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FACTS:
A U.S. Citizen business client wanted to expand operations of his family’s business in the U.S. by bringing a sibling into the business. The problem: the sibling lived in Greece and was not a U.S. Citizen. The Solution? To pursue an E-1 Treaty-Trader visa by making the sibling a partner in the U.S. business enterprise.

THE LAW:
The E-1 nonimmigrant classification allows a national of a treaty country (a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation) to be admitted to the United States solely to engage in international trade on his or her own behalf. Certain employees of such a person or of a qualifying organization may also be eligible for this classification. (For dependent family members, see “Family of E-1 Treaty Traders and Employees” below.)

See U.S. Department of State’s Treaty Countries for a current list of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.

Who May File for Change of Status to E-1 Classification

If the treaty trader is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, he or she may file Form I-129 to request a change of status to E-1 classification. If the desired employee is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, the qualifying employer may file Form I-129 on the employee’s behalf.

How to Obtain E-1 Classification if Outside the United States

A request for E-1 classification may not be made on Form I-129 if the person being filed for is physically outside the United States. Interested parties should refer to the U.S. Department of State website for further information about applying for an E-1 nonimmigrant visa abroad. Upon issuance of a visa, the person may then apply to a DHS immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry for admission as an E-1 nonimmigrant.

General Qualifications of a Treaty Trader

To qualify for E-1 classification, the treaty trader must:

  • Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation
  • Carry on substantial trade
  • Carry on principal trade between the United States and the treaty country which qualified the treaty trader for E-1 classification.
  • Trade is the existing international exchange of items of trade for consideration between the United States and the treaty country. Items of trade include but are not limited to:
    • Goods
    • Services
    • International banking
    • Insurance
    • Transportation
    • Tourism
    • Technology and its transfer
    • Some news-gathering activities.

See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(9) for additional examples and discussion.

Substantial trade generally refers to the continuous flow of sizable international trade items, involving numerous transactions over time. There is no minimum requirement regarding the monetary value or volume of each transaction. While monetary value of transactions is an important factor in considering substantiality, greater weight is given to more numerous exchanges of greater value. See, 8 CFR 214.2(e)(10) for further details.

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. See 8 CFR 214.2(e)(11).

THE RESULT:
Putting together a detailed package including a business plan, proof of existing trade, and supporting evidence regarding the existence of the trade relationship with the U.S. was essential to the success of this case. Care must be taken to ensure that all the necessary documents are received by the U.S. Embassy. After submission, the U.S. Embassy in Athens still asked for more information regarding a few items. After some back-and-forth, the visa was approved.

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