Opening up a new office? Get an L-1 

QUESTION:  Can I use an office based in my home and/or garage for the L-1?
Answer: No. You must have an ‘actual office’. The reality might be that you can run your business from a computer or your garage. However, for immigration purposes, there must be a brick and mortar office and you must be paying rent.
Question: Do I have to sign a lease? What if I don’t get the L-1 or it is not approved?
Answer: You can do a lease where the deposit made and you can make it contingent upon issuance of the visa. Therefore, if denied, you would get the deposit back and you would not have to pay months of rent without ever having the visa.
However, there is the issue of whether or not the landlord would accept this type of lease, which is separate and apart from what is acceptable to U.S. immigration.
Question: Is it difficult to get an L-1 for a new office?
Answer: Yes, the reality is that it is somewhat difficult. However, it can certainly be done. If you happen to have the option, however, to get an office that has more than one year of doing business, it would be easier to get approved.
Question: Can you give some pointers to help on the duties?
Answer: Well, one thing you must do is to distinguish between functional manager vs. area manager. Be sure to make clear if you are ‘managing’ the new office whether you are managing a ‘function’ of the office such as ‘all accounting’ or managing all the people in some fashion.
Question: Do I need a business plan?
Answer: Yes, normally you will need a five-year business plan. However, if the new office is basically a branch of a successful business outside the U.S., you may not need to do the business plan, especially if the same type of business.
Question: What if I have no help in the U.S. to help get it started? How can I get things setup?
Answer: You can come on a B-1 visa to get the L-1 started.
Question: When should I say the new company will begin?
Answer: Do not pick a certain date as you will lose valuable time if it is approved afterward. Pick when the petition is approved.
Question: What if I have had business operations for more than one year?
Answer: Then, you do not file the ‘new office L-1A’. You will need to file a normal L-1A. Be sure to show how the foreign company has control over the employee here (the manager or executive) and to show what staff in the U.S. will support manager/executive in the country. There is a good case called Matter of Z-A-2013 in which you can use overseas staff in determining whether a position is managerial in the U.S. n

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Atty. Brian D. Lerner has been an Immigration Attorney for nearly a quarter of a century. He is married to a Filipina and has helped thousands of Filipino families all over the country. In addition to his offices in Southern California in Long Beach and Carson, he has an office in Quezon City. He is a certified specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Legal Board of Specialization, California State Bar. The initial consultation is free. Call (562) 495-0554 and/or send an e-mail to

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