L-1 Visa for New U.S. Offices

L-1 Visa for New U.S. Offices

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Last updated: April 8, 2024.

What is an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office?

An L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows multinational companies to transfer certain employees from their foreign offices to a newly established or existing office in the United States. There are two types of L-1 visas:

  • L-1A Visa: This type of visa is for intracompany transferees who work in a managerial or executive capacity. Managers and executives who are being transferred to a U.S. office to oversee its operations or establish a new office can apply for an L-1A visa.
  • L-1B Visa: This visa is for employees with specialized knowledge who are being transferred to a U.S. office. Specialized knowledge typically refers to an employee’s knowledge of the company’s products, services, proprietary technology, or processes.

When it comes to opening a new office in the United States, the L-1 visa is particularly relevant. To qualify for an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office, the following requirements must be met:

  • The foreign company and the U.S. office must have a qualifying relationship, such as being subsidiaries, affiliates, or branches of the same company.
  • The U.S. office must be a new office, meaning it has been operating for less than one year.
  • The foreign employee being transferred must have been employed with the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding the transfer.
  • The foreign employee must be coming to the U.S. to work in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity within the new office.
  • The U.S. office must be able to support the employee’s position and pay their salary.

The U.S. company sponsoring the foreign employee for an L-1 visa is called “Petitioner” and the foreign employee being transferred to the U.S. is called “Beneficiary”.

Who is eligible to apply for an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office?

To be eligible to apply for an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office, several key criteria must be met. These criteria pertain to the foreign company, the U.S. office, and the employee being transferred. Here are the general eligibility requirements:

  • Qualifying Relationship: The foreign company and the U.S. office must have a qualifying relationship. Typically, this involves the U.S. office being a subsidiary, affiliate, or branch of the foreign company. The two entities must have a recognizable corporate connection.
  • New Office Requirement: The U.S. office must be a new office. This means it has been in operation for less than one year when the L-1 visa application is filed. If the U.S. office has been operating for more than a year, it may still be eligible for an L-1 visa, but it may require different documentation and considerations.
  • One Year of Employment: The foreign employee seeking an L-1 visa must have been employed by the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding the transfer to the U.S. This employment should have been in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
  • Managerial, Executive, or Specialized Knowledge Position: The foreign employee must be coming to the U.S. to work in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity within the new U.S. office. For L-1A visas, the employee should be a manager or executive responsible for overseeing the U.S. office’s operations. For L-1B visas, the employee should possess specialized knowledge related to the company’s products, services, technology, or processes.
  • Support and Salary: The U.S. office must have the financial means to support the employee’s position and pay their salary. A new U.S. office L-1 visa application must demonstrate that the U.S. business will support a managerial or executive position by the end of the first 1 year. Substantial supporting documentation must be included with the petition that includes:
    • Detailed description of the scope of the U.S. office, organizational charts of the foreign and U.S. companies, financial goals, amount of the investment, ability to pay the beneficiary’s salary
    • U.S. office lease agreement
    • Photographs of the new U.S. office
    • Photographs of equipment or company’s products
    • Evidence of financial resources
    • U.S. company registration documents (articles of incorporation, bylaws, etc.)
    • Detailed business plan describing all steps the new U.S. office will take to grow the U.S. operations in the first year
    • Beneficiary’s qualifications (job experience, educational background, letters of recommendation, etc.)

L-1 visa duration for a new U.S. office

The new U.S. office L-1 visa petitions are initially approved for one year. To extend the L-1 visa, a new Form I-129 must be filed with USCIS (see below).

There is a maximum total duration for L-1 visas. 

For L-1A visa holders, the maximum total period is seven years, and for L-1B visa holders, it is five years. 

Once an L-1 visa holder has reached the maximum allowed duration, they must leave the United States and remain outside the country for at least one year before becoming eligible for another L-1 visa.

How to extend the L-1 visa after 1 year?

New U.S. office L-1 visa petitions are initially approved for 1 year. To extend the L-1 visa, the following documents must be submitted to USCIS:

  • A new Form I-129 and L Supplement;
  • L-1 filing fees;
  • Proof that the new U.S. office has become an established business. Examples of acceptable documents include:
    • Evidence demonstrating that the new U.S. office has been doing business through a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary
    • New U.S. office is actively doing business
    • Description of duties the beneficiary performed during the initial 1 year in L-1 status
    • Detailed description of beneficiary’s future duties 
    • Payroll records
    • New U.S. office’s financial documents

How to apply for an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office?

Applying for an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office involves several steps and requires coordination between the foreign company, the U.S. office, and the employee being transferred. Here is a general overview of the process:

Step 1. Confirm Eligibility:

  • Ensure that the foreign company, the U.S. office, and the employee meet the eligibility criteria for an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office, as outlined above.

Step 2. Establish the U.S. Office:

  • If the U.S. office is not already operational, establish and register the new office. This may include incorporation, obtaining necessary licenses, securing a physical location, and hiring any required staff.

