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L-1A petition to set up a branch office in the US

US Immigration Question:

I entered the US on the visa waiver program which is valid for 3 months. The purpose of the trip is to prepare for setting up a branch office of the company for which I have been working for 10 years as a manager in import/export department. Is there any way to remain in the US for more than 3 months for the purpose of setting up a branch office?


Since its inception in 1970, the L visa has been one of the most useful visas available to international companies needing to bring foreign employees to the United States. In fact, Japanese nationals account for approximately 20% of all L admissions each year. Obtaining an L visa for a new office is a two step process.

STEP 1: File petition with the INS

PROCESSING TIME: Approximately 2 months


  1. Proof that sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured.

    Example: Office lease for location in the United States

  2. Proof that the transferee has been employed by the company overseas for at least one year within the three years immediately preceding the filing of the petition in an executive or managerial position.

    Example: Payroll records, tax records of employee, business card, resume of employee, organization chart.

  3. Proof that the proposed employment involves executive or managerial authority over the new operation.

    Example: Letter from company in Japan explaining the purpose of the transfer. The letter should also include a discussion about the legal relationship between the company in Japan and the new business in the US, and the executive/managerial background of the employee being transferred.

  4. Proof that the company in the US is financially viable.

    Example: Evidence of capitalization of the US company or evidence of financial resources committed by the foreign company, articles of incorporation, corporate bank statement, profit and loss statements, tax returns, and annual report.

STEP 2: File visa application with the US Embassy in Tokyo

PROCESSING TIME: Approximately 10 days


  1. Proof of INS approval
  2. Visa application (Form OF-156) with photo
  3. $45 "MRV" fee receipt obtained at any Bank of Tokyo branch in Japan
  4. Passport for each applicant

DURATION OF VISA: 1 year, but renewable
for up to 7 continuous years.