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Understanding L-1 Requirements: Q&A for a New U.S. Office

Young business man standing in front of his co-workers  talkingYou may be eligible for an L-1 visa for “intracompany transferees” if you are an executive, manager or worker with specialized knowledge who has worked abroad for a qualifying organization for at least one year within the three years preceding the filing of your L-1 petition.

Key Requirements to Apply for an L-1 Visa:

  1. The petitioning U.S. entity must have a qualifying relationship with your entity abroad;
  2. Sufficient physical space must be secured for a new office;
  3. A new office must be active and operating within one year after the L-1’s admission to the United States if requesting an extension of stay;
  4. After one year the new office must support a managerial or executive position if you are requesting an extension of stay in the L-1A classification.

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning These Requirements:

Requirement 1: The new U.S. office must have a corporate relationship with your foreign entity abroad. The new U.S. office must be a parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch of the foreign entity, and both the U.S. office and the foreign entity must continue to share common ownership and control.

Q: How do I demonstrate that my new business in the United States has a qualifying relationship with a foreign company?

A: Evidence you may submit to demonstrate a corporate relationship to your overseas employer includes:

  • Articles of incorporation showing common ownership of the U.S. and foreign entities;
  • Business licenses or other documents showing common ownership of the U.S. entity;
  • Annual reports describing the corporate structure;
  • Contracts or other documents detailing the affiliate relationship;
  • Corporate filings in the United States or abroad describing the corporate relationship; or
  • Any other evidence demonstrating ownership and control over the U.S. and foreign entities (i.e., stock purchase agreements, voting rights agreements, capitalization table, term sheet).

Q: How do I demonstrate that I have worked the required amount of time abroad?

A: Evidence you may submit to document your overseas employment for one out of the last three years includes:

  • Pay stubs;
  • Payroll records;
  • Tax returns that show employment; or
  • Evidence of work product. 

Q: How do I show that my overseas employment was in a qualifying capacity?

A: Evidence you may submit to demonstrate that your overseas employment was in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge capacity includes:

  • Organization charts showing your position;
  • Patents or other evidence of the company’s technology, products or services that are based on your work;
  • Performance reviews;
  • Loans/financing on behalf of the company;
  • Organizational job descriptions for your position and those positions that reported above and/or below you, if applicable; or
  • Resume describing your job accomplishments.

Requirement 2: An appropriate amount of physical space must be secured through lease, purchase or other means.

Q: How do I prove that the new U.S. office has sufficient space to do business?

A: Evidence you may submit to demonstrate sufficient physical space includes:

  • Signed lease agreement;
  • Mortgages or other proof of real estate purchase; or
  • Business plan, marketing materials or other descriptions of the business connecting the activity of the business with the space acquired.

Requirement 3: The new office L-1 visa is meant to facilitate a “ramp up” period for a new U.S. office of a foreign entity. This period is limited to one year. After that time, an extension of the L-1 visa is available if the new office is active and operating.

Requirement 4: While a new office may be opened on an L-1 visa by someone working within your organization in a managerial, executive or specialized-knowledge capacity, after one year the office must be sufficiently active to support a manager or executive. After the first year, the manager or executive will be required to focus primarily on managerial or executive tasks in order to obtain an extension of the L-1 visa.    

Q: After one year, how do I demonstrate that the new office is fully functioning and that it will support my role as a manager or executive?

A: Evidence you may submit to demonstrate that the new office is fully functioning includes:

  • Purchase orders, contracts or other evidence of commercial activity;
  • Payroll records for employees hired;
  • Bank statements;
  • Financial reporting documents showing monthly income;
  • Continued venture capital or other third party investment contribution based on achieved milestones;
  • Media coverage of the business; or
  • Position descriptions providing the roles and responsibilities of all current employees, or other evidence which clearly demonstrates how the manager or executive is relieved of non-qualifying duties.

If you’ve determined that the L-1 visa category is the best option for you or you have further questions about the process, please contact our office today to set up a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.