L1 Visa Allows Overseas Ventures to US Market with Minimal Investment

The L1 Visa facilitates the entry of overseas businesses into the US market with minimal investment. Consult with a NY visa lawyer if you need legal advice on navigating the application process, ensuring compliance with visa requirements, or understanding how to maintain the validity of the visa once it has been issued.

What is the L1 visa?

This non-immigrant visa allows companies to transfer their employees under two different schemes:

  • L1A visa – This permits executives and managers to stay in the US for up to seven years.

    L1A executives and managers must meet strict requirements and have supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or a key function of the department or subdivision of the employer. They can be issued an L1A visa for a three-year period, extendable in two-year increments up to a maximum of seven years.

  • L1B visa – This allows specialized knowledge employees to enter the US for a maximum of five years.

    The L1B category includes employees with specific knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or procedures. These individuals can be issued an L1B visa for three years, extendable to a maximum of five years.

After completing the maximum allowable period in L1 visa status, the employee must work outside the United States for at least one year before applying for a new L or H visa status.

Note that the initial L1 visa for employees is usually granted for up to three years, but for a new office (operating for less than a year), it’s granted for one year.

Who is qualified for the L1 visa?

To be eligible for an L1 visa, the employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch office of the US company outside the US for at least one year within the last three years.

How is the L1 visa different from the H1B visa?

One of the advantages of the L1 visa is that there is no quota, unlike the H1B visa, which has a limited number of visas available. However, considerable documentation must be submitted for each L1 visa petition to the USCIS unless the company is a large corporation with blanket filing.

Notably, both Indian and Chinese nationals are eligible for the L1 visa category but cannot apply for the E2 and E1 visas, which are restricted to certain nationalities.

Can business owners apply for an L1 visa?

Yes. Business owners can also apply for the L1 Visa, making it an attractive option for businesses—including small ones—to expand into the US with minimal investment.

Business owners can use this visa in a few different ways:

  • Business expansion – If a business owner wants to open a new branch, subsidiary, or affiliate in the US, the L1 visa could allow them to relocate to the US to set up operations. This is commonly referred to as a New Office L1 Visa.
  • Business transfer – If the company already has a US branch, the L1 visa can be used to transfer the business owner or key employees to the US operation.

However, the business must continue to operate outside the US even after the L1 visa holder has entered the country.

How is the L1 visa different from the EB5 immigrant investor scheme?

The L1 visa allows business owners who have worked for their company outside the US for one year within the last three years to establish a business in the US without having to invest a significant amount, as required by the EB5 immigrant investor scheme (where at least $900,000 investment is needed).

The requirements for obtaining an employment-based EB1C Green Card, which leads to permanent residence in the US, are similar to those of the L1A visa category.

Many overseas executives, managers, and business owners initially come to the US on an L1A visa and later apply for EB1C as international managers or executives, as it’s one of the best ways to secure an employment-based immigrant visa (green card).

To be eligible for the EB1C, one must have worked for the business outside the US for at least one year in the last three years and must apply for the immigrant visa within two years of entering the US on an L1 visa. The US business should also have been established for at least one year before applying for the EB1C Green Card.

Leverage the L1 visa.

While the L1 visa can be an excellent opportunity for business owners to expand their operations into the US, the application process can be complex, and there are strict criteria to meet. It’s always advisable to seek legal advice when considering this option.

For legal advice on L1 Visa matters, you can contact Berd & Klauss, a boutique full-service immigration firm in New York. Our NY visa lawyer specializes in assisting companies and individuals seeking immigration benefits in the United States.