How to Start a Business with an L-1 Visa | USCIS

How to Start a Business with an L-1 Visa

Starting a business or opening a new office location can be exciting, but there are many details to keep in mind, especially for business owners with an L-1 visa. Read on for important information.

What Is an L-1 Visa?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers a wide variety of visas for business owners and workers seeking a new life in the United States. The L-1 visa has two main classifications: L-1A and L-1B.

  • L-1A visas allow an employer to transfer an executive or manager from a foreign branch to an office in the United States. Qualifying employees must be willing to provide leadership support in an executive/managerial capacity.
  • L-1B visas enable an employer to transfer an employee with specialized training/knowledge from a foreign office to the United States to set up a specialized branch. All qualifying employees must agree to provide support through specialized knowledge capacity to a new or existing branch of the company.

Once an employee receives an L-1 visa, they can travel to the United States and perform the duties expected of them. If the employee is elected to take on establishing a new office, there will need to be a strategy in place ahead of time.

Creating a Plan

Petitioners must be willing to prove that they have a plan in place for establishing a new office.

Any attempt to transfer an employee to the U.S. from a foreign office must come after:

  • The employer has chosen a physical location for the new office
  • The employee has been employed for at least one year within the last three years before filing
  • The new office is ready to support a new executive for at least one year

Once the legwork is done to get the new office up to speed, it’s time to draft a business plan. If you are already approved for an L-1 visa, you should begin thinking about your plans for the new office.

As mentioned previously, a business plan is a requirement for the L-1B visa, so it’s important to be thorough. The goal of your business plan should be to briefly outline the details of the business, hiring, and projections. Most proposals average around ten pages, but you should focus on including as much detail as you can without a lot of fluff.

To help you draft a plan, think about the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the new office?
  • How will a new location support the company as a whole?
  • Will our product/service be able to reach new consumers?
  • What kind of employees are you looking for to support your goals?
  • Are there local resources you can use to further the company’s success?
  • Where do you want the new location to be in five years?
  • Is the office space large enough to support growth?
  • What do you want to accomplish personally during your time at the new office?

Use these questions to help guide you as you begin to draft your business plan. Always add a personal touch to a business plan in addition to financial projections and personnel plans.


To start any business, you need documentation. Business licenses, company registration, and other legal documents are crucial to establishing the new office legally. Without the proper paperwork, you could quickly find yourself in hot water with legislative bodies in your area.

It can be overwhelming to start a new office and keep up with all of the legal minutiae, but these details are too important to overlook or rush through. Consult an attorney about your new office to ensure that you are following guidelines for starting a new business and that you are acting within the scope of your L-1 visa.

Personnel and Organization

Companies often rise and fall based on their employees. L-1 visas are granted for one year, and the USCIS wants to see that the new office can grow under your leadership. The employees will be the backbone of the new office and representatives of the company within the community. Never skimp on quality when it comes to hiring. Great employees can take your business plan and bring it to life.

The same attention should be given to drafting an organizational chart. Now, you might be thinking, “what’s so important about an organizational chart?”

Think of it this way: the organizational chart is a part of the L-1 visa petition process. Whether the new office ever gets off the ground often depends on getting a visa, so any part of the petition process should be taken seriously.

Additionally, organizational charts serve more than one purpose. Yes, they show organizational structure, but they also illustrate hierarchy, accountability, and internal communication. Successful organizational charts provide a clear view of the companies leadership from top to bottom, but the best organizational charts show how the company will support a healthy culture.

Also, keep in mind that you may be required to provide more than one organizational chart. You are managing a new office under an existing company as a foreign employee – the USCIS needs to have a clear picture of how all of those moving parts will work together.

Key Takeaway

The USCIS wants growth within the first few months of operation. To do this, you must build a strong foundation on which the rest of your strategy can grow. Establishing an efficient structure and hiring growth-oriented people is the lifeblood of any new business.

That’s also why it is so important to make sure that you are abiding by all the laws and regulations in your area. Consult with an attorney about the legal aspects so you can rest assured that you’re following the law.