Opening an Office in the United States?
Understanding the L-1 Requirements for Business Expansions
International companies planning to expand into the United States may pursue L-1A visas for qualified managers and executives to transfer to the U.S. to establish and work in a new U.S. office. This visa option offers a unique opportunity for companies to establish U.S. businesses utilizing the company’s own international employees with the skills and company experience necessary for successful expansion.
Qualifying employees and companies must first meet the requirements for every L-1 visa but there are special considerations that must be addressed when the U.S. affiliate, branch, or subsidiary is a new office, meaning that the office has been open for less than one year.
The requirements for an L-1A Visa are broken down into three components:
Part A: Employee Requirements:
In order to qualify to receive an L-1A visa, an employee must:
- Have been working for the qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years, and
- That employment must have been either in an executive or managerial, or capacity, and
- The planned U.S. employment in the U.S. must also be in a managerial or executive capacity.
USCIS defines an executive as a person acting with the ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight. On the other hand, a manager is an employee with the ability to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.
Part B: Organization Requirements:
For L-1A visas, the petitioning U.S. company must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, or other entity demonstrating common ownership or control; and
- Be doing business in the United States and in at least one other country with the required qualifying relationship for the duration of the employee’s stay in the United States as an L-1.
Part C: Operational Requirements:
For Managers and Executives qualifying for a new office L-1A visa, an international company must demonstrate that:
- The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office (i.e. through a lease) AND
- The intended new office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of approval of the L-1A Petition (i.e. through business plans, organization charts, projections, etc.)
These new office L-1A visas will only be issued for an initial period of one year
Prior to the expiration of the L-1A visa, the company must file for an extension and demonstrate that the new office is in fact fully functioning and supporting the manager or executive as outlined in the initial petition.
After one year, a company can file a 3-year extension. The USCIS will thoroughly examine such petition to make sure that the business conditions after one year are corresponding with those stated in the initial petition. In other words, most of the projections regarding the new business made in the initial petition should come true after one year. This is especially important in terms of the company’s hiring plans. What the regulations are concerned the most is creating jobs. The USCIS will be looking for pay records and other documents supporting the initial statement that the new office will hire people.
It is very important to create a solid strategy for both: the initial filing and extension. When we work with our clients, we scrupulously learn their business plans. We determine realistic expectations and make only feasible claims that limit the chances of denial.
L-1 New office visas are a great option for companies to begin business in the United States utilizing current employees. However, adequately demonstrating the requirements for this visa for a new office involves complex analysis and planning.
If your company is planning an expansion into the United States and you would like to bring your current employees, please contact ilexlaw today for your free consultation!