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L-1As for Startups and New US Offices

          As the world becomes a more global market place, the L-1A visa could be an increasingly beneficial option for companies. For startups and established foreign companies, or offices, that have less than one year of business in the US, there is a specific immigration option called a New Office L-1A. A New Office L-1A allows a foreign company to send certain individuals to the US to get the US business off and running before it becomes fully operational. Even if the foreign entity has been in existence for some time, if the US office is or would be operational for less than 1 year, it would qualify for a New Office L-1A.

       The basic criteria for a New Office L-1A are similar to a regular L-1A. You will still have to prove the qualifying relationship between the foreign entity and the US entity, that the foreign employee has worked with the foreign entity for at least one year within the last three years, and that the foreign employee’s position is managerial or executive. However, there are three additional requirements for a New Office L-1A.

        First, the US petitioner must have secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office. Essentially, you have to have sufficient office space to file for a New Office L-1A. Second, the foreign worker can’t have just worked in any role for the foreign entity, they have to work with the foreign entity as a manger or executive for at least one year within the last three years. These two items should not be overly difficult to prove, but the final prong is where most New Office L-1As see trouble.

       The third prong is that the intended US Office must be able to support an executive or managerial position within one year of approval of the petition. This last item tends to be the trickiest of the requirements. USCIS will look to the proposed nature of the office and the scope of the entity, the organizational structure, and financial goals and health. USCIS will also look at the size of the US investment and the financial ability of the foreign entity to pay the employee and ability to begin doing business in the US as well as the organizational structure of the foreign entity. For this prong, consider submitting a professional business plan that details the staffing levels, benchmarks, time tables, financial outlook, and more

        While the New Office L-1A is similar to normal L-1As, there are some key differences as noted above. Additionally, the New Office L-1A will only be approved for one year. At the end of that one year, the company can file for an extension and must show that it has grown in sufficient size to support a managerial or executive level position.

         New Office L-1As can be very useful for a foreign company that is trying to get a business off and running in the US. If you are interested in starting a new office L-1A, reach out to a qualified immigration attorney to discuss your options and a path forward.

By: Steven Brown 

Steven Brown is a Partner at Reddy Neumann Brown PC where he works in the Non-immigrant visa department and leads the Litigation Team. His practice covers all phases of the non-immigration visa process including filing H-1B, L-1, E-3, H-4, and H-4 EAD petitions. In the last two years, Steven has successfully handled over 1,000 non-immigrant visa petitions including filing petitions, responding to any necessary Requests for Evidence, and drafting motions and appeals. He has also become a key resource for F-1 students that seek guidance on properly complying with the F-1 visa regulations and any OPT or CPT issues they may have. Additionally, Steven holds a weekly conference call for companies that are part of one of the largest organizations for IT Services companies in America.

Reddy & Neumann has been serving the business community for over 20 years and is Houston’s largest immigration law firm focused solely on US. Employment-based immigration. We work with both employers and their employees, helping them navigate the immigration process quickly and cost-effectively.