L-1 Visa - Work Visa For The USA

L-1 Visa - Work Visa For The USA

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Who is eligible for the L-1 visa?

a) Establishing a branch, subsidiary or office in the USA

For entrepreneurs who have already established a going concern in Germany, it is possible to apply for a so-called L-1 visa in order to, after formal establishment, set up a branch office, a new office or a subsidiary in the USA or to send employees to an already existing, affiliated company.

b) The L-1 visa as an alternative to the E-2 visa

An L-1 visa can also be considered, in particular, if the path to the USA via an E visa is blocked because the relevant requirements, for example with regard to existing trade, the required investment or citizenship - which plays an important role in the E visa -, are not or cannot be fulfilled.

c) An L-1 visa for nonprofit organizations

Furthermore, the L-1 visa also offers nonprofit organizations, which per se cannot qualify for an E visa, the opportunity to gain a foothold in the USA.

How long is the L-1 visa valid?

To open a new office, the L visa is valid for one year or residence in the USA is permitted for one year, after which it must be renewed. A stay of up to three years can be granted for renewals or for L visas applicable for collaboration with companies that are already in business. Renewals are possible for a two-year period.

An L visa can be renewed a limited number of times. The holder of an L-1A visa (manager, executive) can thus work in the USA for a maximum of seven years; the holder of an L-1B visa (employee with specialized skills) can work for no more than five years. In this, it is not the possession of the visa for the specified period that counts but rather the physical stay in the USA. There may be exceptions for commuters who split their working time between the U.S. company and a group company outside the USA, i.e. in which an extension beyond the five or seven years is possible.

It should also be noted that the L visa is only valid together with a petition. It may well be that a visa is issued for five years but the petition is only valid for three years; in which case, the holder is only allowed to work in the USA for three years and would need to have the petition extended before the expiry date, but without having to apply for a new visa.

What requirements must companies fulfil?

1. Relationship between the two companies involved

The first requirement is that the existing company in the home country and the company established in the USA or the office to be opened have a qualifying relationship with each other. 

Such a qualifying relationship exists, for example, when a dependent branch is established in the USA. However, it can also exist if both companies are legally independent. The decisive factor is then, above all, that one company has a stake in the other and that one company exercises de facto control over the other. However, a majority shareholding is not mandatory. 
Finally, a qualifying relationship for an L-1 visa also exists if both companies are owned and controlled by a third company or a natural person, for example, belonging to one and the same sole proprietor.

The L-1 visa is therefore usually considered for parent, subsidiary or sister companies.

2. Ongoing business activities in Germany

The home company must maintain its business operations while the employee is in the USA. An L-1 visa is therefore not suitable for individual entrepreneurs whose business at home stands idle while they set up a new business in the USA.

3. Opening of a new office

In connection with the secondment of an employee to open a new office, it must be proven - namely, at the time of application - that sufficient office space has been rented. The visa is initially issued for only one year.

What are the requirements for the L-1 visa applicant?

The requirement for an L-1 visa is that the person to be transferred to the USA has either held a managerial position in the German company or has acquired and applied company-specific specialized knowledge. The position in the USA must also be a managerial position or require the application of specialized knowledge acquired abroad. However, the position in the USA and in Germany do not have to be the same. That is, someone with a managerial function in Germany could also be employed with specialized knowledge in the USA and vice versa.

1. Managerial position

A person operates in a managerial position if he or she is responsible for the management of the company or one of its departments and supervises other employees in a senior position and has at least a say in the hiring and dismissal of other employees.

2. Specialized knowledge

Specialized knowledge that also qualifies for an L-1 visa may, for example, relate to the product range or services offered by the company. However, an L-1 visa may also be considered for jobs that require intimate knowledge of internal company procedures. This is, nevertheless, vital in such cases in which the skills required for the position are not available on the U.S. labor market.

3. Duration of the activity and full-time employment

Last but not least, it is required that the employee to be sent to the USA has been employed by the German company in a managerial position or with specialized knowledge for at least one year within three years prior to the application process. It should also be noted that only full-time employment can be considered and that part-time employment, even over several years, is not sufficient under any conditions.

All requirements must be fulfilled when submitting the petition

It should be borne in mind that all the factual requirements that must be met for the petition to be approved must be in place at the time the petition is submitted. If documents, evidence or information are missing, the USCIS will usually request them (request for evidence), but no opportunities will be granted to first create the additional necessary conditions.

For example, if the U.S. company is based in one U.S. state but the petitioner intends to do business in a different U.S. state, both the state permits must have been granted and an office must already have been leased when the petition is filed. If the applicant forgot to submit the tenancy agreement, this can usually be submitted at a later date. If, however, the applicant forgot to conclude such a contract, it is not helpful to quickly achieve this and send it after the petition has been received. An entirely new petition must be submitted.

Blanket Petition - When the petition for an L-1 visa is not applicable

The application process for an L-1 visa is rather complex. The U.S. employer must file a petition with a wide variety of documentation with the U.S. immigration authorities (USCIS) in advance. Only after the petition has been approved can the employee then apply for the actual visa at the U.S. consulate.

However, companies that meet some special requirements have the opportunity to apply for a so-called blanket petition. This makes it possible for the employees to be posted to actually only be required to attend the appointment at the U.S. consulate. Thus, it is no longer necessary to submit a petition in advance.

Generally, only a U.S. company that has been in business for at least one year and meets one of the following requirements is eligible for a so-called blanket petition:

  • At least ten L-1 visas have been successfully applied for via the U.S. company (or U.S. group) in the past twelve months (namely, for managers, executives or so-called specialized knowledge professionals, whereby only members of certain occupational groups fall into the latter category, i.e. specialized knowledge alone is not sufficient).
  • The U.S. company or U.S.-based affiliated companies have annual sales of at least 25 million U.S. dollars.
  • The U.S. company or group employs at least 1,000 workers in the USA.

If such a blanket petition is approved by the USCIS for the first time, additional employees (managers, executives, specialized knowledge professionals) can be sent to the USA without first filing a petition. One consular appointment is sufficient.

Family members and L-1 visa

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can be issued an L-2 visa. However, only the spouse is permitted to work in the USA.

Our services on the L-1 visa - worldwide

Do you have questions about the L-1 visa for the USA? Our specialized attorneys will assist you in choosing the right visa and in carrying out the necessary application procedure. Please contact us for an appointment with our expert Attorney Thomas Schwab via e-mail (info@visum-usa.com) or by telephone (+49 69 76 75 77 80).

Note: If you already know that an L-1 visa is the right visa for you and you therefore do not need a (fee-based) initial consultation, you can also commission us directly with the application for an L-1 visa!

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