What is an L-1A visa?
An L-1A visa permits a foreign employer to transfer an employee to a managerial or executive role at a U.S. company. The employee must have worked at the foreign company in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge role for at least a year prior to the transfer and the U.S. company must have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company, meaning the U.S. company must be a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the foreign company. Employees can generally be granted approvals from the USCIS for up to 3 years at a time and can renew the L-1A visa and remain in the U.S. for up to 7 years.
How is an L-1A visa for a new office different? What are the requirements to get the L-1A visa for a new office?
U.S. companies (or foreign company branch offices) that have been operating in the U.S. for less than one year are considered new offices. A new office L-1A visa can only be granted for one year initially. At the end of that year the applicant can apply to renew the visa and be granted an approval for two to three years.
When a company sends an employee to open a new office in the United States, the company and the employee must meet the following additional requirements:
- Obtain Office Space
For new office L-1A applications, the company must show it has secured sufficient office space to house operations during year one. What is considered sufficient will depend on the type of company and the number of employees. Ideally the office space should be large enough to accommodate all employees that currently work for the company or will be hired by the company during year 1 of operations. Companies that engage in manufacturing or hold inventory should also obtain warehouse or factory space.
- Employee Applicant Must Have Been Employed in Executive or Managerial Role for One Year
For new office L-1A visa applications, the company must demonstrate that the employee applicant has held a managerial or executive role at the foreign company for at least one continuous year in the three years prior to filing the petition. This is slightly different than the requirement when the L-1A visa is not for a new office, as in that case the employee applicant is eligible if he or she has held a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge position with the company for one year out of the preceding three years.
- The Company Must Demonstrate that It Will Hire Enough Employees for the Office to Support a Managerial or Executive Position after One Year
Another requirement is that the company demonstrate the new office will have enough staff members to support an executive or managerial position at the end of one year. The company can meet this requirement by submitting a business plan that includes a personnel table and detailed explanation of the hiring schedule. For new office applications, business plans are extremely important to the success of the application. You can read more about what should be included in a business plan for an L-1A application here.
Is an L-1A New Office Visa difficult to get Renewed?
L-1A New Office petitions are issued for a maximum of one year. One big issue associated with L-1A new office petitions is that they can be difficult to get renewed. For the most part, the renewal will be based on the number of employees you have hired and the roles of those employees. While there is no set number of employees that you have to have in place by the end of the first year, 5 full-time employees is a good number and some of these staff should have senior roles in the company. An L-1A new office application can be approved with less staff but the lower the number of full-time workers, the more scrutiny the renewal will face. In some cases if the L-1A manager or executive manages people outside of the U.S., these people can also be used to support a renewal but this relationship is less direct than U.S. workers.
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