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E-1 status lets foreign nationals come to U.S. for trade

Foreign nationals who seek to conduct trade with a Florida company will likely need to come to the U.S. at some point, to finalize the deal, inspect the other party’s facilities and so on. These individuals do need long-term, but not permanent, permission to live and work in this country; at the same time, they are not allowed simply to show up and start doing business either.

The visa status for people coming to the U.S. for trade purposes is called E-1. This nonimmigrant classification allows foreign nationals to stay in this country for up to two years, with possible extensions of up to two years apiece.

To qualify, the applicant must:

  • Be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. Not every country has this form of relations with the U.S.
  • Carry on “substantial trade”
  • Carry on “principal trade” between the U.S. and the country of which the applicant is a national

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines “trade” as an existing international exchange of items for consideration, a legal term for compensation. Goods, services, banking, tourism and transportation are all legitimate items that USCIS considers tradable across national boundaries, among others.

For the trade to be “substantial,” it generally must be a continuous flow of sizable business, including numerous transactions over time. There is no minimum monetary value of the transactions, but the more value to the trades, the more likely USCIS is to grant the applicant E-1 status.

Applicants can be in business for themselves, or be acting as an employee of a foreign company. They can apply while in the U.S. legally, or while outside the country.

For more information, contact an immigration law attorney.

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