What is L-1A visa, and how do you get one?
The L-1 visa is an intra-company transfer work visa that allows a U.S. company to transfer executives and managers from an office abroad into the United States. The petitioning company can be a corporation, charity (or other nonprofit organization), or a religious organization.
It is often used by international companies to move their executives and managers to an existing U.S. operation, but is also good for setting up a new U.S. operation.
What are L-1A visa requirements?
First, you must be able to show a relationship or nexus between the two companies. This may either be a subsidiary relationship or an affiliate relationship.
A subsidiary means that one of the two companies owns control of the other. An affiliate relationship means that both the U.S. company and the overseas company are owned by the same owner or owners, whether that is individual owners, investors, or other entities that critically must have the same interest in both organizations. For example, if the U.S. business is owned by three investors or stakeholders, the foreign business must also be owned by the same three investors and they must have the same exact, or substantially similar, ownership interest or stake in each.
The second criterion you will need to prove is that the individual (beneficiary of the visa petition) was in fact previously a manager or an executive.
What is L-1A Visa Executive Role?
Executives are defined as C-suite level of roles, the positions with the top level of responsibility for companies. They include roles such as President, VP (Vice-President), CEO (Chief Executive Officer), COO (Chief Operations Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CTO (Chief Technical Officer), etc., or their foreign equivalent title, for example “managing director”.
A further consideration is to show that the company is large enough to require an executive level. Realistically, the minimum viable size to merit an executive and manager would be five people in total. Any business smaller than that minimum size would not be respected by immigration (USCIS). Note that a similar organizational model must exist in both the U.S.-based operation and the overseas company before the time of application.
In our experience, there have been cases where immigration has approved petitions for L-1A visas where the organizational structure was not in place prior to the application, but this is uncommon and can result in the visa being approved only for one year. The simple argument is: how someone can be an executive or manager if they do not have people to be an executive or manager over?
What is L-1A Visa Manager Role?
There are two valid types of managers for an L-1A visa application.
The first is a manager of people, which can be demonstrated on the organizational chart where the manager has responsibility for overseeing a number of other people. At least one of those subordinates should ideally also be in a managerial role.
The second type of manager is known as a functional manager. This is someone who may not have subordinates for whom they are responsible, but they do have responsibility for a functional area of the company, with significant managerial duties attached to the role, such as being responsible for a budget.
Another type of evidence is to show that the manager carries an equal or equivalent status to other managers. One example could be the manager of Research and Development (R&D) who develops products that are then passed to a marketing manager and their team.
Key Points for L-1A Petitions
One thing to look out for is whether the executive has a 100% interest in a company. An outright owner or shareholder may not be eligible for the L-1A as they may not be considered an employee. An employee must be able to be fired. We have experience in developing strategies to resolve this type of risk, for example by establishing a Board of Directors or investor that retains the ability to terminate the executive.
See the video below for more details on what is L-1A visa.