Question: Can I use an office based in my home and or garage for the L-1?
Answer: No. You must have an 'actual office'. The reality might be that you can run your business from a computer or your garage. However, for Immigration purposes, there must be a brick and mortar office and you must be paying rent.
Question: Do I have to sign a lease? What if I don’t get the L-1 or it is not approved?
Answer: You can do a lease where deposit made and you can make it contingent upon issuance of the visa. Therefore, if denied, you would get the deposit back and you would not have to pay months of rent without ever having the visa.
However, there is the issue of whether or not the landlord would accept this type of lease which is separate and apart from what is acceptable to US Immigration.
Question: Is it difficult to get an L-1 for a new office?
Answer: Yes, the reality is it is somewhat difficult. However, it can certainly be done. If you happen to have the option, however, to get an office that has more than one year of doing business, it would be easier to get approved.
Question: Can you give some pointers to help on the duties?
Answer: Well, one thing you must do is to distinguish between functional manager vs. area manager. Be sure to make clear if you are ‘managing’ the new office whether you are managing a ‘function’ of the office such as ‘all accounting’ or managing all the people in some fashion.
Question: Do I need a business plan?
Answer: Yes, normally you will need a 5 year business plan. However, if the new office is basically a branch of a successful business outside the U.S., you may not need to do the business plan, especially if the same type of business.
Question: What if I have no help in the U.S. to help get it started? How can I get things setup?
Answer: You can come on B1 to get the L-1 started.
Question: When should I say the new company will begin?
Answer: Do not pick a date certain as you will lose valuable time if it is approved afterwards. Pick when the petition is approved.
Question: What if I have had business operations for more than one year?
Answer: Then, you do not file the ‘new office L-1A’. You file a normal L-1A. Be sure to show how foreign company has control over the employee here (the manager or executive) and to show what staff in U.S. will support manager/executive in the U.S.. There is a good case called Matter of ZA -2013 in which you can use OVERSEES staff in determining whether position is managerial in the U.S.