The Treaty Trader Visa (non-immigrant E-1 classification) is intended for foreign nationals of a country with which a qualifying treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation, or a similar agreement exists with the United States. Nationals (individuals or companies) of such countries can obtain visas to work in the USA in order to develop and direct their trade with the USA. Additionally, the E-1 visa requires the principal treaty trader to engage in substantial trade and carry on principal trade between the United States and the qualifying treaty country.
What is Trade?
USCIS defines Trade in section 8 CFR 214.2(e)(11) of the law as follows:
Trade is the existing international exchange of items of trade for consideration between the United States and the treaty country. Existing trade includes successfully negotiated contracts binding upon the parties which call for the immediate exchange of items of trade. Domestic trade or the development of domestic markets without international exchange does not constitute trade for purposes of section 101(a)(15)(E) of the Act. This exchange must be traceable and identifiable. Title to the trade item must pass from one treaty party to the other.
Trade may include commercial transactions in goods and trade in services and technology like banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, communications, data processing, advertising, accounting, design and engineering, management consulting, technology transfer and other measurable services which may be traded.
What is Substantial Trade?
Similarly, USCIS defines Substantial trade and Principal Trade as follows:
Substantial Trade is an amount of trade sufficient to ensure a continuous flow of international trade items between the United States and the treaty country. This continuous flow contemplates numerous transactions over time. Treaty trader status may not be established or maintained on the basis of a single transaction, regardless of how protracted or monetarily valuable the transaction. Although the monetary value of the trade item being exchanged is a relevant consideration, greater weight will be given to more numerous exchanges of larger value. There is no minimum requirement with respect to the monetary value or volume of each individual transaction. In the case of smaller businesses, an income derived from the value of numerous transactions which is sufficient to support the treaty trader and his or her family constitutes a favorable factor in assessing the existence of substantial trade.
What is Principal Trade?
USCIS defines Principal Trade as follows:
Principal trade between the United States and the treaty country exists when over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the U.S. and the trader’s treaty country.
A person may qualify as the principal trader or as an employee of a trader company having the same nationality. There are no numerical limitations on E-1 admissions. The E-1 visa is for nationals of treaty countries wishing to enter the United States to work for an enterprise engaged in substantial trade principally between the United States and the treaty country, provided the enterprise is majority-owned by treaty nationals (either other companies or individuals). Under the provisions of section 101(a)(15)(E)(i) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act - an alien may be classified as a non-immigrant treaty trader if he or she (i) will be in the United States solely to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or trade in technology, principally between the United States and the foreign state of which he or she is a national; and (ii) intends to depart the United States upon the expiration or termination of treaty trader (E-1) status.
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