L-1 visa: Being the economic capital of the world, the United States has attracted some of the finest multinational corporations in the world to establish their offices here. Foreign entrepreneurs, company owners, chief executive officers, business proprietors and managers who are interested in establishing their corporate presence in the U.S. would do well to read this chapter very carefully.
Are you an executive or manager of a company located outside of the U.S.?
Do you have specialized knowledge about your company?
Does your company have an office in the U.S., or would your company like to establish a branch office in the U.S.?
If you found yourself answering “Yes” to one or more of the above questions, then the L visa may be a great choice for you! Many foreign companies looking to expand and maximize their income wish to establish their businesses in the United States. L visas were specifically created to facilitate the needs of these multi-national corporations with little restriction. An L visa is mainly used by those having executive or managerial positions in a foreign company, who intend to come to the U.S. to provide support for their new or existing business. L visas are also used by foreign nationals who have “specialized knowledge,” or a detailed understanding of the company’s products, services, procedures, etc.
Types of L Visas:
- L-1A: Meant for foreign nationals in executive or managerial capacities;
- L-1B: Meant for employees with specialized company knowledge;
- L-2: Spouses and children of L-1 visa holders.
What are the requirements for L visa?
There are different requirements for L visa applicants with existing corporate offices in the U.S. and for those companies intending to establish new offices in the U.S.
Companies with an office already in the United States must prove:
- That the company in the U.S. has a relationship with the foreign company either as a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations;
- That the company is or will be doing business as an employer in the United States and with the foreign company during the L visa holder’s stay in the United States; and,
- That the foreign company owns at least half of the U.S. subsidiary and has veto powers over that subsidiary, or vice versa.
What does “doing business” mean?
“Doing business” does not just mean that there are offices and employees located in the U.S. and the foreign country. The company has to prove that it has continuous and regular dealings with goods or services both in the U.S and abroad.
Can a foreign corporation director or manager come and set up an office in the United States?
Yes, managers and directors of foreign corporations generally enter the United States on a B-1 or a B-2 visa (visitor’s visa). After consulting an experienced immigration attorney, the manager or director can establish a branch office in the United States. This can help the manager or director to acquire an L-1A visa and stay in the United States. Companies looking to establish an office in the United States must prove the following:
- That the company has leased enough office space in the U.S. to establish itself;
- That the L visa applicant has been employed as an executive or manager for at least one year and;
- That the U.S. office will be able to financially support the L visa applicant as their executive or manager.
An employee applying for the L visa is required to prove the following:
- That he or she has been working for the company abroad for at least one (1) year without interruption. The continuous year must have been within three (3) years of the employee’s entry to the U.S.; and,
- That the employee wants to enter the U.S. to perform executive or managerial services, or that he or she possesses specialized knowledge necessary to the branch in the U.S. or one of the companies connected to the one the employee is working for abroad.
What does “executive” and “managerial” capacity mean?
- “Executive capacity” generally means that the foreign national directs the management of the company and can make decisions without much supervision. “Managerial capacity” generally means that the foreign national can supervise and control the work of employees and manage the company and its departments.
What does having “specialized knowledge” mean for the L-1B visa category?
- “Specialized knowledge” generally means a very detailed understanding of the company’s products, services, procedures, etc. that could have been obtained only through experience with that particular company.
How long can I stay in the U.S. on an L Visa?
- If you are entering the U.S. to set up a new office, you will be allowed to stay for one (1) year. For those companies with offices already established in the U.S., the maximum stay is three (3) years. You can request an extension of your L visa and, if granted, you may be allowed to stay for an additional period of two (2) years. The time limit in the U.S. is a maximum of seven (7) years for L-1A visa holders and five (5) years for L-1B visa holders.
Can my family accompany me to the U.S. on an L visa?
- Yes. The spouses and children under twenty-one (21) years old of an L-1 visa holder will be issued L-2 visas. Generally, they will be allowed to remain in the U.S. for the duration of the L-1 visa holder’s stay. Your spouse and children under 21 can work in the U.S. only after he or she receives employment authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- If your company is looking to expand their business to the U.S. and would like to send you in an executive or managerial capacity, then the L visa may be a viable option. Please recognize that there are specific conditions that the foreign company must meet in order for a company employee to obtain an L visa. The good news is that an L-1 visa holder will not have to undergo the burdensome Labor Certification process, if the U.S. company intends to sponsor the foreign national for their green card.