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The L-1A visa enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one. It also enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. The following information describes some of the features and requirements of the L-1 nonimmigrant visa program.
- The petitioning U.S. entity must have a qualifying relationship (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate) with your entity abroad.
- Sufficient physical space must be secured for a new office. The business must be viable, and currently must be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the U.S. as an L-1.
- A new office must be active and operating within one year after the L-1’s admission to the U.S. if requesting an extension of stay.
- The “new office” L-1 visa is meant to facilitate a “ramp up” period for a new U.S. office of a foreign entity. This period is limited to one year. After that time, an extension of the L-1 visa is available if the new office meets this requirement. What makes an office active and operating will differ depending on the nature of the business. Typically, it will involve factors such as hiring additional employees, fulfillment of contract orders, having a revenue stream, or holding inventory, if applicable
- After 1 year the new office must support a managerial or executive position if you are requesting an extension of stay in the L-1A classification.
For foreign employers seeking to send an employee to the U.S. as an executive or manager to establish a new office, the employer must also show that:
- The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office;
- The employee has been employed as an executive or manager for 1 continuous year in the 3 years preceding the filing of the petition; and
- The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within 1 year of the approval of the petition. During the first year ramp up, a manager or executive may be required, as a practical matter, to engage in many “hands-on” tasks that go beyond inherently managerial or executive tasks. After the first year, however, the manager or executive will be required to focus primarily on managerial or executive tasks in order to obtain an extension of the L-1 visa.
- Executive capacity generally refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight.
- Managerial capacity generally refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.
- If the petitioning employer is a small business, in addition to a statement of an authorized official regarding ownership and control of each qualified organization, other evidence of ownership and control should be submitted, such as records of stock ownership, profit and loss statements or other accountant’s reports, tax returns or articles of incorporation, by-laws and minutes of board meetings.
- If the petitioning employer is sending the beneficiary to open a new office in the United States, proof of ownership and control, in addition to financial viability, is required. The petitioner’s statement of ownership and control should be submitted along with appropriate evidence, such as evidence of the capitalization of the company or evidence of financial resources committed by the foreign company, articles of incorporation, by-laws, minutes of board of director’s meetings, corporate bank statements, profit and loss statements or other accountant’s reports, or tax returns.
Evidence of Staffing
While there is no specific number of hires specified in the regulations, a company should hire as many individuals as is needed to conduct United States business operations so as to meet its financial goals. USCIS requires that within the first few months of operation, the United States entity demonstrates a growth in personnel.
Business Plan for United States Entity
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will want to review the United States petitioner employer’s business plan. This document may be less detailed than what would be submitted to an investor, but would need to summarize and describe aspects of the United States business operations such as: a mission statement or description of the business activity; short and long term business goals; a staffing plan that describes how many employees the United States petitioner employer will hire in the first year and over the next five years; the financial projections of the United States entity including anticipated revenue and costs; expected customers and/or business contracts, etc.
Authorized Periods of Stay for New Office L1 Petitions
- While L1 visas are typically granted initially for a 3-year period of time, New Office L1 petitions are granted a one (1) year period of stay initially.
- The L1A category has a 7-year maximum period of stay.
L-1 is a Dual Intent Visa
Note that one of the privileges of the L1 visa, as opposed to many other nonimmigrant visas, is that it is a ‘dual intent’ visa. In other words, under the terms of the L-1 visa, the L-1 visa holder may apply for a Green Card and become a permanent resident without jeopardizing his/her L-1 visa status or their visa applications from a U.S. consular office abroad.
Please contact me at email@example.com or by phone at (713) 999-5287 to discuss your specific situation if you are interested in the L1 visa program.