What is the L-1 visa?
An L-1 is a visa which allows you to do business in the United States, if you are an executive or key employee of the US company which is a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company.
- What is the L-1 visa?
- Relationship between the companies and other business aspects
- L-1 visa application procedure
- Data to be submitted by a Russian company (or b the company from any other country)
- Data to be submitted by a U.S. company
What is the allowed period of stay in the USA?
If the visa is duly extended, the period of stay in the USA is seven years:
- If a company is a newly established one in the USA, a maximum initial stay of one year is allowed;
- if a company has successfully operated in the USA for more than 12 months, a stay of three years is allowed.
in order to extend your visa you do not need to outside the country, you can do it in the USA.
Is it possible to get the Green Card?
Yes, if the American company (subsidiary, parent or affiliate) has existed for more than a year, then you can apply for a permanent residency status.
In this case, the employment L-1 visa significantly facilitates the task as you do not need to apply to the US Department of Labor for Labor Certification.
What are beneficiary requirements?
An employee is temporarily transferred to a company office abroad for the purposes of further developing the company. An ordinary employee cannot be involved in this activity because of insufficient qualification.
Applicants for the L-1 visa must have worked in the foreign company in an executive or managerial capacity, or specialized knowledge capacity. The employee must have completed a minimum of 12 months’ continuous employment in the foreign company in the above said position immediately prior to the application for the L-1 visa. Only in this case you can apply for this visa category.
There are three basic requirements to be taken into account.
- There must be a corporate relationship between the U.S. company and the foreign company.
- You must have been employed by a company outside the U.S.A.
- You are required to work in the same capacity for the US company.
Relationship between the companies and other business aspects
Types of relationship between US companies and foreign companies?
- One of the companies may be a parent one and the other a subsidiary one.
This means that the parent company owns at least 51% of the shares / interest of the subsidiary and fully controls its activities. This relationship can be proved by a controlling stake owned by the parent company and that is the best evidence of the said relationship.
- Who controls the foreign company? Either an individual or a private holding company that owns enterprises both in the USA and abroad. In simple words, if you own a company outside the USA and establish another company in the U.S., you connect these two offices together.
- The other type of relationships is an affiliate relationship. This means that both American and foreign companies are controlled by the same owner, or the same group of owners. And the controlling stake of both companies (51-100%) must belong to the same individual (or group of people) or a legal entity.
- If necessary, several individuals or several companies are allowed to establish a business with a partner. In this case an agreement proving that companies/individuals own similar shareholding ratio both in the foreign company and American company must be submitted (i.e., if the owner A has 80% abroad and the owner has 20% abroad, then it must be shown that in the USA the A also has 80% and the B has 20%).
Subtle aspects which should be kept in mind
The head office may be located outside the USA but a subsidiary / affiliate company – in the USA and vice versa; it’s not of crucial importance.
You can either establish a new business in the USA or acquire a 51% stake (or more) in an existing business.
By doing so, you would be able to invest into a profitable business and establish relationships abroad.
The most beneficial relationship option is an affiliate. The benefits are obvious:
- he relationship between the companies (foreign and American) is easy to prove just by submitting the documents confirming the ownership of shares;
- easy and fast establishing a corporation in the USA;
- transferring a required employee from one company branch to another – which is a sufficient evidence that the offices are connected to each other by the same owner. However, it should be noted that not everyone can apply for the L-1 status as it is the privilege of the company’s manager, executive or specialized employee.
The company’s business activities throughout the duration of your stay in the USA
It’s very important that both company’s branches, in the USA and in the other country, function and produce a profit while you are in a L-1status in America. If you are planning to terminate the activity of the foreign company first you should get the Green Card.
A closed down business is a guarantee that the L-1 status and the right to apply for a permanent residency status will not be further available for you.
Another advantage of the L-1 visa is related to the company’s turnover, number of employees and minimum amount of investments. These criteria are not applicable under the law.
