L-1A Visa Options for Intra-Company Transferees
The L-1A Visa, also known as the intra-company transferee visa, applies to executive managers or high-ranking managers within a foreign organization outside the U.S. These executive managers can be reassigned from their foreign company or employer to work in a U.S. branch office of the foreign company for a period not exceeding seven years.
The L-1A Visa is typically issued to executive managers who can prove employment with the foreign company for a minimum of one continuous year during the preceding three years.
Additionally, the two entities must have a legal relationship such as parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch. The transferee must have at least one year of employment as an executive manager with direct management skills (supervising the work of other professionals) or possessing the hiring and firing authority over other employees. This classification does not apply to first-line or low-level managers.
The spouse of the transferee, along with any unmarried children/minors, is entitled to admission into the U.S. with an L-2 visa status. A spouse is entitled to employment authorization during the entire period of their L-2 status.
While the L-1A is a useful tool to transfer and relocate foreign managers to related U.S. companies, other visa classifications to consider include the E-2 (for eligible countries), EB-5, and H-1B.
Doing Business and Qualifying Relationships
Throughout the foreign executive manager’s stay in the U.S., the organization must be “Doing Business” through entities within both the U.S. and one foreign country that qualify under what is referred to as a “qualifying relationship,” such as an affiliate or branch. The definition of “Doing Business” involves the continuous, systematic, and regular provision of goods and/or services, excluding the mere presence of an office or agent of the foreign company in the U.S.
The transferee must have worked in an executive or managerial capacity during the three years preceding the filing of the L-1A petition. For example, working as an independent freelancer or contractor does not satisfy this requirement.
It is important to note that having the “executive manager” title or working in some managerial positions may not be considered executive under the statute. For instance, there must be a sufficient number of staff (typically three people) for the executive manager to oversee in order to perform the daily operations of the foreign company. The foreign company must demonstrate that its U.S. office will operate at a level requiring the same duties and responsibilities as an executive manager.
Qualifying for a Green Card
The L-1A has no annual limitations on the number of petitions that can be granted, unlike other petitions such as the H-1B. There are no specific wage requirements, also known as the prevailing wage, for L-1A employees. Moreover, L-1A employment should be temporary.
Although an L-1A applicant may qualify for a Green Card petition after one year from obtaining the L-1A petition, the U.S. Department of Immigration requires the L-1A petitioner to prove that the executive manager will depart the country after completing their temporary employment in the U.S.
Wages for the U.S. employment can be paid by the U.S. entity or the foreign company. The executive manager coming to open a new office may be admitted to the U.S. for an initial period not exceeding one year, which can later be extended up to seven years, allowing immigration authorities to screen the start-up business.
Immigration has placed certain requirements to meet the statutory elements of opening a “new office.” The new office must demonstrate that the U.S. entity and its operation will satisfy the “Doing Business” requirement within a year.
For new offices, the following must be met to satisfy the statutory requirements:
- Leasing or purchasing physical premises to house the new operation. It should be noted that virtual offices are not recommended and are more likely to adversely affect the L-1A petition.
- Securing sufficient financial support to sustain the new office. This can be satisfied by a letter from the board of directors pledging to dedicate certain capital to support the new office.
- A business plan is important to show the organizational structure of the foreign and U.S. offices. The business plan must be credible and based on tangible facts and sound business principles, not just mere speculation.
- Ensure that the office you plan to open in the U.S. does not require certain licenses or governmental approvals, such as those for liquor stores, etc.
- Obtaining a federal employment number to facilitate opening bank accounts, hiring employees, and more.
In summary, the L-1A Visa provides a valuable option for intra-company transferees, allowing executive managers to work in the U.S. for up to seven years. It is essential to meet specific requirements to qualify for this visa, including demonstrating a qualifying relationship between the foreign and U.S. entities, proving the executive manager’s experience and qualifications, and satisfying the requirements for opening a new office in the U.S.