How to expand your business to the US and get a work visa

How to expand your business to the US and get a work visa

L-Visa for Entrepreneurs

The L-Visa is a type of visa that can be used by entrepreneurs to get a work permit in the US. 

For entrepreneurs to be eligible for this visa, there has to be a qualified business abroad and employment relationship with that business. It can also only be used for certain positions, such as managerial and executive positions (L1A), or for specialized workers (L1B). 

Benefits of the L-Visa

  • May be able to skip the PERM process when transitioning to green card (permanent residence). 
  • Can apply for permanent residence from within the US
  • Not limited to treaty countries (like the E-visas). 
  • No size restrictions, though smaller businesses may have to submit more evidence.
  • No minimum required education. 
  • No minimum or prevailing wage (like for H1B visas). 
  • No limited visa quotas. 
  • Employee’s salary can be paid by either the US company or the foreign company.
  • The foreign company can pay for the new US office (the investment does not have to come from the applicant's personal savings).

L-Visa Definitions

L1A Manager Definition

  • Managers typically supervise professional workers (for example, managing two-person accounting team typically has a greater chance of success than production supervisors who manages shifts of hourly employees at a factory [first-line supervisors]).

L1A Executive definition

  • An “executive” has similar duties to those of a manager but on a broader scale, by exercising more senior-level responsibility for directing numerous departments, divisions, and business units. For example, a Human Resources Manager has responsibility for all benefits and employment activities for a team of Sales Representatives and directs those activities through teams of Human Resources Associates and Assistants.

Entrepreneurial Applications for L-Visa

  • The sole employee of a company may qualify as an executive or manager, for L visa purposes, provided his or her primary function is to plan, organize, direct and control an organization’s major functions through other people.
  • An employee who primarily performs the tasks necessary to produce a product or to provide services” is not considered to be employed in a managerial or executive capacity.

L1B Specialized Worker Definition 

  • Specialized knowledge” is “special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets” or “an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company”. The L-1B visa category may be understood as allowing a transferee to infuse the U.S. operations with specialized knowledge gained abroad. 

L-Visa Program Requirements

  • Company must be doing business in at least 1 other country directly or through a qualifying organization.
  • It is not enough to have an office or presence in another country, you must be able to show the business abroad provides goods or services, during the entire period of time the company wishes to hire the L-employee.
  • Both the foreign company and the US company must have a qualifying relationship (parent company, subsidiary, affiliate/sister company, branch office). 
  • The nature of the L visa is that it creates a bond between a foreign business and its United States counterpart. As such, the company must maintain its status as a functional company outside of the United States for L visa holders to maintain their status. 
  • Employees transferred on an L visa should be previously employed by the company for at least one year of the previous three-year period. 
  • Can be tricky as a sole proprietor/ partnership because it must show a separate employment entity from the employee being transferred. There is a heavier burden to establish a separate business/ economic identity of the company. 
  • If an entrepreneur plans to close their foreign business once their business is open in the United States, the L visa will not work.
  • The US investment and foreign company must have the ability to remunerate the beneficiary and to commence doing business in the United States. 
  • The US company must have sufficient physical premises secured.

L-Visa New Office Requirements 

  • New office means that the US branch has been doing business in the US for less than 1 year. 
  • Sufficient physical presence (virtual office and PO box typically not sufficient). 
  • Must show that within 1 year, the US will support a US managerial/ executive position. 
  • Approved for an initial period of 1 year, for extensions must present evidence that business is active and operating.

Investment Amount for L-Visa 

  • No minimum investment amount. 
  • However, investment must be sufficient enough to cover overall costs and expenditures so that it can easily support executive and managerial positions within 1 year of its initiation. 
  • Must be able to show a positive return on investment. 

Initial L-visa work permit duration 

  • Initial employees to set-up a new office can stay for 1 year 
  • Once the office is set-up, employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of 3 years. 

Family members on L-Visa

  • Family can come on L2 Visas and can apply for employment authorization document.

Approval rates of L-Visa (chances of success) 

  • As long as all qualifications are met, good chance of success. 

Conditions for L-Visa Work Permit Extension 

  • Extension granted in increments of up to 2 years.
  • Has a limit of 7 years for executives/ managers. 

Conditions for permanent residence from L-Visa

  • Can apply for permanent residence in the US (considered a benefit of the L-Visa)
  • An example of a pathway for permanent residence would be to go from an L1A visa to EB1 Multinational Manager Petition (I-140) where PERM certification is not required. 
  • If applying for permanent residence, the process should be started before L1A visa expires. 

Timelines for L-Visa

  • Regular processing is a couple weeks - 6 months 
  • Expedited premium processing available - 15 days (+$2500)

How can a lawyer help with my L-Visa application?

A lawyer can help you strategize to structure the business for success, taking into account all eligibility requirements. A lawyer can also help you explore other visa options if the L-visa is not right for you. 

The first step is to schedule a strategy session to discuss your options, eligibility, and any questions you may have about the process. To schedule a strategy session, here's a link to our calendar. 

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