L-1 Visa to Open a New Office in the United States

September 6, 2016 | Corporate

The L-1 visa permits employees working abroad to enter the United States and work as a manager, executive, or worker in a specialized knowledge capacity.  Many United States companies petition for L-1 visas so that high-level executives can transfer from a foreign office to an existing U.S. office, but employees may also be eligible for an L-1 visa to open a new office in the United States.

To qualify for the “new office” L-1 visa category, the U.S. company and the foreign national employee must meet the ordinary requirements for an L-1 visa.  For example, the employee must have been employed abroad for at least one continuous year during the three years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.  Additionally, the new U.S. office must demonstrate a qualifying relationship with the foreign entity abroad.  A qualifying relationship may be between parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary company.  A qualifying relationship can be demonstrated by presenting articles of incorporation demonstrating common ownership of the U.S. and foreign entities, annual reports describing the corporate structure, and any other evidence demonstrating ownership and control over both the foreign and the U.S. entity.

To qualify for the “new office” L-1 visa category, the petitioner must meet two additional requirements.  First, the petitioner must prove that there are sufficient physical premises in the new U.S. office to house the beneficiary.  Although the type of proof will vary based on the nature of the business, a petitioner can establish sufficient physical premises by presenting a copy of an executed lease of the new office or photographs of the U.S. entity’s office location, among other ways.

Second, the petitioner must demonstrate that, within one year of the approval of the petition, the U.S. organization will support the beneficiary. This can be demonstrated by the following:

  • the proposed nature of the office describing the scope of the entity, its organizational structure, and its financial goals;
  • the size of the United States investment and the financial ability of the foreign entity to remunerate the beneficiary and to commence doing business in the United States; and
  • the organizational structure of the foreign entity.

8 C.F.R. 214.2(l)(3)(v).

In sum, L-1 visas are not reserved for high-level executives transferring from a foreign office to an existing U.S. office in a related company.  A foreign national employed abroad, under the proper circumstances, can be eligible for an L-1 visa to open a new office in the United States.

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