When establishing a US subsidiary, some of your key UK employees may go to the US to assist with the set-up. Unfortunately, the US visa system is known for its complex rules and qualification process. There are so many different visa options that it is difficult to know which visa is relevant. Here are some the of the most common visa routes:
To send someone to the US on a short-term basis, a B-1 business visitor visa may be suitable. Generally, such visas will be granted for six months upon entry, although the maximum allowable stay is one year. Attention should be paid to the definition of what constitutes a business visitor, which may make this type of visa inappropriate to your needs. Individuals under B-1 visas may:
- Participate in negotiations
- Solicit sales
- Make investments or purchases
- Attend and participate in meetings
- Interview and hire staff
- Conduct research
For shorter visits of up to 90 days, consider using the US Visa Waiver Program of which the UK is a participant.
There are limitations to the B-1 Visa, including being employed and paid by your US business. An H-1B visa allows US businesses to temporarily employ a UK employee, provided it is a professional position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree, or the equivalent, and the application of specialized knowledge. The H-1B employee will be authorized to work for your US operation for three years, with an option to extend for another three. Qualification is not automatic. Congress has set an annual cap for the H-1B category of 65,000 visas, with an additional cap of 20,000 for petitioners with a master’s degree.
L-1A Visa The L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables you to transfer an executive or manager from your UK location to an office in the US for a maximum initial stay of three years. This includes sending an executive or manager to the US with the purpose of establishing an office where one does not exist. Under these circumstances, the employee will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. For all L-1A employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of two years, up to a maximum of seven years. These are three common approaches. It is advisable to engage a US immigration attorney to help select an approach which fits your needs and to guide you through the visa process.