Step 3. Gather Required Documentation:

  • Collect all necessary documents to support the L-1 visa application. These may include business records, financial statements, organizational charts, and other evidence that demonstrates the qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the U.S. office, as well as the employee’s qualifications and the ability of the new office to support the beneficiary for the first year of operation.

Step 4. Complete Form I-129:

  • The U.S. employer (the U.S. office) must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). L Supplement must also be completed. A duplicate copy of Form I-129 and all supporting documents must be included.

Step 5. Pay Filing Fees:

  • Pay the required filing fees associated with Form I-129. The fees can vary, so check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information.

Step 6. Adjudication by USCIS:

  • USCIS will review the Form I-129 petition and accompanying documentation. If the petition is approved, USCIS will issue an approval notice. The processing time can be reduced to 15 calendar days if a Premium Processing Fee of $2,805 is paid.

Step 7. Apply for the L-1 Visa:

  • After the Form I-129 petition is approved, the next steps depend on the beneficiary’s location:
    • If the employee being transferred is located abroad, he/she can apply for the L-1 visa at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. They will need to complete Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) and pay the visa application fee. If the 
    • If the employee being transferred is physically present in the U.S. in another lawful nonimmigrant status, Form I-539 must be filed with USCIS to request the change of status to L-1. 

Step 8. Attend Visa Interview (only if beneficiary is abroad):

  • Schedule and attend a visa interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy. Be prepared to provide the required supporting documentation and answer questions about the business and the intended employment in the United States.

Step 9. Receive L-1 Visa (only if beneficiary is abroad):

  • If the visa is approved, the employee will receive an L-1 visa stamp in their passport, allowing them to enter the United States. The visa will specify the approved period of stay and other relevant details.

Step 10. Travel to the U.S.:

  • The employee can then travel to the United States to work at the new U.S. office.

Step 11. Extend L-1 visa after one year:

  • File a new Form I-129 with USCIS.

L-1 visa fees for a new U.S. office

The typical fees associated with an L-1 visa (new U.S. office) application include: 

  • Form I-129 Filing Fee: The primary fee associated with the L-1 visa application is for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, filed by the U.S. employer:
    • $1,385 plus additional fees
    • $695 plus additional fees, if applicable
  • Asylum Program Fee:
    • $600 (general category)
    • $0 (nonprofit employers)
    • $300 (small employers)
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: An additional fee is required for initial L-1 applications or requests to change the employer, to support fraud prevention and detection efforts. This fee is $500.
  • L-1 petitioners that employ 50 or more employees in the U.S. if more than 50 percent of these employees are in H-1B, L-1A or L-1B nonimmigrant status. This fee is $4,500. For exceptions, visit USCIS website.
  • Premium Processing Fee (Optional): If the U.S. employer wishes to expedite the processing of the L-1 visa petition, they can opt for premium processing by paying an additional fee. This fee is $2,805. Premium processing aims to provide a decision on the petition within 15 calendar days.
  • Each fees should be submitted in a separate check or money order

Please note that immigration fees can change, and it’s essential to check the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for the most current fee information:

Form I-129 filing fee

Additional L-1A visa fees

Premium processing fee

L-1 visa for a new U.S. office checklist of required documents

When applying for an L-1 visa for a new U.S. office, there are several required documents and supporting evidence that should be included with your visa application. Here’s a checklist of the typical documents and materials that may be needed:

Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • This is the primary form filed by the U.S. employer on behalf of the L-1A visa applicant. 
  • Include the L Classification Supplement (Form I-129S)
  • The form must be signed and dated.
  • You can find the most recent edition of Form I-129 on the official USCIS website
  • Outdated editions of Form I-129 will be rejected by USCIS.
Filing fees
  • Include the appropriate fees for Form I-129
Cover letter
  • A cover letter summarizing the L-1 visa application for a new U.S. office and explaining the beneficiary’s duties and specific steps that will be taken to grow the U.S. business in the first year of operation
Foreign company documentation
  • Incorporation Documents/Partnership or Joint Venture Agreement:
    • Articles/Memorandum of Incorporation;
    • Bylaws;
    • Stock certificates/ledger;
    • Name change/registration;
  • Applicable business permits/licenses/registration;
  • Company annual report/marketing brochure/resume;
  • Lease/deed; mortgage or rent receipts;
  • Detailed organizational chart;
  • Articles, promotional materials about the company, its products, services, or key people;
  • Recent company tax return or financial statement;
  • Copies of awards, memberships or special achievements by the company or key personnel;
  • Photographs of the inside and outside of the facilities.
U.S. company documentation
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Incorporation Documents/Partnership/Joint Venture Agreement;
  • Branch qualification to do business in United States or state;
  • Applicable business permits/licenses/registration;
  • Company marketing brochure/resume;
  • U.S. office lease agreement
  • Photographs of the new U.S. office
  • Photographs of equipment or company’s products
Detailed business plan
  • Scope of the U.S. entity
  • Detailed financial goals
  • Timeline for achieving the financial goals
  • Market analysis/market research
  • Hiring plan
  • Organizational chart
Beneficiary’s position abroad 
  • Detailed job description of the employee’s position abroad, including:
    • Foreign job title and description of duties and tasks performed in the position and estimated percentages of time spent on each activity
    • Detailed information on how the beneficiary supervised and controlled the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or managed an essential function, department, or subdivision of the organization;
  • Personnel organizational chart showing employee’s position abroad. The chart or diagram should list all employees in the employee’s immediate division, department, or team by name, job title, summary of duties, education level, and salary. It should also clearly identify the beneficiary’s position in the chart;
  • If the employee supervised other employees, work product examples showing how he supervised and directed these employees, for example, copies of performance appraisals or reviews conducted by the employee for his subordinate employees or any evidence that demonstrates the beneficiary had sufficient managerial authority over subordinate employees;
  • Copies of payroll records showing employment of all employees under the beneficiary’s direction.
  • Copies of employment agreements entered into by newly hired employees not shown in the payroll records who will be managed by the employee;
  • Pay stubs or other corporate documentation showing employee’s employment by the foreign company for at least one year during the previous three years.
Beneficiary’s proposed U.S. position
  • Highly Detailed Job Description of the U.S. position being offered to the employee, including job title and description of duties and tasks performed in the position;
  • Personnel organizational chart showing the U.S. new office and foreign company structure. The chart or diagram should list all employees in the employee’s immediate division, department, or team by name, job title, summary of duties, education level, and salary. It should also clearly identify the beneficiary’s position in the chart;
  • Assignment or transfer letter/contract showing proposed terms of assignment and salary.
Evidence of Beneficiary’s Qualifications
  • Employment history: Documentation to show that the L-1 visa applicant has worked for the foreign company for at least one year out of the past three years.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae: A detailed resume or CV of the applicant, highlighting their experience and qualifications.
  • Any letters of support or endorsement from the U.S. and foreign companies, or third parties that can attest to the nature of the business relationship and the qualifications of the L-1 visa applicant.
English translation
  • If any document is in a language other than English, submit both a copy of the original-language document and the English certified translation.
Consular Processing (only if beneficiary is abroad)
  • DS-160 visa application form
  • U.S. passport-sized photo, and 
  • Visa application fees
  • Valid Passport: Ensure that the passport of the applicant is valid for at least six months beyond the intended period of stay in the United States
  • Form I-129 Approval Notice

L-1 visa processing time for new U.S. offices

The processing time for an L-1 visa for new U.S. offices can vary depending on several factors, including the workload of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the specific service center processing your petition, and whether you choose to expedite the process through premium processing. Here are some general guidelines for L-1 visa processing times:

  • Regular Processing: Without premium processing, the processing times for an L-1 visa petition typically varied. It could take anywhere from 5 weeks to 1.5 months from the time the U.S. employer files Form I-129 until a decision is made. USCIS processing times can vary depending on the service center and the volume of applications they are handling. You can check the most current processing times on the USCIS website.
  • Premium Processing: If you choose to use premium processing, USCIS guarantees a response within 15 calendar days from the date they receive the Form I-907 and associated fee. This expedited option can significantly reduce the waiting time for a decision. It’s essential to note that premium processing is only available for Form I-129, not for consular processing of the visa.
  • Consular Processing (if applicable): If you are applying for the L-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States, the processing time will depend on the specific embassy or consulate’s workload and procedures. Consular processing can add additional time to the overall processing timeline. The timing can vary by location and the time of year. In general, it can take anywhere from 1 month to 3-4 months to receive an interview appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate. If the L-1 visa is approved, the passports with stamped visas are generally returned in 1 week.

Is an L-1 visa a dual intent visa?

Yes, the L-1 visa is considered a dual intent visa. Dual intent means that individuals holding this visa can have both temporary, nonimmigrant intent (i.e., the intent to work and stay temporarily in the United States) and immigrant intent (i.e., the intent to eventually apply for permanent residency or a green card in the United States) without jeopardizing their nonimmigrant status.

L-1 visa holders may apply for permanent residency (green card) in the United States if they meet the eligibility criteria, such as through employment-based sponsorship, family-based sponsorship, or other available avenues. Applying for a green card is a clear demonstration of immigrant intent. However, having immigrant intent does not affect the initial eligibility for or maintenance of L-1 status.

In contrast, some nonimmigrant visas, like the B-1/B-2 visitor visas, are typically intended for temporary visitors and may not be considered dual intent visas. Demonstrating immigrant intent while holding such visas could lead to visa denials or complications.

Related Links:

L-1 Visa (Requirements, Checklist, How to Apply)

L-1A Visa For Managers and Executives

L-1B Visa for Specialized Knowledge Employees

Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker

L-2 visa