The L-1 Visa is the ideal choice for sending a foreign national Manager or Executive from an office abroad to the United States to live and work for a U.S. office, parent or subsidiary, of that foreign company. The L-1 although less often utilized for this purpose, can also be used by a foreign entrepreneur to expand their successful business into the United States, by enabling them to open up a U.S. branch or affiliated business enterprise

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The L-1 Visa is a flexible nonimmigrant visa that allows multinational companies and those with both U.S. and foreign offices, to send qualified employees from foreign offices to the United States to live and work in the United States. The employees must be sent to work either at the U.S. branch of the foreign company, or the U.S.-based parent or subsidiary of the foreign company. Additionally, the employee must have been employed abroad for the related entity, for one continuous year of the last three years,  and the employee must meet one of the following definitions for both the time they worked abroad and for their future position in the United States:

  • L-1A Executives and Managers. The conditions necessary to meet the USCIS definition of “manager” and/or “executive,” are quite stringent. To meet the “executive” definition, the employee must have had the ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight. To meet the definition of “manager,” the employee should have supervised and controlled the work of other professional employees and managed the organization or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization.  This definition may also be satisfied if the employee managed an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision from others.
  • L-1B Employees with Specialized Knowledge. To meet the definition of an employee with “specialized knowledge,” generally the employee must have attained valuable knowledge of the company’s “…product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise…” of the processes and procedures of the company.

If the employee can be said to satisfy one of these definitions above, in addition to the time requirement of having been employed in that same capacity for the foreign enterprise related to the U.S. entity, then the L-1 Visa is a particularly attractive visa option for employers and employees. Why? Well, although it is a nonimmigrant visa, it is one of the only non-immigrant visas that simultaneously allows the holder to seek routes to Permanent Residency (a Green Card), while they have it, without prejudice. Also, a route is readily provided to the employee should their employer choose to sponsor them for an EB-1C visa, which has very similar requirements to the L-1A, it is just subjected to a higher degree of scrutiny by the authorities (being an Immigrant Visa); in addition to being a more time-intensive and costly process. Additionally, the L-1 Visa is highly desirable for employers because it is not subjected to the U.S. Department of Labor’s very expensive and time-intensive, Labor Certification process. Thus, if the employer sponsors a foreign employee for the L-1 Visa, they can have a decision in as little as 15 days (if they elect to pay an extra fee for Premium Processing). Thus, this visa is a top choice for employers in the U.S. looking to bring in corporate talent from abroad; assuming the employees from abroad can fit the definitions.

The L-1A for Foreign Entrepreneurs:

While this visa is often utilized to send qualified employees from abroad to U.S. affiliated branches, parents, and subsidiaries, it can also be used by foreign national entrepreneurs to expand their operations into the United States. In doing so and growing their business, these foreign entrepreneurs and their families also gain the opportunity to live and work in the United States as part of that process. And, unlike other Non-immigrant statuses (such as the Treaty Investment Visas), the L-1A offers a direct path for pursuing an EB-1C Immigrant Visa and a Green Card; in the future, after the U.S. operation has been developed a bit. To qualify for this visa as an entrepreneur, however, there are some strict requirements. First, you’ll need to have an existing business in your country that is viable, and that you’ve had for at least a year out of the last three years. This business should be organized in the form of a Corporation ideally, even if you are the sole owner of it. If it is organized as a sole proprietorship, petitioning for this type of visa can unfortunately be much more complicated. Next, depending on how your entity abroad is organized, you may have to document that you have hired ample help and made the proper accommodations to run your foreign office in your absence. Then, in addition to documenting your importance as an owner-operator who has performed executive and/or managerial roles; and who will continue to play a vital role in developing the U.S. operation, you’re going to need to satisfy the following:

  • Display that the employer (the abroad entity) has secured sufficient physical space to house the U.S. enterprise; and,
  • Show that the intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.

