If you're looking to expand your foreign startup into the U.S., you'll want to hear about the L-1A visa. Although the L-1 is most well known as a visa favored by large multinational companies, it's also a viable choice for startups launching a new office in the U.S.

Bringing Your Startup into the U.S. With the L-1A Visa

The L-1A Work Visa for Executives and Managers

This is a guest post from our friends at Legalpad!

You don’t need a U.S. work visa to create a U.S. entity for your company, and you don’t even need to be in the U.S. to incorporate. However, if you’d like to work for your startup in the U.S, you will need to secure a nonimmigrant work visa. 

The L-1 visa is one of many work visas for startup founders and startup employees. What makes the L-1 stand out? 

  • Path to a green card: The L-1 is a Dual Intent visa, which means applying for a green card on the L-1 is straightforward. It also means you can travel internationally while your green card is processed without filing for advance parole
  • Work authorization for spouses: If you have a spouse, they will be allowed to work for any U.S. employer while you are on your L-1.
  • No wage requirement: The L-1 has no wage requirement. Startups that can’t pay a high wage may want to choose the L-1 over the H-1B. 
  • No lottery or cap: Unlike other visas, like the H-1B, there is no limit on the number of L-1 visas issued yearly. 
  • Premium processing: The government will review your L-1 case in 15 calendar days or less for an extra fee. 

Who Qualifies for the L-1A Visa?

There are two aspects to qualifying for the L-1 visa:

  1. You must have worked for a foreign company with a qualifying relationship (parent, subsidiary, brand, affiliate, or sister company of your foreign company) to the U.S. company for at least one continuous year within the past three years.
  2. You must have been employed in a managerial or executive role at the foreign company and offered a similar position at the related U.S. company. 

You may be wondering, who is considered a manager or executive? 

Manager: When you hear the term ‘manager,’ you might think of a person who manages direct reports. People managers can qualify for the L-1 visa. Functional managers may also be eligible. A functional manager is an employee who oversees critical functions within the company.

Executive: An executive has a wide latitude to make decisions—for example, a Vice President of Operations or Director of Sales.

Alternative U.S. Work Visas

If you don’t qualify for the L-1 visa, don’t worry! There are other work visa options to consider. The most well-known is the H-1B. Another visa is the O-1. Sometimes referred to as the “genius visa,” the O-1 is meant for individuals at the top of their field. The E-2 investor visa enables people from certain treaty countries to work for an American company after investing in it. Be sure to research each visa to ensure you choose the right one for you. 

Whether you are unsure about U.S. immigration or already know which visas you qualify for, discussing your case with an immigration expert can be helpful. Our friends at Legalpad specialize in work visas and green cards for startups. Connect with their team for a one-on-one immigration consultation, and make sure you mention doola—you’ll be in for a discount if you’re a doola customer!

Excerpt: The L-1 allows foreign companies to expand operations to the U.S. by sending key employees to set up a U.S. office.

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