Many business owners across the world dream of expanding their reach into the United States. If you share this aspiration, you should consider the L-1 Visa, which permits foreign businesses to transfer personnel to the U.S. to open a new office.
The Basics of the L-1 Visa
Known formally as the L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa, the L-1 Visa allows foreign businesses to transfer qualifying employees from existing offices abroad to the U.S. to help establish a new office. While the new office must have a relationship with the foreign office—as an affiliate, joint venture, branch, or subsidiary—it can conduct totally different business from your existing company, allowing you to diversify your operations or cater to a specific American market.
The L-1 Visa has comparatively looser restrictions than other non-immigrant business visas: It is not limited to nationals of certain countries and lacks a minimum investment requirement, making it accessible to businesses of all sizes, including startups. Nevertheless, like any U.S. visa, there are several requirements that must be met to qualify.
The L-1 Visa Requirements
You must file a petition for the L-1 Visa on behalf of the employee you wish to transfer to the U.S. to establish the company. Once approved, the candidate must go to the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country to obtain the visa and get it stamped. However, not just any employee can be issued an L-1 Visa: the candidate must either be a manager or executive (L-1A subcategory) or must have specialized knowledge or skills (L-1B subcategory). Each classification must meet specific criteria to qualify.
Under the L-1A Visa, a manager is defined as having the ability to oversee other staff, while an executive must have the responsibility to make important business decisions with broad discretion. The L-1B Visa defines an employee with specialized knowledge as having proprietary information or skills pertinent to the operations of the business. For both subcategories, the candidate must be a foreign national and must have been employed at the foreign office for at least one continuous year out of the previous three years.
Moreover, you will have to submit supporting documentation proving that the candidate meets the above-listed requirements, and that details what they will be doing to assist the establishment of the new U.S. office. You should also submit evidence that you can afford to pay the candidate during the duration of their stay, such as previous paystubs, financial statements, and account information.
Finally, you must also prove that a physical location has been secured for the new office, such as through an executed lease, real estate contract, or deed.
The Duration of the L-1 Visa
Because a new office can take time to get off the ground, the L-1 Visa is usually granted for an initial stay of one to three years, with the option to file for an extension. For the L-1A Visa for managers and executives, the period can be extended to up to seven years, while L-1B Visa holders can get an extension of up to five years. Keep these time periods in mind when drawing up your business plan.
Our Firm Specializes in the L-1 Visa
The L-1 Visa is one of the best ways to expand your commercial footing into the U.S. That is why Jurado & Farshchian immigration attorneys are dedicated to helping business owners from around the world qualify for the L-1 Visa. From helping you properly fill out your petition, to gathering the necessary documents and reviewing your business plan, we can vastly improve your chances of obtaining this crucial gateway to the U.S.
Additional resources provided by the author
Do not wait to take advantage of the L-1 Visa: call me at (305) 921-0440 or email me at [email protected] to learn how my team can help.
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