The L1 visa is most commonly used by existing organizations that have offices in the United States and abroad that wish to transfer qualifying employees from a foreign office to an office within the U.S. The two L1 visa categories available to employees of qualifying organizations are the L1A visa and the L1B visa. The L1A visa is reserved for employees within an organization that are employed in an Executive or Managerial role. The L1B visa is reserved for employees within an organization that have specialized knowledge. These are the most common uses for the L1 visa category. The less known use for an L1 visa, is the expansion of a foreign organization into the U.S. This is most commonly referred to as an L1 visa for a new office or business expansion. Although similar to the traditional L1 visa for executives and specialized knowledge employees, the L1 new business visa requires more attention to detail and forethought to be successful.
In addition to the standard criteria for an L1 visa, an L1 new business visa application must show the following before it will be considered for approval:
CORPORATE RELATIONSHIP – The new U.S. office must have a corporate 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. Simply stating that the relationship exists is not sufficient. Evidence to support the qualifying corporate relationship must accompany the application.
PHYSICAL SPACE – Evidence that sufficient physical space to support the U.S. operations has been secured. There is no way around this requirement. Proof must be submitted in the form of a lease, rental agreement, or purchase agreement. Lack of sufficient physical space to support the proposed U.S. operations can be fatal to an L1 new office application. In some cases, securing limited physical space to start operations with plans to expand to larger physical space as the business grows will be acceptable.
- DOING BUSINESS – The primary purpose of the L1 new office visa is to facilitate growth and expansion of the U.S. based operation. The L1 new business visa will be issued for a limited 1 year time period. During this initial 1 year time period the U.S. operations must be actively doing business for an extension to be granted. Whether the “doing business” requirement is met will be determined on the nature of the business. Generally this involves hiring employees, fulfilling orders, producing revenue, etc.
- EXECUTIVE CAPACITY – It is understandable that during the initial 1 year expansion of the organization a manager or executive may be involved in day-to-day tasks that are not traditionally performed by someone at the executive level. At the end of the 1 year period, however, the manager or executive must graduate from the new business phase to managerial or executive duties for the L-1 visa to be extended.
As with all applications to obtain authorization to work within the United States, it is important to determine your qualifications and the proper visa category before submitting any application. My law practice is limited to the Immigration and Nationality Laws of the United States. Within my practice I have specific experience assisting organizations from all over the world to expand their operations to the United States. Please contact me directly for assistance with your L1 new business visa application.