The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) affirmed on October 20 via their Policy Alert (PA-2023-29), that a sole proprietorship cannot file an L-1 visa petition on behalf of its owner because the sole proprietorship does not exist as a distinct legal entity, separate from the owner. A sole proprietorship is a business in which an individual owns all the assets, owes all the liabilities, and operates the business in the individual’s personal capacity.
The L-1 intracompany transferee visa is a popular visa category utilized for the transfer of certain managerial, executive and specialized knowledge personnel from a foreign business to a related US business.
Existing USCIS policy provides that a sole proprietorship may not file an L-1 petition on behalf of its owner because there must be a separation between the employing entity and the beneficiary; a petition where the sole-proprietor owner and beneficiary are the same would be considered an impermissible self-petition. However, an L-1 can be filed by a sole proprietorship on behalf an eligible employee. For instance, an individual may be the sole proprietor of an entity abroad and also of one in the United States, and may transfer an eligible employee under the L-1A or L-1B classification to the US.
The Policy Alert further affirms the difference between a sole proprietorship and a self-incorporated petitioner (i.e., a corporation or a limited liability company with a single owner) in that the corporation or the single-member LLC is a separate and distinct legal entity from its owner, stockholder or member (unlike a sole preceptorship) and can therefore file an L-1 for that owner.
This article has been written by Zeenat Phophalia, Esq. Of Counsel, Davies & Associates, India Office.
Zeenat Phophalia is qualified to practice law in New York, United Kingdom and India. She practices in the area of U.S. immigration law with a focus on business immigration, and has represented corporate clients including large and medium sized companies and startups across sectors such as IT, consulting, consumer goods, manufacturing and telecommunications.