The United States was built by immigrants who came to this country with an ambitious dream. That tradition is upheld by the foreign entrepreneurs and workers who continue to add rich diversity and economic growth to the U.S. One such contributor is the foreign treaty trader holding an E-1 visa. If you need to know what the E-1 visa processing time is for 2017, then this article is for you.
What is the E-1 Visa?
The E-1 visa is for traders that hold nationality in foreign treaty countries. A treaty country is any country that maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S. To see a full list of the current treaty countries, you can visit the official website. An E-1 visa may also be granted to the employees of treaty traders if they fulfill the requirements.
What are the Requirements?
In order to qualify for an E-1 visa, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- You must be a national of a treaty country. However, you do not need to be currently residing in a treaty country in order to qualify.
- You must perform either “substantial trade” and “principle trade” in the U.S.
- Substantial Trade: this is when there is enough trade occurring between the U.S. and your treaty to ensure a continuous flow. There is no official minimum for this. Consult with your immigration attorney to learn whether your trade is considered substantial.
- Principal Trade: this is when at least 50% of the volume of your trade occurs between the treaty country and the U.S.
The USCIS defines “trade” as “the international exchange of items of trade for consideration between the United States and the treaty country. Items of trade include but are not limited to:
- International banking
- Technology and its transfer
- Some news-gathering activities”
It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive. If you feel as though your trade qualifies and it does not appear on this list, work with your immigration attorney to learn if you qualify.
If you are applying as the employee of a treaty trader, you must:
- Be an employee by the law of the state that you wish to live in.
- Have the same nationality as the treaty trader employer
- Be able to prove that you will be a supervisor or otherwise have special qualifications that necessitate your presence in the U.S.
Once the E-1 visa is granted the treaty trader and his or her employees must continue to perform the trade that they were approved for initially.
E-1 Visa Processing Time
Getting an E-1 visa in 2017 requires relatively few steps on account of the fact that qualified applicants can self-petition and do not need an employer or a Labor Condition Application. This means that all you need to do to begin the process is file an I-129 petition with the USCIS. This petition has an average E-1 visa processing time of six months.
Once this petition is approved, your status will automatically change to E-1 status if you are already inside the U.S. However, if you are outside the U.S., you will need to go through consular processing.
This will involve making an appointment at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home treaty country and attending an interview with a consular officer, which will extend your E-1 visa processing time depending on the consulate or embassy you go to. To see a list of embassies, you can visit the federal website.
Your visa will be granted for an initial period of 2 years with the opportunity to extend it in increments of two years an indefinite number of times. This, along with the ability to self-petition, makes the E-1 a very advantageous visa.
If six months is too much time and you need to shorten your E-1 processing time, then it may be best to take advantage of premium processing. Premium processing is an optional service that the USCIS offers to expedite the E-1 visa processing time from six months to 15 calendar days for a fee of $1,225.
If the USCIS fails to process your petition within that time frame after the fee has been paid, then you will be issued a refund of your premium processing fee.
E-1 Visa to Green Card
One thing that many of our clients have asked so far in 2017 is what the E-1 visa processing time is when the end goal is a green card. The E-1 is fortunately considered a “dual intent” visa, which means that holders are able to pursue immigrant status.
However, the amount of time it will take for you to go from your E-1 visa to a green card will depend not only on the type of green card you are applying for but also which country you hold your citizenship. There are three main kinds of green cards available to you: family-based, employment-based, and investment-based.
Assuming that you apply for the employment-based green card, the first step after getting your E-1 visa will be to find an employer to sponsor you. The only green cards that do not require a sponsor are the EB-1A, EB-2 with a National Interest Waiver, and EB-5 investor green card.
Your sponsoring employer will then need to obtain a PERM Labor Certification on your behalf. This can take anywhere from eight months to a year and a half depending on whether or not your employer receives an audit.
Once you have a PERM, your employer can then file an I-140 petition. When the USCIS receives your petition, that date is your priority date. You will need to wait until your priority date matches or passes the final action dates given by the Department of State’s monthly visa bulletin in your category. This section of the processing time varies the most and can range from no wait time at all to several years.
Note: you will be able to use premium processing for your I-140 petition. However, if your priority date will not be current for some time, this feature may or may not be advantageous to your case.
After your priority date is current, you can submit an I-485 application to transfer your status to legal permanent resident. All told, while the E-1 visa processing time is relatively short, the E-1 to green card processing time can be much longer. Because this time varies heavily depending on the kind of green card you pursue, it is best to work alongside your immigration attorney to determine what you can expect.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Knowing whether you qualify, what evidence to submit, and what to expect from the E-1 visa processing time in 2017 is extremely difficult without the help of an experienced immigration lawyer. Just like any big legal decision, it always helps to have an expert guide you to help avoid costly mistakes.
Here at SGM Law group, we specialize in employment-based visas and green cards. Whether you are a treaty trader or the employee of a trader, our lawyers will work alongside you to make sure that the right evidence is submitted, any Requests for Evidence are addressed, and that you get the shortest E-1 visa processing time possible.
To get in touch with one of our attorneys, you can complete our contact form and fill in the details of your case so we can schedule your consultation.