Unlike using this visa in the traditional way to send Executives or Managers from abroad to work in similar capacities, at Parent and Subsidiary countries in the United States; in which case the employees will be allowed a maximum initial period of three years, entrepreneurs are only allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. HOWEVER, entrepreneurs who make use of this visa and can effectively grow the U.S. operation into something viable within a year will be allowed to seek extensions in two-year increments up to a maximum time of 7 years. Once the U.S. operation is sufficiently viable and large, the L-1A enables the alien entrepreneur who grew the operation in some cases, to apply for a Green Card under the EB-1C category. However, this can be a complicated transition for the entrepreneur and his family to make, and the advice and assistance of a qualified Immigration Attorney can be very important in obtaining a Green Card through an L-1A Visa. Unlike the EB-5 investment option, however, the L-1A is potentially available to foreign entrepreneurs who don’t have at least $500,000 dollars worth of capital available to invest. However, due to the strict initial maximum one-year validity period for employees sent to establish new offices, and the pressure to quickly make the U.S. enterprise viable and profitable (for getting an extension); the alien entrepreneur who is seeking to make use of this option, should have sufficient capital available to get their operation going in the United States. Additionally, they must have the capital available at a minimum, to make a compelling case that: (1) the U.S. office will support a managerial or executive position within a year; AND, (2) to secure sufficient physical space in the United States for the operation, as required by U.S. Immigration Law. The key questions here are, do you have a successful business abroad? Then, do you have the money and the desire to expand your current foreign business into the United StatesIf the answer to either of these questions is no, then you should probably consider the Treaty Investment Visas (E-1 and E-2), if you are entrepreneurial-minded and have a desire to start and run a business here in the United States. If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then the L-1A visa may be the right visa for you. Especially, if you have ambitions of permanently moving and living in the United States, and if you are unable to make the initial investment required for the EB-5. However, even if you determine that this visa is right for you, the journey and the road might be a long one. Thus, it is highly advisable that you seek the help of an experienced Immigration Attorney, to ensure that you have the highest chances of success possible in attaining your Immigration and Business goals. Also read about the L-VISA APPLICATION PROCESS OVERVIEW Related to I-129, PETITION FOR A NONIMMIGRANT WORKER If you’d like to hear more about similar visas based on investment and/or starting new business enterprises, please select one of the options below:

As an employer, can I obtain more than one L-1A visa for my employees at the same time?

The short answer to this question is generally no. Unless you are a very large employer, you generally have to file L-1A visa applications for each individual employee that you wish to send to the United States. However, if your company is large and has at least three or more domestic (in the U.S.) and/or foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and, if you have a U.S. office that has been doing business for at least a year, then you may be able to qualify for a blanket petition that would enable you to easily send employees to work for your U.S. office(s). Additionally, however, you would need to be able to satisfy at least one of the following three criteria in order to qualify for “blanket L visas:” (1) your organization(s) have had at least 10 L-1 approvals in the last 12-month period; (2) your organization has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates who have combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or, (3) your organization has a U.S. workforce of at least 1,000 employees. Obviously, the majority of companies do not meet these qualifications, but if you as an employer do, we are more than happy to help you put together a “blanket L visa” petition. If you do not, however, do not fear and we can also help you accomplish your immigration needs.

If I get an L visa can I bring my family with me when I come to the United States?

Yes, you can. If you are approved for an L-1 visa then generally you can bring your spouse and your unmarried children into the United States with you, for the same period of stay that you are granted, as an L-2. Your spouse will also be generally eligible to seek employment while they are in the United States by filing a form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

How much does it cost to apply for an L visa?

The current base fee for applying for an L visa is $460 dollars to USCIS, and this does not include the costs of any legal representation you may enlist or any supplemental fees associated with each application. For some larger companies that have a lot of U.S.-based L-1 and H-1B visa-holding employees, there may be some additional fees due to USCIS.

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    With more than a decade in the field, Igor Litvak has earned a reputation as a highly successful immigration attorney. Since 2012, he has represented countless corporate and individual clients in complex matters ranging from removal (deportation) to asylum, family, business, and investor petitions, and employment-based cases.

    Authorized to practice in immigrant courts throughout the United States, Mr. Litvak is licensed in the state of New York and New Jersey and may also appear before the 2nd, 3rd, and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Courts for the Southern, Northern, and Eastern districts of New York, and the New York Supreme Court. Mr. Litvak takes pride in helping clients who have been unable to get satisfactory results elsewhere. His honesty and compassion, combined with his expertise and vast knowledge of immigration law make him a formidable opponent in court – resulting in a long list of satisfied clients and positive referrals.

    Outside of court, Mr. Litvak often devotes his spare time to participation in local events and to his family. Mr. Litvak lives in Brooklyn, New York. He was born in Vorkuta, Russian Federation, a small city located north of the Arctic Circle, and lived there until he came to the United States at the age of 14 – he speaks fluent Russian. Since he was quite young, he had a strong sense of justice and a desire to advocate for others, so becoming an attorney was a natural, lifelong dream.

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