L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa

This classification is a good fit for those entrepreneurs who have an existing business abroad and who are coming to the U.S. to run an existing affiliated business or create a new business in the U.S.

The L-1 visa is designed for those businesses that have a foreign office and that wish to transfer an executive or manager or an employee with specialized knowledge to an affiliated U.S. office and for the purpose of establishing one.

Thus, you may be eligible for an L-1 visa if you are an executive, manager, or a worker with specialized knowledge who has worked abroad for a qualifying organization for at least one year within the 3 years preceding the filing of your L-1. The organization must seek to transfer you to the United States to work in one of the capacities listed above.

L-1A is a subcategory for managers and executives and L-1B is a subcategory for workers with specialized knowledge, who have advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes, services or products.

Initial period of stay in the United States: Up to 3 years (1 year for new office petitions). Extensions possible in up to 2 year increments. Maximum period of stay: 7 years for managers and executives; 5 years for specialized knowledge workers.

Qualifying Relationship between Foreign Entity and U.S. Business

The U.S. office must have a qualifying relationship with your foreign entity abroad where you have been employed as a manager, executive, or worker with specialized knowledge. This means that the new U.S. office must be a parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch of the foreign entity, and that both the U.S. office and the foreign entity must continue to share common ownership and control.

In practice, to qualify as a subsidiary, the U.S. office needs to be predominantly owned by the foreign parent company with the parent company holding at least 51% stock of the U.S. company.

Entrepreneur coming to the U.S. to establish a new business

This is a subcategory of L-1 visa, which is usually referred to as a “new office” L-1 petition. If you are coming to the U.S. to establish a new office, then you have to make the first steps in establishing the business in the U.S. before filing the L-1 petition.

In other words, you need to incorporate the company, secure sufficient physical space to house a new office and you need to demonstrate that after a year the new office will be fully functioning and will support your role as the manager and executive.

Business Plan is an important part of L-1 petition. It should describe the nature of the business’ proposed activities, its ability to commence doing business in the U.S., its personnel plan and financial forecasts.

Initial capitalization

Foreign entity must provide initial capitalization of the U.S. business for it to be able to start operations. The size of the investment depends on the nature of the enterprise. The investment should cover the start up costs, the costs to set up an office and to pay initial salaries to employees and other operating expenses.

Qualifying Job duties

One of the main points in L-1A is to show that after the initial office set up period of one year, you will be relieved from performing operational duties not managerial or executive in nature by other employees who will be hired within one year of operations. 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 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.

The number of employees required to relieve you from performance of non qualifying job duties is not defined in the regulations and depends on the nature of business, and is evaluated case-by-case.

Sufficient physical space must be secured for a new office

Before filing an L-1 petition, you need to secure physical office in the U.S. for at least a year’s term. The office should have sufficient space to accommodate the workers to be hired within the one year period.

While the size of physical space may vary depending on the nature of the business, an appropriate space must be secured through lease, purchase or other means.

When filing for the purpose of opening a new office in the United States, some of the evidence you may submit to demonstrate sufficient physical space for the new U.S. office to do business includes:

  • Signed lease agreement
  • Mortgages or other proof of real estate purchase
  • Business plan, marketing materials, or other descriptions of the business connecting the activity of the business with the space required
The new office must be active and operating within one year

The new office L-1 visa is meant to facilitate a “ramp up” period for the 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 is “doing business” in the U.S. 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.

Family of L-1 Visa Holders

The spouses of L-1 nonimmigrants are authorized to engage in employment, upon application to USCIS and receipt of an employment authorization document (EAD).

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