{5 minutes to read} In my last blog, I discussed the E-2 investor visa for entrepreneurs.  In this blog, I want to talk about another kind of entrepreneurial visa, which actually is a little broader in scope than the E-2.

The E-2 is only available to people from countries that have treaties with the U.S.  There are approximately 80 countries around the world that have such a treaty, but since the BRIICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, People’s Republic of China, South Africa) are among those which do not have a treaty, as well as more than 100 more, approximately two-thirds of the world’s population cannot qualify under E-2.

An alternative is to use the L-1 Intra-Company Transfer visa. This visa does not have any restrictions in terms of country.  Foreigner entrepreneurs can set up a company anywhere in the world and then use that company as a bridge to set up a subsidiary in the U.S.  Through the subsidiary they are able to transfer the personnel that they need in specific categories to work for the U.S. entity.

Since the L-1 requires the existence of a foreign company, it cannot be used for exclusively startup companies. Essentially people seeking this visa have to have a foreign business entity which has existed for at least 1 year. In addition, the entity has to have generated enough revenue to cover the first year’s operating costs for the U.S. entity, as well as whatever salaries are needed to pay the people being transferred.

There are also limitations in terms of the type of personnel that can be transferred. First, the foreign company is set up or, as happens in many cases, the foreign company is already in existence. As long as that company has been in existence for at least a year, if the individual doesn’t qualify for the E-2, they can incorporate a U.S. entity, and issue the shares of the U.S. entity to the foreign company, so the foreign company is the whole owner of the U.S. subsidiary (It must own minimum 50%). The U.S. entity then sponsors the visa.

Once that has occurred, a bank account has been established, and enough money to cover the first year’s costs is deposited, they can effectively apply to transfer personnel. Those personnel fall into two categories:

— L-1A – Managers or Executives

— L-1B – Employees with  “specialized knowledge”

Similar to the E-2, the managers or executives can be part owners in the company. Generally those are the first people that are going to be transferred.

Employees that have knowledge that is unique and/or proprietary to the venture or the business itself, also may be sent to the U.S. under L-1B.  They must have knowledge or know-how that pertains specifically to the foreign entity, is a unique creation or product of the foreign entity, that U.S. employees would not have.

The L-1 visa can initially be applied for 1 year and then renewed for new offices.

— L-1A up to 7 years

— L-1B up to 5 years

L-1A is the fast track to a green card, if they eventually want to sponsor that manager or executive. This allows entrepreneurs, perhaps on a larger scale than the startup scale, that are able to use as a platform, whatever company they already have overseas in order to be able to transfer themselves, as well as potentially other employees to the U.S. to set up a U.S. branch, launch their brand or introduce their product in the U.S.

The L-1 Intra Company Transfer visa provides a middle ground to many people from the BRIICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, South Africa), for example, which do not have E-2 status, and to those who don’t have the money to invest in a EB5 visa which requires at least half a million dollar investment. It is therefore ideal for entrepreneurs who have already launched businesses abroad and want to expand their businesses to the U.S., no matter where they are from.

 

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