I am the CEO of a group of three very small foreign companies (2 employees). My companies have been up and running for 1 1/2 years. I would like to move to the US and either develop my current business there or start a new business. But I am not ready yet to employ a US worker. I currently live and work in Europe.
Initially USCIS will probably give you some deference and may approve a new office L fro 1 year, even if you have not yet hired any employees. By the end of the first year USCIS will want to see that the business has become more than just a job for you. So yes you should have at least 1 other employee by then to maximize your chance of getting the visa renewed. Additionally, after the company has been up and running for at least a year you could potentially apply for a green card as a multi-national executive. Both the immigrant and non-immigrant visas require that you keep the overseas company up and running.
L-1A cases are fairly complicated for new business start-ups. Obviously you wont' have any employees until the U.S. company can be created, but your business plan has to show how you are going to be a manager or executive of the enterprise. That usually requires having employees to do the front line work of the company. You need to consult with an immigration attorney who has experience in L-1A start-ups and dealing with the sometimes onerous requirements of USCIS in adjudicating these cases.
Discuss your options privately with an immigration attorney. A "new office" L is similar to an E, but you'll want someone to go through the different visas with you in much more detail than can be done here on AVVO. With either, you'll be making a huge investment, and you should not proceed on the basis of self-help or Internet research. You'll end up losing everything.
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