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What is an L-1A executive visa? How do I know if I meet the requirements? Do I need to be a CEO to qualify?

By December 17, 2020May 26th, 2021Immigration, L-1 Visa

The L-1A visa can be used by companies abroad to transfer managers or executives to the U.S. to work at an established U.S. company or to form a new office. The U.S. company must have a qualifying relationship with the company abroad and both companies must be doing business.

The L-1A executive visa is appropriate for someone who directs an entire organization, establishes goals & policies, has broad decision-making power and is at the top of the organizational chart, meaning they receive limited supervision. When they do receive supervision or direction, it should come only from senior executives, shareholders or a board of directors.  A clear-cut example of an L-1A executive is the CEO of a company abroad who is being transferred to the U.S. to hold a C-level position.

However, the L-1A executive visa is not limited to CEOs. The executive category also includes employees who direct a major part of the organization, or a particular function. In order to qualify, the applicant should generally be the most senior person directing their particular piece of the organization, setting the policies and making the executive decisions.  Common titles for L-1A executives include any C-level title, such as CFO, COO, CMO & CTO.

Having a C-level title is a good starting point, but the title alone is not enough to demonstrate that you meet the L-1A executive requirements. Additionally, you can qualify for the L-1A without a C-level title as long as you meet the requirements. Especially for small companies, it is important to include evidence showing who will be handling the administrative and non-executive tasks. When an executive is opening a new office and does not have any U.S. employees, the company should prepare a business plan that shows an aggressive hiring plan. Since the L-1A visa for a new office will only be granted for 1 year, the company must be able to show that they have hired enough employees by the end of year 1 to relieve the executive of any tasks that are not considered to be executive tasks by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. You may also try to argue that employees at the company abroad are handling these tasks, but this is a weaker argument than demonstrating that you have U.S. employees to handle the workload.

L-1A executive visas can be renewed for up to 7 years and the L visa is a dual intent visa, meaning that you can apply for a green card while on this visa. L-1A executives may be eligible to apply for the EB1C category, which is used for multinational managers and executives.

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