How to Prove an L-1A Visa Applicant Is an Executive or Manager - Plan Friday

Posted in Articles by Brent Butler

The author’s views are entirely his or her own and do not represent legal advice or council.

In this week’s Plan Friday, Brent discusses L-1A immigration visa business plans. Specifically, the organizational hierarchy and daily responsibilities you need to show for executives and managers.

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Video Transcript

Some background: The L-1A visa enables foreign businesses to transfer an executive or manager to a U.S. branch of the company. It’s an appealing visa because it’s good for up to seven years, and it can be converted into a green card.

If you’re coming to the U.S. on an L-1A visa to work for a major company like Toyota, or you’re joining an existing, well-established office branch with a lot of revenue, you might not need a business plan. A business plan is more important for smaller and newer companies. Then you need extensive detail about the responsibilities the L-1 applicant will have as an executive or manager.

You can’t just say that the L-1A applicant will be an executive or manager, though. You have to prove it by demonstrating what their exact job duties will be, who they will supervise, and the percent of their time that will be spent on each major responsibility. If their day-to-day work will be creating the actual product, providing the service, or supervising entry-level employees, that won’t work. Supervising, planning, and scheduling staff isn’t enough. The applicant must spend their day on important, high-level business functions.

Basically, USCIS wants proof that it’s really important for this person to be transferred to the U.S., rather than doing an entry-level job that could be filled by an American citizen. If USCIS thinks “executive” or “manager” is just a title and not truly descriptive of the applicant’s duties, they could deny the visa or issue an RFE, request for evidence.

This is especially common if the American office is very small. If there are only a few employees, USCIS may determine that the visa applicant will be filling more of a sales role than an executive role, for example, and deny the visa. Denials are a real risk, more than they used to be. Both RFEs and denials for L-1 visas are on the rise, even if you already have one and are just seeking a renewal. This visa has been hit the hardest by the current administration, because it doesn’t create American jobs.

How do you prove that the visa applicant will be filling an essential top-level role?

#1 Make an Organizational Chart.

Make a great organizational chart, or org chart. There are tools online, such as, that help you create an org chart for free.

You need at least 2 levels of management in the org chart. If the visa applicant is an executive, they have to manage managers, who should have a level of people underneath them. The executive should manage people with titles like “Director” and “Senior VP.”

#2 Show Proper Manager or Executive Functions.

If the applicant is a manager, they have to manage an entire department, or other supervisors and managers. Their title should be something like Director of Finance, General Manager, or Operations Manager. The Operations Manager, for example, might supervise the Head of Human Resources. The Director of Finance might supervise the Controller or Finance Manager (or both). You get it.

In addition to the org chart, USCIS wants to know how the applicant will spend their day, so your business plan should include a breakdown of the percent of time spent on each responsibility. For example, a CEO might spend 25% of their time managing executives, 25% on strategy and vision, 25% on fund allocation and financial goals, and 25% interfacing with partners, the board, the foreign company, and the public.

That’s obviously oversimplified, but you get the drift. The CEO or manager should not be mailing packages, cold-calling, paying bills, writing press releases, or creating the product. Their duties must be related to operations and management.

Even if this all seems hard, it is possible. USCIS approved more than 36,000 L-1 visa applications in a recent year. And that could be you! Just make sure you include exactly what USCIS wants to see. When in doubt, hire a professional business plan firm like Masterplans to make the process easier.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is intended to be general information; it is not legal or financial advice. Specific legal or financial advice can only be given by a licensed professional with full knowledge of all the facts and circumstances of your situation. Consult with legal and financial experts before making financial investments.


Brent Butler is Masterplans’ founder and CEO.

Tagged: PlanFriday, immigration
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