Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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Do I qualify for an E-1 trader visa? I’m from New Zealand and have a B2B SaaS company with a lot of clients in the U.S.
We have a Delaware C corporation that has raised money, and I’m working at the subsidiary in Auckland, where all of our employees are based. We don’t currently have a U.S. office, but we pay our taxes there.
— Keen Kiwi
Thanks for reaching out to me with your question about whether you qualify for the E-1 treaty trade visa and for sharing your exciting news about expanding your operation in the U.S. Great to hear you have already established your parent company in the U.S. to facilitate your U.S. fundraise.
New Zealanders became eligible for the E-1 treaty trader visa and the E-2 treaty investor visa in 2019 when the United States established a treaty of commerce and navigation with New Zealand. The E-1 treaty trader and E-2 treaty investor visas were established to facilitate and strengthen economic ties between the United States and several other countries (notably, there is no such treaty currently with India, China or Brazil!). I discussed these two types of E visas and more in my podcast episode Special Visas for Talent from Specific Countries.
The quick answer to your question is yes, you may likely qualify for an E-1 trader visa, but that will depend on the nationality of your company’s ownership and several other factors, so it’s worth looking into further.
Depending on your plans for market expansion or building up your team and operations in the U.S., you may also qualify for an E-2 visa (or even several other types of visas such as the O-1 or L-1, which are not country-specific). Let me go over the requirements, benefits and drawbacks of each, as well as dive more into the L-1A as an alternative.
E-1 treaty trader visa
The E-1 visa is for a citizen of a treaty country who carries out or helps their company carry out “substantial trade” in goods, transportation or services, including technology, banking and insurance, between the U.S. and the treaty country. Immigration law doesn’t specifically spell out what is meant by “substantial trade,” so there’s no minimum requirement regarding the dollar value or number of transactions. However, sizable and frequent international transactions are more likely to be approved.
In addition to “substantial trade,” you and your company must meet these requirements for the E-1 visa: