E-1  Treaty Trader Visa Overview

E-1 Visas are nonimmigrant visas that are sometime called the next best thing to “green cards” i.e. permanent resident status.

In Canada, E-1 Visas are processed through U.S. Consulates located in Vancouver and Toronto (with limited processing in Calgary). This visa is issued for a period of one to five years and can be renewed indefinitely so long as the underlying fact pattern continues to support the requirements for the Visa.

Many small Canadian businesses have used the TN category as means to service their U.S. clients. Frequently these companies have an established financial track record of active trade in services with the U.S. but have no desire to set up a U.S. entity.

The E-1 Treaty Trader Visa does not require a U.S. business to be set up (although this is always an option). As long as the Canadian business is “E-Qualified” then it can send essentially skilled employees to provide services to its U.S. clients.


(1) A Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation or Bilateral Investment Treaty between the U.S. and the country of which the company and the applicant is a national.

Please note: NAFTA covers Canadian and Mexican citizens. Canadian Permament Residents do not qualify for NAFTA based E Visas. For qualified citizens of other signatory countries, the equivalent document from their country of nationality will be required.

(2) The individual and/or business possess the nationality of the treaty country.

For Canadian citizens, a copy of the passport, birth certificate, or citizen card is sufficient proof. 

(3) The activities constitute trade within the meaning of INA 101(a)(15)(E).

Trade, in this sense, must satisfy the following three requirements:

• Trade must constitute an exchange
• Trade must be international
• Trade must be in existence

The purpose of the E-1 Visa is to promote trade between the U.S. and Canada or U.S. and the signatory country.

(4) Such trade is substantial.

“Substantial” describes the flow of goods or services between the U.S. and Canada and involves weighing both the applicant’s volume of trade and the number of transactions. The best example of “substantial” trade is a large number of high-valued transactions. The best example of trade that isn’t “substantial” is a small number of low-valued transactions.

(5) Trade is principally between the U.S. and the treaty country.

At least 50 percent of the applicant’s international trade (Note: not total trade) must be between the U.S. and Canada or the U.S. and the signatory country.

(6) The applicant, if an employee, is destined to an executive/supervisory position or possesses skills essential to the firm’s operations in the U.S.

An executive or supervisory position is one, which entails a high degree of responsibility for the firm’s overall operations, and the executive or supervisory element is the primary function of the job.

An essential employee is one without which the applicant would not be able to do business in the U.S. The burden of proof clearly lies with the applicant to prove that the prospective employee is essential.

(7) The applicant intends to depart the United States when the E status terminates.