The L-1 visa allows companies abroad to transfer executives, managers and employees with specialized skills and knowledge to U.S. companies with whom they have a qualifying relationship. An L visa is a good option for a foreign company that that seeks to send an employee to work at an existing U.S. company. An L visa is also a good option for a foreign company trying to send an employee to open a new office in the United States. The employee must have a particular set of skills and either be a manager/executive or have particular specialized knowledge. In the past, L visas were relatively easy to get approved but the past few years have seen a rampant increase in Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials of L petitions. This is particularly the case for applicants applying under the specialized knowledge category or those seeking to extend a visa that was granted for a new office. The relatively new scrutiny makes an L visa an extremely document intensive visa that must be navigated carefully.
In order to obtain an L-1 visa, there must be a company abroad that is a parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch of the US company. Additionally, both companies must be doing business. (These are the two key requirements that require the disclosure of sensitive company information and these requirements are the focus of this blog post. To read more about all L-1 requirements, please click here).
To demonstrate that the companies have a qualifying relationship and are actively doing business, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services traditionally wants to see sensitive company information, such as corporate formation documents, annual reports, tax returns, audited financial statements and customer contracts, among other things. For new or smaller U.S. companies, it is strongly recommended to submit as much documentation as possible to prove that the companies have the qualifying relationship and that they are both active and viable companies. However, larger companies that have a demonstrated track record of success may be able to submit alternative documents as detailed below.
Documents to prove there is a qualifying relationship between companies
Instead of corporate formation and ownership documents, such as the Certificate of Incorporation, Articles of Organization, share registry or stock certificates, large, established organizations can provide a statement written by an authorized company official, such as the president or corporate secretary, that describes the ownership and control of each qualifying organization. The government recommends that the statement be accompanied by supporting evidence, such as a copy of the most recent annual report or Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Documents to prove both companies are doing business
If a company does not want to disclose its tax returns, it may submit a letter from the company’s public accounting firm confirming that it has a significant amount of revenue. For this approach to be successful, the company should generally be making several million dollars in revenue. If the company would prefer to keep client contracts confidential, it can submit letters from key clients confirming the commercial relationship. Additionally, any major media that demonstrates the company is well-known and active could be used to demonstrate the ongoing nature of the business.
If a company is large, established and successful but has not yet crossed the threshold of being able to qualify for a blanket L petition, the company can try to avoid disclosing too much sensitive information by submitting the alternative evidence discussed above. However, in recent years L-1 visas have become increasingly difficult to get, and companies should be prepared that the government can always ask for more documentation to prove all L-1 requirements have been met.
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