What to Know About the US Commercially Contracted Merchant (E1) Visa

What to Know About the US Commercially Contracted Merchant (E1) Visa

The E1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows certain foreign nationals to enter and work in the United States (US) as commercial enterprise traders. In other words, it allows foreign traders to enter the US to conduct business on behalf of their home country, as long as that country has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US. The E1 visa is often referred to as the Commercially Contracted Merchant or Treaty Trader visa.

This article will explore what the E1 visa is, who is eligible to apply for it, how to apply for it, and answer some frequently asked questions about the visa.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for an E1 visa, the applicant must meet certain requirements. Firstly, their home country must have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US. Secondly, the applicant must be a national of the treaty country, which means they hold citizenship or nationality of that country. Thirdly, the applicant must be coming to the US to conduct substantial trade, which typically means that at least 50% of the total volume of international trade must be between the US and the applicant’s home country. Finally, the applicant must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess specialized skills that are essential to the efficient operation of the enterprise.

How to Apply

The application process for an E1 visa involves several steps. Firstly, the employer must file a petition on behalf of the applicant with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition should include all relevant information about the enterprise, including the nature of the business and the scope of its trade. Secondly, the applicant must apply for the E1 visa at a US embassy or consulate in their home country. This process typically involves an interview with a consular officer, where the applicant must demonstrate that they meet all the eligibility requirements for the visa.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the duration of an E1 visa?
An E1 visa is typically granted for up to 2 years, and can be renewed for an indefinite period as long as the applicant continues to meet the eligibility requirements.

2. Can family members accompany the E1 visa holder to the US?
Yes, the spouse and unmarried minor children of the E1 visa holder may accompany them to the US on an E1 dependent visa.

3. Can E1 visa holders work for other employers in the US?
No, E1 visa holders are only authorized to work for the enterprise that filed the petition on their behalf.

4. Do E1 visa holders need to maintain a foreign residence?
Yes, E1 visa holders are required to maintain a foreign residence that they have no intention of abandoning. This means that they must demonstrate that they have ties to their home country, such as property or family, and that they plan to return there when their visa expires.

5. Can E1 visa holders apply for permanent residency in the US?
No, E1 visa holders do not qualify for permanent residency in the US. However, they may be eligible for other non-immigrant visas or green cards through other means.


The E1 visa is a valuable tool for foreign traders who wish to conduct business in the US. However, it is important to understand the eligibility requirements and application process before applying for the visa. By doing so, applicants can increase their chances of success and avoid any unnecessary complications in the process. If you have any questions or concerns about the E1 visa, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can provide guidance and assistance throughout the process.

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