Top 7 Best Business Practices for Avoiding L1 Visa Rejection

Top 7 Best Business Practices for Avoiding L1 Visa Rejection

Applying for visas, of any sort, requires fortitude and perseverance, but mainly strong organizational skills.  Meanwhile, the biggest fear is rejection.  After all that hard work, no one wants to be denied.  The thought of rejection alone is daunting and intimidating; even more so now since President Obama has put L1 visa applications under the microscope with his guidelines for Immigration Reform in November 2014 (link), USCIS. This means that applying for an L1 Visa will require extra preparation in order to avoid l1 visa rejection.

What is the L1 visa?

L1 visas are made for foreign companies who would like to establish a subsidiary entity in the US, and wish to send managers and/or specialized workers from the origin country to a US entity.

L1A’s are called “New Company” L1’s: the visa application is sent during the startup phase of the subsidiary entity and eventually the manager will be sent to the new company in the US.

L1B’s are made  for the transfer of employees from the foreign company to an existing  US entity.

As Business Plan experts in the Immigration world, we work on hundreds of L1 Visa applications every year.  We have witnessed many of our clients grappling with the process, even trying to understand the basic aspects of the USCIS requirements. Making a move to the US is, in and of itself, a challenge.  We aim to alleviate the burden of understanding what USCIS requires in order to help avoid basic mistakes.

This list, based on our experience, highlights the 7 best business practices for avoiding L1 Visa rejection. We are here to make you  feel more comfortable and confident with the process.  Our advice and tips come from a business standpoint.  Be sure to consult an immigration attorney for legal advice.

#1 Make sure your US entity can support the employee requirements within Year 1 of visa approval.

USCIS’s goal is to make sure that foreign companies create jobs when entering the US market.  It is imperative that if they send their own workforce to the US, it’s for the benefit of the US economy. We know USCIS imposes requirements that may lead the company away from its original plans. We want to make sure that you understand what they are looking for and the best way to communicate it to them.

Employee Requirements –

The manager sent from the foreign entity to the US entity must be a qualified and specialized individual as he/she will be dealing with other managers or special skills individuals. This means that these individuals and the positions they hold demand, at the very least, a Bachelor’s degree; hence managerial or special skills positions.  If you do not meet these requirements, then the L1 visa is not for you. 

Tip:  USCIS minimum standards are evolving, we are very much aware of this, therefore we recommend that managers supervise a team of at least 8 employees before the end of Year 1. A team of 5 is acceptable, but bears more risk of L1 Visa rejection; it is feasible but requires high growth potential and coherence between the US and foreign entities.

Your US Entity Organizational Chart at Year 1-

Having 8 employees in your US structure is one indication of being eligible, however, organizational structure is another factor that must be taken into account. We recommend having the applicant manage at least 3 managers or special skills individuals and another tier of non-executive roles. The best way to demonstrate an optimized organizational chart is by giving an example (below) – this is for an Import/Export Company:

l1 visa rejection

In this example we can see an organizational chart in 3 tiers:

  • The first tier is the applicant.
  • The second tier shows 2 credible managers (Sales Manager and Logistics Manager), a special skills position (Import&Export Specialist) and 1 Administrative Manager (which can be a legitimate position in some cases).
  • The final row displays the employees who perform operational tasks.

The main challenge will be to create an organizational flow chart that fits a similar US model satisfactory for the US entity – don’t hesitate to send us an organizational chart to www.joorney.com for a diagnostic.  We are happy to help evaluate your chart and improve it for the benefit of securing the L1 visa.

Salaries – 

Salaries, for each of these positions, must meet industry standards for the Job Title; in addition, you must take into consideration the location where you are being recruited. The standard salary between two major cities like New York City and Los Angeles vary greatly, please keep this in mind.  You can find good average salary data on www.onetonline.org

Communication With Your Immigration Attorney –

Having an immigration attorney approve the US organizational chart for Year 1 is definitely a bonus that will reap great benefits. Immigration attorneys handle tons of L1 visa applications making them sensitive and knowledgeable about the whether  the application or employee structure chart needs to be strengthened in order to be more successful with the L1 visa application.

Office Space Has to Make Sense –

We have seen applicants for the L1 visa be rejected because the office space wasn’t adequate or large enough to handle the employee structure planned for Year 1. USCIS has said, in their comments, that the office space was not coherent or compliant with the recruitment plan for the company.  This is a red flag and you should be aware of this before submitting an application and not after.

#2 Prove that your sales projections are credible – the Feasibility Study

USCIS’s vision of sales is that they should meet industry standards and be able to compete with other players in the market. The purpose of credible sales projections is to verify that the employee can support a structure with the number of employees required to sustain an L1 visa and that the employees are participating in the job creation process. We know it’s tough to justify sales right away when the market has not yet been tested, but we have prepared a few ways that can be used to show immigration that the sales projections make sense and are realistic.

Industry Analysis – An industry analysis allows for the display of industry trends in which you are competing and proves to the USCIS how you  can justify short term and/or long term growth. Historical data, key players, and geographic data help put the business plan in context and therefore support sales data.  Use these to your advantage.

Market and Competition Analysis – With a market and competition analysis the employee can show USCIS that the unique advantages company are: how the product and service positioning are outstanding, how targets have been identified and cater to their needs differently and more effectively than the competition. This analysis can be connected to sales projections and support revenue streams.

