You may be in the United States on a B-1 business visitor visa or are considering applying for admission as a B-1 business visitor because you would like to start a new business or to explore establishing one in the United States. You may be thinking of visiting the United States to find office space, raise capital, negotiate contracts, meet with potential business partners, interview key personnel, or attend trade shows in connection with launching your new business. Although the initial period of stay for B-1 business visitors is generally up to 6 months and extensions are possible, you are interested in visa options allowing you to work in the United States instead of engaging in limited B-1 business activities which expressly prohibit working (defined very broadly here as performing services in exchange for compensation).
L-1A visa specifics
You may be eligible for an L-1A visa if you will work as an executive, manager in the United States and you have at least one year of qualifying experience as an executive, manager, or a specialized knowledge employee with a qualifying (related) organization overseas. The initial period of stay in the United States is up to 3 years (or 1 year for new offices). Extensions are possible for a maximum of 7 years.
L-1B visa specifics
You may be eligible for an L-1B visa if you will work as a specialized knowledge employee in the United States and you have at least one year of qualifying experience. The initial period of stay in the United States is up to 3 years (or 1 year for new offices). Extensions are possible for a maximum of 5 years.
Comparison of the L-1 to other visa categories
The advantages of the L-1 visa category include its less stringent requirements in some respects when compared to other visa categories. For example, your country of citizenship does not matter in establishing eligibility as it does for the E-2 treaty investor category. Second, there is no cap on the number of available L-1 visas each year as there is for the H-1B (professional or specialty occupation) visa category. Third, there is no formal education requirement (as there is for the H-1B visa category). Also, qualifying L-1A visa holders can go to the next step and obtain a green card without having to go through a lengthy labor certification process required for workers in other visa categories. The disadvantages of the L-1 visa category include pre-planning at least one year in advance in order to gain the minimum qualifying experience overseas.
For more information
Please see our “The Essential Guide to Working Temporarily in the United States” for more details on the L-1 visa category or contact our office.