E-1 Visa

(Treaty Trader) - Registration

The E-1 visa, also known as a treaty trader visa or trade visa, is based on bilateral agreements between the United States and countries that drive trade to the U.S. ("treaty countries"). Currently, there are about 50 nations that maintain such relations with the United States. The trading and shipping treaty that is relevant for Germans was concluded between the U.S. and Germany in 1956.

The E-1 visa is tied to the particular company and allows the U.S. company that submits the application to hire employees. The official applicant is always the U.S. company for the future employee / trader.

The visa enshrined in U.S. law under "treaty trader status" is available to companies that conduct substantial trade between the treaty country and the U.S.

Entry Requirements

In order to obtain a treaty trader visa/commerce visa, the applicant must demonstrate the following and satisfy other requirements:

  • The trader (a person or company) must be a citizen of a treaty country.
  • A company is considered to have the requisite nationality if at least 50% of the company is owned by a national of the treaty country.
  • Companies that operate as public companies have the nationality of the country in which they primarily conduct their trading business in accordance with the E-1 definition.
  • It must be demonstrated that the parties regularly trade a substantive number of goods or services. This exchange must be documented and have happened before the application is submitted.
  • The U.S. company must already be in business and should optimally already employ U.S. personnel.
  • In every application the entrepreneur must submit proof that it does not intended to conduct its U.S. operation out of naked self-interest to finance its livelihood (and by extension that of the applicant’s family) and that it will operate and add value to the regional U.S. economy and thereby create U.S. jobs.



visa validity

The E-1 visa is granted usually for five years. However, the consular office is also able to place time restrictions on the visa.

Theoretically, the company can request 5-year extensions of the visa an infinite number of times as long as the company continues to successfully conduct business in the U.S. and is able to satisfy all of the other entry requirements.

Residence status can be granted by immigration officers at the border for a maximum of two years at a time. These periods are reset when exiting and reentering the country until the visa has expired and must be re-applied for.


Application Process

The company must complete its initial application for E-1 registration and submit it to the relevant U.S. Consulate General of the treaty country. For example, German companies should contact the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt/Main.

The application process requires U.S. companies and company groups to submit extensive documentation about their trade activities as well as that of their employees and traders in order to obtain the visa. After the appropriate U.S. consulate reviews the documents, the applicant will receive an invitation to a personal interview. During the appointment the consular officials will ask questions about the records and decide whether to approve the application. If the applicant’s initial E-1 visa application is approved, then the U.S. company will also automatically receive an E-1 registration.

This registration allows the company to send other nationals of the treaty country to the U.S. site or to employ them according to a very simplified procedure. See also: E visa (based on registration)


Family Members

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age receive a derivative E-1 Visa lasting the same period as the principal applicant’s E-1 Visa. Once children reach the American age of majority, they must change their non-immigrant visa status or leave the country.

A spouse can apply for his or her own work permit (Employment Authorization Document EAD) that is not tied to the specific location or company of the principal applicant. Family members who receive E-1 status can attend public/private educational institutions.

Frequently asked questions about the E-1 visa for the U.S.

Which visa do accompanying family members receive with the E-1 visa?

Accompanying spouses and unmarried children up to the age of 21 years are granted a derived status on application and thus also an E-1 visa. Spouses with an E-1 visa may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS after entering the United States, which is not tied to a specific job or the main applicant's company, and thus may work in the U.S. independently of their spouse.

This work permit is issued for two years, with the possibility of an extension for a further two years up to the maximum duration of stay of the E-1 visa holder.

Children of E-1 visa holders may attend educational institutions (schools / universities), but may not engage in paid employment. If the children reach the age of majority in force in the U.S., they must change their nonimmigrant status or leave the country.

Under what circumstances is an E-1 visa application refused?

The following reasons make a successful E-1 application difficult or could lead to immediate rejection:

  • Employees with little professional experience or "low" qualifications
  • Past offences
  • Involvement in drug law offences
  • An infectious disease of the employee
  • The assumption of an immigration intention
  • A presumption of illegal employment
  • Lack of application documentation
What happens if the E-1 visa application is rejected?

As a rule, applicants are informed on the day of their interview whether the visa will be issued or not. In certain cases, the visa applicant will receive a letter of refusal from the U.S. consulate after a certain processing time. A rejection does not have to be justified.

Once this has been done, a new visa can usually only be (successfully) applied for after several months or even years. In theory, there is no waiting period for the applicant until the next submission. However, experience has shown that without a blatant improvement in the requirements of the respective visa category (e.g. proof of the intention to return to the home country, financial means, proof of professional expertise, etc.), a new application does not appear to make much sense.

Where must an E-1 visa be applied for?

Unlike most work visas, the application for an E-1 visa does not have to be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but can be applied for directly at a U.S. consulate.

Does an E-1 visa guarantee entry to the United States?

Even an E-1 visa cannot guarantee you entry to the United States. In fact the CBP officers have the final say and decide whether you are allowed to enter and for how long you will receive a resident status.

Find the most important information on this visa category compiled in one document (PDF) free of charge.


Related topics
  • E Visa
    E Visa

    The E visa is a work visa for staff assignments and business trips. Read more about the E registration procedure.

  • E-2 Visa
    E-2 Visa

    The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a work visa for managers, executives, specialists or supervisors on staff assignments and business trips. We support you with the visa application!