The E-1 trader visa is a non-immigrant visa available to traders who wish to do business with the United States. Learn all about the E-1 trader visa application requirements, application process, benefits and working in America with an E1 visa!
E-1 trader visa

The main topics to be covered in this article:

What is an E-1 trader visa?

The E-1 merchant visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to citizens of countries that have signed a trade agreement with the United States. The agreement signed between Turkey and the US in 1933 aims to increase trade between the US and Turkey. In this context, business people, company partners, and qualified employees such as senior executives of this company who will conduct an important trade between America and Turkey can apply for an E-1 merchant visa.

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What are the requirements for an E-1 merchant visa?

E-1 visa can be applied for by business people who want to be a company owner or company partner, as well as qualified employees to be employed in these companies. The application requirements may vary depending on whether the applicant is a business person or a qualified employee.

Business people for:

For skilled workers:

How to get an E-1 merchant visa?

You can apply for an E-1 visa from within the United States or through consulates in your home country. 

Applying for an E-1 Visa through the US Consulate

STEP 1: Apply for E-2 Visa with DS-160 Form

DS-160 over the Internet You can apply for a visa by filling out the form.

STEP 2: Interview

After submitting your E-1 visa application with the DS-160 form, you will receive an interview date from the same page at the end of the application. We recommend that you collect the necessary documents until the interview date. The questions to be asked in the interview may be related to the information you filled in the form, or they may be related to your work and experience.

STEP 3 Application Result

If your interview is successfully completed and the consular officers decide that you are eligible for a visa, your E-1 visa will be printed on the passport and sent to your address. You may receive an acceptance immediately after the interview or you may receive an email later on informing you that your visa has been approved.

Applying for an E-1 Visa through Change of Status within the United States

If you are in the US in a non-immigrant status (B-1/B-2, J-1, etc.), you can apply for an E-1 visa from within the US.

STEP 1: I-129 Form

First, the U.S. citizen may be employed by the employer "I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker" form must be completed and submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form can be completed physically and mailed to the USCIS office as a package with the required documents.

STEP 2: Apply for E-1 Visa

Once the I-129 form is approved, you can apply for a Change of Status by filling out the I-539 form. I-539 form, From the USCIS website or physically completed and mailed to USCIS.

STEP 3: Biometric Appointment

After you apply for a visa, USCIS sends you a document (form I-797C) with the date and place of your appointment. When you attend your appointment, your fingerprints will be scanned, your signature will be taken and your photo will be taken.

STEP 4: Interview (if deemed necessary)

If USCIS decides that you need to attend an interview, it will send you interview appointment information by letter or online.

STEP 5 Application Result

USCIS will send you its decision on your visa application by letter or online.

E-1 visa application can be a complicated process, you can increase your chances of success by conducting your application with ALO!

What are the documents required for an E-1 merchant visa?

For E-1 visa application, the following documents must be submitted during the interview:

NOTE: For up-to-date information about the documents required for E-1 visa application, you can review the US Consulate's website .

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How long is the E-1 merchant visa valid?

The E-1 visa can be issued for up to 5 years in the first instance andcan be renewed through the consulates after it expires. The visa is required for entry into the US, so it is the length of stay allowed by your status that is important. E-1 visa holders have the right to reside in the US for up to 2 years. At the end of 2 years, it is possible to extend this period by applying for an extension.

There is no limit on the extension, meaning that an extension can be applied for at the end of every 2 years. Merchant visa holders can stay in the US as long as they continue their business activities in accordance with their status.


How long does it take to apply for an E-1 merchant visa?

If you are applying for the visa through the US Consulate, the time varies depending on the processing speed of the consulates in your country. The US consulate in Istanbul finalizes E2 visa applications in approximately 2-3 months.

If you are applying for a visa from within the US, the time varies depending on the processing intensity of the USCIS office where you are applying and many other factors. You can track current application processing times on the USCIS website. As of 2023, the average time for the USCIS California Office to process E visa applications is 5.5 months.


IMPORTANT: Although approximate times are given, we would like to point out that these times may vary considerably from time to time.

Is it possible to work in the US with an E-1 merchant visa?

Traders coming to the United States on an E1 visa must carry on the business activity for which the visa was obtained. Working outside the approved business activity for the E1 visa is against the E1 visa rules. 

Important tips about the E-1 merchant visa!

What is the E-1 merchant visa application fee?

Applying for an E visa through Change of Status from within the U.S. costs$460as of 2023 (I-129 form, biometric fee waived as of October 1, 2023).

Applying for an E visa from your country through the US consulate as of 2023 $315is (DS-160 form).

By submitting your application through ALO, you can avoid extra costs that may arise as a result of an error. Check our fee table based on our transparent pricing policy!

What are the advantages of the E-1 trader visa?

Can family members travel to the US with an E-1 visa?

Yes, the spouse and children under the age of 21 of an E-1 visa holder can also travel to the US on an E visa.

How many people are granted an E-1 merchant visa?

The E1 visa is not subject to a quota, in other words, there is no limit to the number of visas issued per year. Therefore, the number of visas issued each year varies.

For example, in the fiscal year 2022*, 5,848 people applied for an E1 visa. 5,383 people received an E1 visa, while 465 were rejected. In the same fiscal year, 35 Turkish nationals were granted E1 visas.

In fiscal year 2021**, 5,149 people applied for an E1 visa. 4,851 applicants received E1 visas, while 298 applicants were rejected. In the same fiscal year, 3 Turkish nationals were granted E1 visas.

October 2021-September 2023*, October 2020- September 2021**

Can I get a Green Card with an E-1 merchant visa?

You cannot get a Green Card directly with an E1 visa, but you can get a Green Card in different ways. In order to obtain a Green Card through investment, an EB 5 visa can be obtained by investing over a certain amount in the USA. After residing in the US for 2 years with an EB 5 visa, you can apply for a Green Card if the invested business meets the requirements. Apart from this If you are offered a job in the US and meet the other requirements Green Card through employment you can marry an American citizen or Green Card holder Green Card through marriage can take or Green Card lottery if you participate and win, you can still apply for a Green Card...


You can visit our article for detailed information about Green Card categories.


In order to apply for an E-1 merchant visa, the commercial activity must have already started and this trade must continue. In other words, there must be an international trade that has started and continues, and an E-1 visa must be applied for through this commercial relationship.

Trade between the US and the treaty country can be in goods, services, insurance, transportation, technology. Significant trade means that there is a steady flow of exports and imports between the two countries. While there is no specific financial expectation here, it is more important to have a continuous flow of trade in smaller proportions rather than a single large-scale trade transaction.

If you have a legal status in the US, you can apply for E-1 status with Form I-129.

Yes! Turkey is also on this list. You can also find out which countries are and which are not on the list Agreement Countries page for more information.

No. The citizenship of the spouse and children of E-1 visa holders may be different from that of the visa holder, and this citizenship may even belong to a different country than the contracting countries.

Yes. The spouse can obtain a work permit by submitting a separate application. The I-765 form can be filled out to apply for the spouse to work.

The main activity of the E-1 visa holder in the United States is to carry on the trade on the E-1 visa. In this context, the E-1 merchant visa does not authorize the person to work for another employer. If certain conditions are met, it is possible to work in the parent company or subsidiaries of the company subject to trade.

Unmarried children of E-1 Visa holders under the age of 21 can also study on an E-1 visa without applying for a student visa.

The E-1 trader visa aims for regular trade between the US and the treaty country, while the E-2 investor visa aims for investment in order to trade in the US.

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