The L-1 visa provides a path to prosperity and growth in the United States for international companies. Tech startups from Germany, pharmaceutical companies from India, and accounting firms from Japan have all turned to the L-1 visa program as a means of establishing their brand in America. But securing an L-1 visa can be a lengthy process – one that requires several supporting documents. Perhaps the most important supporting documents required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a business plan. What makes a business plan so crucial to an L-1 visa application? Read on.
The L-1 Visa
The L-1 visa is a non-immigration visa that allows employees of an international company to relocate to its office in the United States for a period of up to five years (seven with extensions). Alternatively, if that corporation does not have a U.S. office, an employee may come to the U.S. on an L-1 visa to establish one. The applicant must be an executive or manager (L-1A) or a worker with specialized knowledge (L-1B). In 2015, the USCIS issued 78,537 L-1 visas.
The Business Plan
An accompanying business plan is a requirement of the USCIS for each L-1 visa application. It should include information that is typical to all business plans, such as the mission statement, market research, the value proposition, and financial projections. An L-1 visa business plan, however, must also include other elements, such as a summary of the foreign company and its relationship to the U.S. office (e.g. parent company, branch, affiliate), a biography and list of job duties of the applicant, and three years of financials from the foreign company.
Why the Business Plan Matters
Put yourself in the shoes of an immigration officer with the USCIS. Your job is to ensure that every L-1 applicant you approve can offer some sort of benefit to the U.S., either by boosting the economy, filling an unmet market need, or by any other means in which the applicant’s transfer to a U.S. office provides a net gain to American society. Conveying that message is difficult in standardized forms, so one of the most effective ways to vet a candidate’s qualifications is with a business plan. A business plan allows the applicant to tell his or her story, to build a rapport with the immigration officer, and to back upclaims using facts, statistics, and professional projections. If an applicant fails to do that correctly, how do you know they’ll be successful upon relocation?
The Renewal Process
While a solid business plan is certain to improve one’s chances of being approved for an L-1 visa, it can also help during the renewal process. In order to have an L-1 visa renewal request approved, the applicant must show their business is on the path to prosperity. Having a strategic business plan to refer back to improves those chances; just having that guiding document makes it easier to be successful. Moreover, when the USCIS reviews a renewal application, the immigration officer will often refer back to the business plan to see what kind of milestones have been met. Did the parent company invest the amount it said it would into the U.S. office? Did the U.S. office meet sales targets? If the original business plan was developed using professional assumptions and forecasts, then more often than not, the answer is yes.
An L-1 visa business plan is more than just a document that is needed to check-mark a box in the USCIS’s system. It’s your chance to tell your narrative and what your business can offer America. So remember to give it the time and resources it deserves. It just might be the difference between an approval and a denial.