How the L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa Can Help You Expand Your Business to the United States
Like many business owners across the world, you may have your sights set on America as the next frontier in your company’s growth. However, securing a foothold in the world’s largest and most competitive economy will take hard work and experience.
The Basics of the L-1 Intracompany Transferee VisaThe L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa, or the L-1 Visa for short, is a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. businesses to temporarily transfer certain staff from foreign offices with an existing relationship*such as a subsidiary, branch, affiliate, parent company, or joint partnership*to the U.S. office to help expand or develop its operations.
Although the L-1 Visa was created for U.S. multinational companies in mind, it also allows foreign businesses of all sizes to transfer employees to the U.S. for the purpose of establishing a new office. Moreover, the U.S. office can be a totally different industry from your existing business, providing the added benefit of allowing you to diversify your operations or cater to a specific American market.
Unlike other nonimmigrant business visas, such as the E-2 Visa, the L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa is not limited to citizens of certain countries*all nationalities can qualify provided they meet the eligibility requirements. The L-1 Visa also lacks a minimum investment requirement, making it accessible to small business and startups. Nevertheless, there are several other requirements to keep in mind.
The Requirements of the L-1 Intracompany Transferee VisaYou must file a petition for the L-1 Visa in support of the candidate, once approved the candidate will attend the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country to obtain the visa stamped. The L-1 Visa is limited to two classes of employees: managers or executives (L-1A Visa) or personnel with specialized knowledge or skills (L-1B Visa). Each subcategory has specific guidelines defining what type of employee qualifies.
For the purpose of the L-1A Visa, a manager is defined as having the ability to oversee other staff, while an executive must demonstrate a capacity to make important business decisions with broad discretion. For the L-1B Visa, the employee with specialized knowledge must have proprietary information or skills pertinent to the business. In either case, you must submit supporting documentation detailing what the employee will be doing to assist the establishment of the new U.S. office.
For both subcategories, the candidate must be a foreign national who has been employed at the foreign office for at least one continuous year out of the previous three years.
You must also prove to immigration officials that you have secured a physical location for establishing the business, such as an executed lease, real estate contract, deed, or similar documentation. Other items required in your application include a business plan detailing how you will establish the business and financial information proving your ability to pay the L-1 Visa holder.
The Blanket Petition Option for the L-1 Intracompany Transferee VisaAnother advantage to the L-1 Visa is the ability to file a blanket petition if you need more than one employee to set up a new office. This is a great way to save time and money, since you can file one petition for the whole team rather than complete individual applications for each team member. However, you must still explain why each candidate is needed for the enterprise and what role they will play in establishing it.
Duration of Stay Under the L-1 Intracompany Transferee VisaSetting up a new office can take time, which is why the L-1 Visa is usually granted for an initial duration of one to three years. Under the L-1A Visa for managers and executives, the period can be extended to a maximum of seven years, while L-1B Visa holders can get an extension of up to five years. It is important to keep these time periods in mind when drafting your business plan.