Businesses that function both in the United States and in their home country gain unique benefits. An L-1 visa can work for both multinational companies with a well-established U.S. office and newly registered U.S. start-ups. This visa allows global companies to transfer its foreign employees to their U.S. office. This visa also enables foreign entrepreneurs who own businesses abroad to transfer themselves as executives or managers and develop their business in the United States.
The L-1 visa is referred to as the ‘intra-company transferee’ visa. It comes in the following categories: 1) L-1A visas for executives and managers and 2) L-1B visas for personnel with specialized knowledge.
A transferred employee’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are allowed to join him in the U.S. under L-2 status. A spouse in L-2 visa status can apply for an unlimited work authorization in the U.S. Children are not allowed to work under L-2 visa status, but can attend school or college. Servants may be eligible for a B-1 visitor visa with work authorization.
Stelmakh & Associates, LLC takes pride in successfully obtaining L-1 visas for transferred executives and specialized knowledge employees of well-known multinational companies, as well as assisting newly registered U.S. start-ups with their L-1 visa needs. For example, we have recently obtained L-1 visa approvals for the following clients:
- Conditional 1-year L-1A transferred executive visa and 3 subsequent 2-year extensions for a CEO of a social media start-up based in San Francisco, California;
- 3-year L-1A transferred manager visa and subsequent green card for a business manager of an established software development company with offices in Silicon Valley, California and Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine
- Conditional 1-year L1A transferred manager visa and 2 subsequent 2-year extensions for President of a business consulting company in Miami, FL
Which Companies Qualify to Transfer Employees to the United States?
Only those companies that exactly meet the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) definitions of a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate qualify to petition for an L-1 intra-company transferee visa. These definitions are very precise and require an analysis of both the foreign and U.S. ownership of the related companies. Both the foreign and U.S. related companies must be doing business for the entire time that the L-1 employee is working in the U.S.
L-1 Visa for a New U.S. Start-Up
L-1 visa can be an excellent option for newly registered U.S. start-ups and foreign entrepreneurs who would like to expand their business into the U.S. market and transfer themselves as executives or managers. There are legal provisions to allow a new office to open in the U.S. and its executives and transferred employees to obtain L-1 visas, provided that evidence is submitted to USCIS to prove that the new office has a suitable physical place to do business, a qualifying business structure with a foreign related entity exists, a viable business plan is in place, and the employer has the financial ability to pay the employee and to begin incurring business expenses and doing business in the U.S. Immigration attorneys at Stelmakh & Associates, LLC can assist you with documenting your L-1 start-up visa petition and professional business plan preparation.
Which Employees Qualify as L-1 Intracompany Transferees?
The L-1 visa enables the transfer of managers, executives, and specialized knowledge personnel. The definition of manager includes an employee who manages an essential function of the business within an organization. An executive directs the management of the organization, establishes its goals and policies, exercises wide latitude in discretionary decisions, and receives only general supervision from the organization’s owners. Specialized knowledge employees must have special knowledge of the organization’s products, services, research, equipment, management, or other interests, and its application in international markets, or an advanced knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. Classifying the employee in the correct category is important, particularly if the company might later sponsor the employee for permanent residence.
To obtain an L-1 visa, you must be able to prove that you have continuously worked for the affiliated non-U.S. company for at least one full year within the three years preceding the time of your application for admission into the U.S. on L-1 visa.
How Long Can L-1 Visa Holders Remain in the United States?
If your U.S. company has been doing business in the U.S. for more than 1 year, you are eligible to apply for a 3-year L-1 visa. If your U.S. company has been doing business less than 1 year, you will be able to apply for a 1-year conditional L-1 visa by submitting a detailed business plan for your U.S. start-up operation and availability of investment funds for initial business expenses. In the end of your first year on L-1 visa, assuming your U.S. start-up company continues to do business and can afford to employ its L-1 employee, we can assist you to file for 2-year L-1 visa extensions.
A Green Card for L-1A Visa Holders
Please note that L-1A visa holders, transferred executives and managers, might have an option to apply for greed cards for themselves and their family members after working on L-1A visa for 1 year under EB1(c) immigration regulations.
L1 Visa Steps
The employer must file a petition with the USCIS Regional Service Center with jurisdiction over the location of the position. The USCIS will inform the employer of acceptance or denial of the petition within 15 days, if the employer pays an expedited processing fee, and within 1-2 months in case of regular processing. If your petition is not approved due to missing information or a need for clarification, USCIS will request further documentation. Your employer will have 12 weeks to respond. Upon approval, the USCIS will forward the petition to the U.S. Consulate nearest an employee’s place of residence for review. If you are not in the U.S. when your petition is approved, you must get your visa stamped at the U.S. Consulate before being allowed to enter the U.S.
Blanket Petition: A blanket petition eases the process of getting the L-1 visa. If a company has been defined as a blanket petition entity by USCIS, the company can directly authorize L-1 visas to eligible employees.
Documents for L1 Visa Petition
Employer’s I-129 petition should show that both the U.S. and foreign-based company meet USCIS requirements for L-1 status. The U.S. entity should be a branch office, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign enterprise and both companies should be actively engaged in business.
The following supporting documents may also be required:
- A letter from your prospective U.S. employer on company letterhead detailing your position and the U.S. operation’s status
- Documents proving that the U.S. and foreign entities are affiliated and engaged in business
- Proof of the size and status of the U.S. and foreign entities
- Documents that detail the value of the applicant’s skills in regards to the U.S. entity
You, the employee, should provide the following documents:
- A resume or curriculum vitae
- Copy of your passport ID page, current US visa and I-94 cards, if any
- Copies of passports for family members joining you
- Proof of education: degrees, transcripts, etc
- Reference letters from current and former employers
- Professional licenses, if applicable
If you are coming to the U.S. to start a new office, you should also provide the following documents:
- Proof of a building and physical location for the new office
- Proof of your corporate and business relationship with the foreign entity
- Proof of financial resources (e.g., investment). You must show that you can pay your U.S. employees and handle any other business costs in the U.S.
To apply for an L-1 Visa in the U.S. Consulate abroad, you must prepare the following documents:
- A receipt for an electronically filed visa application Form DS-156.
- One recent photograph of each applicant, with the entire face visible. The picture should be taken before a light background and without head covering.
- A passport, valid for travel to the United States for at least six months longer than your intended visit.
- Employee copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action (please note that the original Form I-797 might still be required by some Consulates)
- A copy of the submitted employer’s petition – Form I-129 and the L Supplement.