Temporary Visas for New Zealand Nationals Starting Businesses in the United States and/or Transferring Managers & Executives from New Zealand to the US (L-1A Visa)
Unfortunately New Zealand is not on the list of countries eligible for the treaty-based temporary (non-immigrant) E-2 investor visa. However, there are other options for New Zealand investors seeking to expand or start up a business in the U.S.
If you are an Executive or Manager for a business in the New Zealand, you may be eligible for an L-1A visa that would allow you to move to the U.S. to lead the start-up on a new company that has a qualifying relationship to the continuing business in New Zealand.
For those seeking to make a large investment (at least $500,000 USD) in a company in the U.S., the EB-5 visa is a relatively fast route to permanent residency. Please visit the following webpage for more details: Option for Australian Nationals.
L-1A Intracompany Transfer Visa Requirements:
To be eligible for an L-1A visa, you must satisfy all of the following:
- The New Zealand and U.S. businesses must have one of the following qualifying relationships:
- Affiliates (meaning the two business are owned or controlled by the same company, individual or group of individuals)
- The Manager or Executive has been employed in a Managerial or Executive position in the New Zealand company for at least one full year in within the last three years.
- The person being transferred will be a Manager or Executive in the U.S. company and will not be performing the day-to-day administrative tasks of running the business.
I Am Not a Manager or Executive, Am I Eligible for an L-1A Visa?
No, but you may be eligible for the L-1B visa that allows essential workers to be transferred from foreign offices to US offices that have one of the qualifying relationships described above. For more information, please e-mail us (go to the “Contact Us” tab on this website) or call our office (1-312-803-0360).
Do I Need to be the Owner of Both the New Zealand and U.S. Businesses?
No, the ownership structure just needs to fall into one of the “qualifying” relationships described above. But if you own and control both companies, you will likely qualify for an L-1A visa.
I Want to Transfer My Business to the U.S., Does This Visa Work?
No, you cannot fully transfer your operations to the U.S. The law requires that your New Zealand business remain open and operational for the whole time that you are present in the U.S. on an L-1A visa.
Does It Matter How Large or Small the Businesses Are?
There is no legal requirement that sets a certain size requirement for your Kiwi or U.S. business. However, the general rule is that it is easier to get an L-1A application approved for bigger companies because it is easier to prove viability of the companies and also that you are a Manager or Executive in practice, not just in title.
I Have Not Started the U.S. Business Yet, Am I Still Eligible for this Visa?
Not exactly. The business must already be somewhat established, specifically you must already have secured an office/store/etc for the business and your business plan must realistically show that the business will need a Manager or Executive within the first year. It is important to show that the Manager/Executive will not be doing low-level administrative tasks. So the more employees working for the U.S. business, the stronger the L-1A application.
Does the New Zealand Business have to have a Specific Corporate Structure?
No, but if you have a Sole Trader (commonly referred to in the U.S. as a Sole Proprietorship) structure, there can be some challenges with the application. Email or call our office (1-312-803-0360) for a free discussion about whether your Sole Trader business will potentially qualify for an L-1A.
Does the U.S. Business have to have a Specific Corporate Structure?
You need to properly incorporate your business in a state, obtain an identification number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and obtain any necessary state licenses to operate. The type of business you open, for example a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Corporation, is largely a tax question and does not matter for visa purposes. However, as discussed above, the ownership structure of the U.S. business does matter as it must fit into one of the qualifying relationships. It is best to consult with an experienced business immigration lawyer before finalizing the structure of a new U.S. business.
Do Non-Profit Organizations Have the Rights to Petition for L-1A Visas?
How Long Is The Visa Valid?
If the U.S. business has been operating for less than 1 year, the maximum validity period that will be granted for the initial visa is 1 year. If the U.S. business has been operating for more than 1 year, the maximum validity period that will be granted for the initial visa is 3 years.
The L-1A visa may be renewed up to a maximum stay of 7 years.
Can I Convert This Visa Into Permanent Residency (a Green Card)?
Not exactly. There are no temporary visas that automatically convert into permanent residency. However, there is a permanent residency classification that is very similar to the L-1A which you may be eligible for after the U.S. business has been operating for at least 1 year.
Can My Spouse Come With Me to the U.S. and Work in the U.S.?
Yes. Your spouse is an entitled to a derivative visa if you are granted an L-1A visa. And once in the U.S., your spouse can apply for an employment authorization card that will allow them to work at any employer in the U.S. It does not matter if your spouse has a different nationality than you.
How Do I Apply for an L-1A Visa and How Long Does the Process Take?
The application must be submitted by the company to the appropriate office of USCIS in the U.S. for processing. It can take several months to receive a response to your application or you can pay an extra fee to receive a response within 15 days. We prepare and submit the application forms and supporting evidence for our clients.
Once you have an Approval Notice, you will schedule and attend an interview at the U.S. Consulate in Auckland.
23 Customs Street East,
Auckland (cnr. Commerce St)
Phone (from inside New Zealand): (09) 303 2724, Extns: 2800
Phone (from outside New Zealand): +64 9 303 2724, Extns: 2800
For a free assessment of whether you qualify for an L-1A visa, please e-mail us or call our office (1-312-803-0360).