Introduction to the L1 Visa
There is a special visa available for companies that wish to expand operations into the United States by opening a branch, a warehouse or an office. This visa, known as the L1 visa, is one of the most popular — especially since it can lead to permanent residency — and is relatively easy to obtain with the right documentation and presentation. The requirements are as follows:
I. Company Requirements
The foreign company must have been in operation for at least one year and must remain in operation at all times after the opening of the US division;
A qualifying organization may include a branch of the same employer, or a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate;
New offices must submit additional evidence, including a business plan, and must show progress on start-up activities after one year.
The annual sales volume or gross revenues of the foreign company ideally should exceed $250,000 (relative to the exchange rate of local currency and the cost of doing business in the subject foreign country);
Ideally, the foreign company should employ at least 3 individuals;
One must be able to demonstrate that the foreign company is successful, in good standing, financially solid, that expansion into the United States will not negatively affect its foreign operations, and that the expansion will eventually create jobs for US workers.
II. Categories of Workers Eligible to be Transferred to US Operation
Owners – Must be either the sole owner or a majority shareholder.
Executives – Includes the President, Vice-President, Secretary, or Treasurer of the company
Professional Managers – Should be General Managers, Sales Managers, Production Managers, etc. (First-line supervisors generally do not qualify).
Specialized Knowledge Workers – Must have unique and special knowledge specific to the product or the company, not generally acquirable in the open labor market.
III. Personal Requirements
The visa applicant must have worked for the foreign company for at least 1 out of the last 3 years; and
The visa applicant’s presence in the United States is essential to the success and the smooth operation of the US company.
The initial duration of the visa is for 1 year for a new office, or 3 years for transfer to an established subsidiary, with possible extensions of additional 2 years, to a maximum of 7 years for managers and executives, and 5 years for specialized knowledge workers. An applicant who has resided in the US for the maximum visa period must reside abroad for a full year before being readmitted in the same status.
IV. Processing Time, Government Fees
Government processing is rapid compared to other business visa categories — 15 days or less with premium processing — because there is no need to file either an Application for Labor Certification or a Labor Condition Application. And government filing fees are relatively low, compares with other visa — just $1,820.00 USD including premium processing.
Processing for citizens of CANADA is completed on a same-day basis at most CANADA-US ports of entry or at the US “pre-flight clearance” office located at most international airports in CANADA.