- a foreign company minimum turnover:
the company is to be a profitable one;
- both foreign and the U.S. company must have at least five employees. Moreover, the American company should provide jobs for at least two or three more people (permanent residents or US citizens) to ensure obtaining the Green Card in the future.
L-1 visa application procedure
As a rule, the visa obtaining process consists of two steps:
- an immigration lawyer files your application with the American office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
- Once it is approved, you are eligible to apply for the L-1 visa at the U.S. Consulate in your home country.
Preparation and work on your application form.
First, an employer, a company or an individual, files the application to inform that an employee is required to be transferred to the American office. After that, the complete package of the required documents is sent to the USCIS office in the USA.
You are not required to go to the interview; if any additional documents are required an appropriate notification will be sent to you to provide the necessary documents by post. The application processing time can take several months.
What are the next stages?
When leasing a new office space, you must prove that you have sufficient financial ability to pay for such premises and company establishment. You also need to develop a business plan which should be included in the initial package of documents.
Business plan comprises:
- information regarding the nature of the office describing the scope of the business;
- projects you intend to work on in the near future;
- finance indicators;
- job descriptions of all employees;
- market assessment;
- Peculiarities of company operation abroad.
There is no minimum amount of investment required by law, but the USCIS takes into account that such investment must be sufficient to ensure the work of the office at least for the first few months of stay of the employee transferred on an L-visa.
Once your application is approved, the initial L-1 status granted is one or three years depending on the time of American business existence and operation. If American business is established less than 12 months before applying for the L-visa, the L-visa is granted for 1 year, probationary period for a new company. If a functioning business is acquired, or a new business has been already developed, and it is proved that this business has operated successfully for more than 12 months, then the L-1 visa is granted for 3 years. For all L-1 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.
Data to be submitted by a Russian company (or b the company from any other country)
- Diplomas, certificates and statements – everything that is related to the beneficiary’s education.
- Company’s Articles of Association.
- Certificate of Incorporation.
- Registration Certificate.
- Minutes of meetings during which a specific employee was appointed to be transferred to the American branch.
- All high-value contracts over the last 12 months.
- Lease for office space (or other commercial space to conduct business) over the last 12 months.
- Financial statements for the past year.
- Bank certificates.
- Company’s organizational structure or staffing table which include all employees with indicating their positions.
- Payroll sheets of all employees over the last 12 months.
- Everything that can prove the beneficiary’s active work in the executive or managerial capacity.
- All available documentation demonstrating the relationship with the American companies.
- Publications in the media and advertising of the company.
- Photos of the company’s office and the goods produced by the company, as well as other documents signed by the beneficiary.
- Other documents depending on the company’s nature and a country.
Data to be submitted by a U.S. company
If the company was established less than 12 months ago:
You must present the relevant documents to prove the establishment of the company and that it is a subsidiary, or the company’s founder is the same person or the same company that has founded the foreign company. It is advisable to take the same company’s name, but with the addition «USA»: it is convenient, extremely simple and directly indicates that the company is a branch.
The lease for office space should be attached to the documents since the availability of sufficient physical premises to house the new office is an important requirement. If you do not know how to execute a lease, an experienced specialist can always assist you.
The following is also required:
- shares of the American company that would indicate their holders;
- certificate confirming the financial ability to support the company;
- and of course a detailed business plan.
If the company has been existed for more than a year
In this case a specific list of documents must be submitted:
- Company’s Articles of Association;
- Registration Certificate;
- Share Certificate;
- Lease for office space;
- Tax reports — both federal and state;
- Payroll sheets of employees;
- Bank certificate over the last 12 months;
- a document authorizing your company to act as an agent or distributer of some other company;
- all high-value contracts – the more, the better;
- Publications in the media and advertising of the company;
- receipts or contracts to prove that you have used the services of a lawyer, accountant and an investment consultant;
- all documents relating to the funds of the company — bonds, shares, property.