Marketing & Sales Investment –  Showing USCIS that you have  invested in marketing efforts and sales channels is a very straightforward way to justify sales projections.

Proven Business Model – An established business model in the home country is an effective way to prove to US company’s operations that the product is not affected by location. Regardless, it’s always a positive point to include in the business plan.

The Feasibility Study –  The feasibility study is a combination of the above analyses and provides ample points that describe the credibility of sales projections in an L1 visa application which further help avoid L1 Visa rejection.

#3 Explain each step of the business development during Year 1.

Don’t forget that USCIS is really an immigration officer reviewing the application. The applicant may know perfectly how the business will grow from day one to Year 1 goals, but the immigration officer must be given sufficient proof to make a decision. We’ll help define what major milestones to communicate.

Major Milestones –

A detailed timeline of when the major events of Year 1 will be happening such as:

  • Important marketing and sales events such as store or office opening, website launch, or any major advertising operation.
  • When each one of the new hires will be joining the team.
  • Important investments such as the acquiring of new equipment/tools.
  • Optimization of supply channels –  contracts with a new warehouse,when replacement inventory will arrive, or when new sourcing solutions will be available.

#4 Highlight the managerial job duties of the applicant and how they apply to their experience.

For USCIS, a manager should only act according to his/her position and should not participate in the execution of operations. Some managers may be a hands or love to execute from time to time, and we know it’s frustrating to limit duties to only managerial duties, but here are some examples of what the job duties should look like as an L1 applicant.

Experience – You should have been holding a managerial position in the foreign entity for at least 1 year. It’s important to stress that all past experiences, and specifically the previous role in the foreign company, makes you a more suitable candidate and more likely to be hired in the management position of the US entity. Anything in that helps build a case for you should be included, like resumes and/or letters of recommendation.

The Key is In the Details – Duties must be described in details. Think of a typical week and analyze every managerial activity step by step. From the management meeting held on a weekly basis to the daily calls made to administrative assistant, every bit of information is precious and gives credibility to the uniqueness of the position and why you are the perfect fit.

Percentage of Time Allocated – Each duty represents time spent and time needs to be equally allocated to supervising the team of managers so that you can be evaluated as a qualified candidate for US entity.

#5 Prove that the Mother Company is financially healthy enough to support the growth of the US entity.

USCIS sees the Mother Company as the guarantee that capital will flow into the subsidiary company should some developments require outside financing.  We know the company abroad may not be entirely up to that role, but we suggest presenting the strongest aspects of what makes them a solid support.

Company History – Introduce the foreign “Mother” company and provide details about how many years it has been in existence, the evolution of the company, and details about its individual qualities that strengthen the case for the subsidiary company.

Organizational Chart – The Mother Company’s organizational chart should give a clear picture of the size of the foreign entity and what kind of team the applicant was leading there.

Financials – The last 3 years profit and loss statements and balance sheets allow USCIS to understand the financial stability and reach of the Mother Company. Healthy financials are a great way to ensure that the US entity is a choice for further development and not an escape route for the Mother Company.

#6 Make sure that each duty assumed by each employee managed by the applicant is coherent with their job title.

USCIS sees job positions in a very strict sense: a marketing person performs marketing tasks and a salesperson makes sales. People don’t have hybrid duties in their job descriptions, according to the USCIS. We know that you may have flexibility or multi-layered positions in the workplace, but for the purpose of your L1 application, roles need to be defined and described very strictly as per USCIS guidelines. Here is how:

Reflection of Managerial Activity or Special Skills – It’s important to ensure that every position being directly managed by the L1 applicant is eligible as a Managerial position (Bachelor degree minimum required) or special skills position. To verify this go to  www.onetonline.org and type in the name of the position for which you are being recruited. If the position does not meet USCIS requirements, try to find a job title that does while still meeting the concrete needs of the position.

#7 Make sure you have professionals write your L1 visa business plan

USCIS reads thousands of business plans every year. Some meet their requirements, some don’t. We know they are looking for specific items to be communicated in the business plan. If something is missing, or if something is communicated in a way that they don’t understand, they might respond with a Request for Evidence for clarification sake. Our professional writers know what information USCIS wants and we know how to gather that information in order to present it to them to maximize chances of obtaining the L1 visa.

Visa Opportunity Cost – A professional Business Plan company will translate some of the requirements for the L1 Visa into understandable business language. They will convert things that need to be done for USCIS into dollar amounts so that you  understand the L1 Visa requirements. Complying with these requirements will influence personnel cost, marketing and sales budget, rent cost, and many other line items that play a role in total fees related to the visa. This can help view the visa transaction as a business investment and not as a risk.

Written communication with the USCIS officer – The person reviewing your L1 Visa Business Plan at USCIS is a human and they come from a certain background. They are not investors, nor business partners. They do not want to hear about the risks that come with the business and they don’t want to feel impressed when reviewing the business plan. What they want is to verify that your plan meets the criterias set for their review and we know these criterias perfectly.

Red Flagging inconsistencies – In order to avoid L1 Visa rejection, it’s important to address Red Flags. When we review the L1 visa business plan questionnaire, we identify the business related parts of your application that fail the requirements set by USCIS. We communicate these discrepancies with you and your lawyer so that you are a constant participant in your visa application which maximizes your chances for success.

Conclusion

Hopefully you’ve learned the basics behind meeting the initial set of USCIS L-1 requirements. For next steps, we suggest you take a look at our sample business plans and contact us to start planning the next steps in your L-1 Joorney.

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