What is an E-1 trader visa?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® answers the question of a reader who wants to know how to obtain an E-1 trader visa that allows you to live and work legally in the United States.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I am a Mexican owner of a transportation company. I want to do business in the United States and I heard that there is an E-1 trader visa. What are the requirements for this visa? -Omar E.

Omar, the E-1 visa allows traders from countries that have trade agreements with the United States to live and work legally in the United States.

The United States currently has trade agreements with 82 countries. These include Spain and the following Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay.

Citizens of Ecuador and Panama cannot apply for E-1 visas but have access to E-2 visas for investors.

At the moment, there is an unlimited availability of E-1 visas. According to the U.S. Department of State, the trader must demonstrate the following requirements to obtain one of these visas:

  1. The trader must be a citizen of a country with a trade agreement.
  2. The company for which the applicant is employed or owned by the applicant for a visa to travel to the United States must have the nationality of the treaty country.
  3. International trade must be "substantial". This means that it must have a continuous and substantial volume of trade. Trade means international exchange of goods, services and technology.
  4. The trade must be primarily between the United States and the treaty country. That is, more than 50% of the international trade must be between the United States and the country of which the visa applicant is a citizen.
  5. Title to traded items must pass from one of the parties involved to the other.
  6. The visa applicant must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess highly specialized knowledge for the efficient operation of the company. Normal workers or workers without such specialized knowledge do not qualify.

To apply for an E-1 visa in Mexico, you will need to submit several documents to the U.S. Consulate, including the following:

  1. A color copy of the biographical data page of your passport.
  2. Your resume.
  3. Articles of Incorporation (for corporations) or Organizations (for limited liability companies or LLC's) for U.S. businesses, as well as administrative or formative certificates.
  4. Stock certificates and/or operating agreements (if applicable) to verify ownership.
  5. Spreadsheet listing relevant international transactions between treaty countries during the last calendar year.
  6. A representative sample of relevant invoices to demonstrate that the business activity conducted by the company between the United States and the treaty country is substantial.

Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 (if you have them) may also accompany you to the United States on an E-3 visa if they meet all the requirements.

The E-1 visa is temporary. When the term of legal stay expires, they must leave the country unless they can find another legal way to stay permanently in the United States. However, the visa can be extended indefinitely as long as the trade agreement with Mexico remains in effect, trade continues, and they meet the proper requirements to renew their visas.

The process of obtaining an E-1 visa is complex. To be successful, consult with an immigration attorney before beginning the process.