The L-1A nonimmigrant classification lets United States employers transfer executives and managers from a foreign office to a U.S.-based office – and it’s also available to companies that don’t yet have a U.S. office and want to open one.
In order to qualify, the employer must file the right paperwork with the United States government and wait for approval. This guide explains how to file the L-1A new office petition and answers some frequently asked questions about it.
What You Need To Know About The L-1A New Office Petition Process
If you are trying to open a new office in the U.S. and therefore transfer an executive or manager to work in the U.S., we can walk you through the process. Davis & Associates provides expert legal counsel for all aspects of business immigration law including the L-1A New Office Petition Process. Here is a brief summary of the L-1A new office petition process and types of documentation that is needed.
Who Can Set Up An L-1 New Office In The U.S.?
An L-1A beneficiary needs to have been employed in an executive or managerial position with the foreign entity for at least one year within the last three years.
Other requirements include:
- Managing multiple degreed professionals and other managers of the foreign business.
- Exercising wide discretionary authority over the operations of the foreign entity.
- Managing a branch or division of the foreign entity.
We generally like to see that L-1A managers/executives oversee at least 15-20 employees.
Employment for a year or more in a specialized knowledge capacity may also work in some instances, but the majority of L-1 new office filings are generally more successful with managers or executives even though the law allows for “Specialized Knowledge” transfers.
Basic Requirements for Setting Up an L-1 New Office
If a company wants to use this process to open a new office, these are other requirements the company must ensure are met:
- The employer must have secured a physical location for the new office. That means that the employer has rented or purchased a space (and can prove it with a lease or title, or another document that shows the property will be dedicated to a new office within the business).
- The employee must meet the employment requirement (which is to have been in an executive or managerial position with the same company for at least a year in the three previous years).
- The U.S. office will support the executive or managerial position (the one that the current manager or executive will be filling) within a year of the petition’s approval.
USCIS will require you to prove all of these things, so you need adequate documentation. Your attorney will help you determine what counts as adequate documentation, and if you have questions, your lawyer can answer them.
What Type Of Business Do You Want To Run?
You can set up any kind of business you want. Ideally, it would be similar to what the foreign company does, but it does not have to be. You must be able to use and apply your education and experience with the foreign employer to carry out the job functions in the U.S. Similar industries help to demonstrate this.
Things to consider:
- Start-up expenses: Start-up capital is the amount of money you estimate you will need to open the doors. This includes commercial office space to rent, furniture, goods, inventory, computers and other office equipment, needed to start the business. These expenses should be paid by the foreign entity.
- Employees: How many employees will you hire? What will their titles and job duties be?
These are all things to consider in advance of the filing. You need to have a plan to hire ideally at least 10 full-time employees within one year. Otherwise, an extension of the L-1A petition may be challenging.
How To Form A Legal Entity In The U.S.
Before we can file the L-1 Petition, you must form a company here in the U.S. You need to decide if the U.S. business will be a subsidiary of the overseas office (more than 51% owned by the foreign parent) or if the two entities will be Affiliates (same ownership structure).
Note: If you select Affiliates, the same owners must own the same or very similar percentage of each entity. For example, if Mr. Jones owns 45% of the foreign entity and Mr. Peters owns 65% of the foreign entity, they must both own similar percentages of the U.S. entity. Davis & Associates can help you determine what ownership structure best suits your business needs and objectives.
You then need to form the company in the state where the company will conduct business. The most common options are a corporation (Inc.) and a limited liability company (LLC). Either works fine for L-1. You must speak with a CPA to determine which option works better for you and your business plan.
We can connect you with our trusted providers for business formation and tax ID services if you don’t already have someone that can help you.
Opening A U.S. Bank Account For The Business
After the company is formed and tax ID is obtained, you will need to open a U.S. corporate bank account for the company. Ideally, you would transfer the funds for the start-up expenses to this bank account to facilitate the payments directly from the company office outside the U.S.
Securing A Location For The Business
Before we file the case, you must have the premises secured for the business operation. For example, if you are starting a Web Development company, you must identify and have either a lease or at least a letter of intent with a landlord for suitable space large enough to accommodate all of the staff you intend to hire to operate the business.
What Is Your Business Plan?
The most valuable piece of evidence in the L-1A New Office Petition submission is the business plan. We have relationships with excellent service providers to help with this requirement. You’re welcome to use whoever you would like to for the business plan, including software programs that can help you do it yourself, but we recommend you work with one of the companies we regularly use for that purpose.
At a minimum, the business plan must include the following:
- An explanation about who you are as an investor and what the international company is about.
- An overview of the business idea.
- Feasibility study for the area in which you intend to operate.
- Execution plan, including operations, marketing, and administration.
- Hiring plan for 5 years – ideally, you would have at least 10 full-time employees by the end of year one.
- Financial projections for 5 years.
What Will Your Title Be?
L-1A Executive/Manager must be a high-ranking employee within the U.S. company and responsible for managing multiple degreed professionals and other managers of the foreign business; exercising wide discretionary authority over the operations over the U.S. company; hiring and firing the U.S. staff, among other requirements.
We generally like to see that L-1A managers/executives will oversee at least 15-20 employees in the U.S. Mid-level managerial positions or first-line supervisor type positions are not generally suitable for L-1A transfer to the U.S.
Common Questions About Opening a New Office Under the L-1A Program
Check out these frequently asked questions about opening a new office in the United States. If you don’t see the answer to your question listed here, please call our office to ask – our team will be happy to give you the guidance you need.
How Long Can a Person Stay to Open a New Office Through the L-1A Program?
If the U.S. government allows a manager or executive to enter the country to open a new office, there’s a set period of stay. A qualified employee coming to the United States to establish a new office is only allowed a maximum initial stay of a year. However, the company can request to extend the person’s stay in increments of two years. The longest a manager or executive can stay to open a new office under the L-1A program is seven years; that’s the initial one year with three extensions of two years each.
Other employees are allowed a maximum initial stay of three years.
Can Families of L-1 Workers Come to the U.S.?
Families of L-1 workers – that is, transferring employees who are in a managerial or executive role – are allowed to bring their spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Spouses and children may be admitted in the L-2 nonimmigrant classification. If the U.S. government approves the family members to come with the L-1A applicant, their period of stay matches; that means the initial period of stay is one year for everyone involved.
Spouses are qualified for employment authorization, and children are allowed to attend school in the United States, as well. In the case of a spouse wanting to work, filling out specific forms is not necessary unless they would like an official Employment Authorization Document, or EAD. The spouse may present the EAD to employers to prove that they’re legally allowed to work in the United States. However, because it’s not typically necessary – and because there’s a filing fee associated with getting the form – it may not be worthwhile. It’s also important to note that if a spouse’s extension is approved with their sponsor’s extension, they do not need an employment authorization extension; it will continue automatically.
Speak To A Trusted Immigration Advisor Today
This baseline summary covers the most important elements of the L-1A New Office process, but there is a lot more effort that goes into preparing and submitting an L-1A New Office filing. That is why our lawyers are here to help you every step of the way.
Call us today at (214) 997-6851 for our Dallas office or (713) 322-8646 for our Houston office to book an appointment to speak with an experienced attorney at Davis & Associates. We look forward to helping you with your new business ventures.