post and by e-mail to the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt/Main for the review of these documents. An important document is the business plan (or tax documents in the case of already existing and operating enterprises) with a profit and loss account forecast for the next five years. In particular, the business plan should show that the trade already exists, how it is to develop and that the majority of it takes place or will take place between the USA and Germany; precise percentage information is required here. Of course, information on the applicant, the (potential) customers and, if applicable, a German parent company must also be provided.
You should expect a processing time at the U.S. consulate of eight to twelve weeks. After reviewing the application, the U.S. Consulate will contact you and you can make an appointment for you and your (willing to travel) family members (children under 14 usually do not need to appear in person) to come to the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt/Main.
The principal applicant qualifying for an E-1 visa can also bring his or her spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 with him or her to the U.S. without having to meet any special conditions. However, they are also required to fill out various forms.
The children are allowed to attend school or to study; the spouse is allowed to take a job in the USA. Whether the latter needs a work permit in addition to their visa, however, is disputed between the USCIS and the Social Security Administration. To be on the safe side, a relevant application should be submitted before starting work. However, this can only be done after entering the USA and not already in connection with the visa. The relevant application form is the I-765.
We will be happy to clarify with you whether you meet the requirements for an E-1 visa or what other alternatives exist for your specific case. We can also support you in the preparation of a business plan. Our U.S. visa experts will gladly advise you! Make an appointment by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by telephone (+49 69 76 75 77 80).
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