The L-1 visa classification is for intracompany transferees who are being temporarily transferred from a foreign office location to its affiliated office in the United States — either to establish a new office, or to work in the current one. Such transferees are managers, executives or otherwise company employees with specialized knowledge. All of which must be capable of contributing to the development of the foreign company’s interests, processes and procedures. In this post, we will explore the requirements and qualifications for an L-1 new office visa.

L-1 Background

For the purposes of this article, we will discuss only the L-1 visa, as it pertains to intracompany employees being transferred to the U.S. solely for establishing a new office.

There are two categories within this visa classification, namely the L-1A and L-1B, which are detailed as follows:

  1. Intracompany transfers of managers and executives (L-1A)
  2. Intracompany transfers of employees with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests (L-1B)

A major contingency is that the transferee must have been employed in the foreign office for at least one year, within three years preceding the date they filed their L-1 visa petition.

L-1 New Office Requirements

As it relates to the L-1 visa, a new office is a parent company, affiliate, branch, or subsidiary that either does not exist yet, or has only been doing business stateside for one year or less.

Therefore, any foreign qualifying employer that expects to send an executive or manager, to establish a new U.S.-based office, must provide the following evidentiary documentation:

  • Sufficient physical premises to house the new office has been secured
  • The intended executive or manager transferee has been employed at the foreign employer for at least one year within the three years preceding the petition filing date 
  • The U.S.-based office will be able to establish and maintain the executive or managerial role within one year, upon petition approval

Evidence Required for New Office L-1

The following documentation is required in order to establish a new L-1 office in the U.S.:

  • Evidence of the foreign company or affiliate
  • Evidence of the foreign entity’s business activity
  • Evidence of the qualifying relationship between the U.S.-based company or affiliate and the foreign entity
  • Evidence of the formation and registration of a U.S.-based entity
  • Evidence that the U.S.-based physical premises have been secured
  • Evidence of the U.S.-based entity’s business plan
  • Evidence of staffing in the U.S.-based entity
  • Evidence of financial capability of the U.S.-based entity
  • Evidence of the transferee’s immigration, educational and professional documents

Once all of the evidence is gathered, the employer will need to append all evidence to a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), and send it to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Texas Service Center. 

Note, the I-129 petition is filed by the foreign employer on behalf of the intracompany transferee.

Otherwise, if a U.S.-based office has been in business for one year or less, the foreign employer will also be required to file Form I-129 for that new office. 

L-1 Employer Qualifications 

To qualify for either L-1 categories, the employer must satisfy the following qualifications:

  • Must be a qualifying organization, holding a qualifying relationship with a foreign parent company, affiliate, branch, or subsidiary
  • Currently doing business as an employer both inside the U.S. and in one or more additional countries — directly, or through a qualifying organization
  • Doing business as a regular, systematic and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying company or affiliate
  • Doing business for the entire duration of the L-1 visa holder’s stay in the U.S.
  • Must be transferring an employee with either
    • Specialized knowledge in international markets’ application of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests, or 
  • An advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures

It is worth mentioning here that even though the business must be a viable one, it need not be engaged in international trade. 

Additionally, though remote workers are theoretically permitted, there must be a primary  worksite available for the employee to be stationed at and be able to work in. 

Conversely, the company must be doing business in the U.S. and a foreign country, it cannot merely have a presence, as such situations automatically disqualify the organization from becoming an L-1 employer.

L-1 Employee Qualifications 

To qualify for either L-1 categories the employee must subsequently satisfy the following qualifications:

  • Have been employed at a foreign qualifying company or affiliate for at least one year within the three years preceding an admission to the U.S.
  • Have been employed at a foreign qualifying organization as an executive, manager or specialized knowledge employee, will continue to work in the same role in a U.S. qualifying company or affiliate

Note, if the employee owns the company or is a major shareholder of the qualifying company, he or she must demonstrate documentary evidence of the following:

  • How their services will be applied in the U.S. office
  • That their stay is temporary 
  • That when their services rendered are complete, he or she will be transferred to a foreign assignment

L-1 New Office Period of Stay

Any L-1 foreign transferee — executive, manager or other employee — being transferred to the U.S. for the sole purpose of establishing a new office is generally granted an initial period of stay of one year. The visa validity period of one year is the same for L-1A and L-1B transferees alike.

For all L-1A employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.

L-1 New Office Extensions of Stay

If it is foreseen that a transferee’s visa extension may become necessary, the L-1 employer can request additional time for him or her to continue their efforts in developing the U.S.-based new office. Such extensions are generally granted in increments of no more than two years. L-1A managers and executives may receive an extension of stay, granting them a total of up to seven years in the U.S. Otherwise, L-1B specialized knowledge employees may receive an extension for up to five years total.

FAQs For The L-1 New Office Visa

What are the primary qualifications for obtaining an L-1 visa to establish a new office in the U.S.?

To qualify for an L-1 visa to establish a new office, the foreign company must prove that it has secured adequate physical premises in the U.S. and that the employee being transferred has been working for the company abroad for at least one year within the last three years. Additionally, the U.S. office must be able to support an executive or managerial position within one year of the visa petition's approval.

What documentation is required to establish a new L-1 office in the United States?

Establishing a new L-1 office requires extensive documentation, including evidence of the foreign company's business activity, proof of a qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign entities, and registration of the U.S.-based entity. Other necessary documents include a lease or ownership of physical premises in the U.S., a detailed business plan, staffing projections, financial capability proof of the U.S. entity, and the transferee’s immigration, educational, and professional qualifications.

How long can an employee stay in the U.S. on an L-1 visa when opening a new office?

An L-1 visa initially allows a foreign transferee to stay in the U.S. for one year to establish a new office. For L-1A visa holders (managers and executives), the stay can be extended in increments of up to two years, with a maximum of seven years. For L-1B visa holders (employees with specialized knowledge), extensions can be granted for up to a total of five years.

Wrapping Up The L-1 New Office Visa

The L-1 new office visa plays a crucial role in facilitating the strategic expansion of global businesses into the U.S. market by allowing the intracompany transfer of key personnel. The comprehensive framework provided for establishing a new office under this classification requires that both the employer and the employee meet specific, stringent criteria to ensure the initiative's success and compliance with U.S. immigration laws. These prerequisites include proving the existence and viability of the foreign and U.S. entities, demonstrating continuous business operations, and establishing the professional credentials of the transferee. Adherence to these requirements ensures that the U.S.-based office can sustain the managerial or executive roles essential for its development