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Doing Business in the US: The Differences Between EB-5 and L1A Visas

If you need to move to the US to invest in or manage a business, what are your best legal options to do so? Immigration law can feel confusing and overwhelming because there are so many options. Which visas are you eligible for? Which of these best fits your circumstances? Our highly experienced team can help you successfully navigate our labyrinthine immigration system, empowering you to achieve your American business and financial dreams.

Two of the top choices for investors, entrepreneurs and top-level managers are the EB-5 and L1A visas. There are distinct differences between these visas; deciding which one is the best choice depends on your specific needs.

What is the L1A Visa?

The L1A visa is an affordable, efficient option that allows company owners, executives and top-level managers to move to the US as an intracompany transferee. The L1A allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. It also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.

If you use the L1A visa to enter the United States to establish a new office for your company, you will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. Or, if the US branch has already been operational for at least one year when you are transferred, you are allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all executives and managers using the L1A visa, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until you have reached the maximum limit of seven years. After seven years, you must leave the US to reapply for the L1A visa program. Or, before your seven years has passed, you may seek status as a permanent resident with the help of an expert immigration attorney.

In order to qualify for this visa, you must already be a part of the organization or any of its affiliates. The US-based company or affiliate must apply for the L1A visa on your behalf. You can be from any country but you must meet the specific requirements of the L1A visa and you need to have the required expertise and knowledge to fulfill the position before coming to the US. Also, the company applying for your visa must prove it is financially solid and in good standing.

Advantages of L1A: You are not required to make a “substantial investment” before you become eligible for this visa, as is the case for investor visas. Government processing time is faster compared to other visas – only 15 days or less with premium processing — because there is no need to file either an Application for Labor Certification or a Labor Condition Application. Adjudication of the case takes place in the US, rather than at the relevant US Embassy or Consulate in another country. Government filing fees are relatively low, as well. Finally, there are no country restrictions on L1A whereas you have to be from a country that has a treaty with the US in order to qualify for the E visas.

What is the EB-5 visa?

The immigrant investor, or EB-5, program is a highly beneficial permanent residence option for the wealthy individual. For many foreign nationals it is the best option, and for foreign nationals with no family or employment sponsorship in the U.S., it may be the only option for obtaining permanent residence status.

The EB-5 category requires an investment of $1 million (or $500,000 in a high unemployment or rural area) in a commercial enterprise that will employ 10 full-time US workers. Although, as an investor, your role cannot be completely passive, you do not have to be involved in the day-to-day management of the business unless you want to be. It is critically important that you are able to document the lawful source of your investment funds, whether they are your own funds or they are given to you as a gift. With the EB-5 visa, permanent residence is conditional for two years and can be made permanent upon satisfying USCIS at the end of the two years that the investment proceeds have not been withdrawn and the requisite jobs have been created.

You may invest in your own commercial enterprise or in a commercial enterprise owned by other parties. Or, you may also choose to invest in a pre-approved “regional center”. Regional centers are government-approved entities in designated geographical areas which sponsor investment projects that will create the necessary 10 jobs per investor, whether directly or indirectly. Virtually all of the regional centers contain geographical areas where $500,000 is the required amount of investment.

Advantages of EB-5:

With the EB-5 visa, you can become a permanent legal resident. Also, you can qualify for the EB-5 visa without having to get company or family sponsorship. Plus, you have the opportunity to create a new revenue stream through the EB-5 funds you invest.

If you have questions about these or other visa options, please contact our office today. We have nearly 40 years of experience as successful immigration law specialists, and we are here to make your transition to the US as smooth as possible.


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