L1 (Multinational Company Transferee)

DESCRIPTION:

An L-1 visa is available to employees of an international company with offices in both the United States and abroad. The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that is valid for a relatively short amount of time based on a reciprocity schedule.  With extensions, the maximum stay is seven years.  The L-1 classification also enables a foreign company, which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office, to send an employee to the United States to help establish a U.S. office, with additional requirements.  The visa allows for foreign workers to relocate to the company’s U.S. office after having worked abroad for the company for at least one continuous year within the previous three years prior to admission in the U.S. Spouses and family of L-1 visa holders may live and work without restriction in the US under an L-2 visa.

There are two subcategories of the L-1 classification: the L-1A visa is designed for intra-company transferee executive or managers. The L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the U.S. The L-1B classification also enables a foreign company, which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office, to send a specialized knowledge employee to the U.S. to help establish one.

REQUIREMENTS for L-1A:

The L-1A applicant is required to have been employed outside the United States for one continuous year in the previous three years, in a position that is or executive* or managerial**.  To qualify for the L-1A visa, the applicant must be transferring to an executive or managerial position in the United States for the same or affiliated company. The U.S. and non-U.S. employers must be related in one of four ways: (1) parent company and subsidiary; (2) branch and headquarters; (3) sibling companies majority owned by a mutual parent; or (4) affiliates owned by the same individuals or groups with identical shareholder structure.

To qualify for L-1A classification, the employer must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); AND
  • Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the sponsored employee’s (beneficiary) stay in the U.S. as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.
  • “Doing business” refers to the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the U.S. and abroad.

To qualify for an L-1A visa, the named employee must also:

  • Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for 1 continuous year within the 3 years immediately preceding his or her admission to the U.S.; AND
  • Be seeking to enter the U.S for the purpose of providing service in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

*Immigration law defines “executive capacity” as the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight from superiors.

**“Managerial capacity” refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization.  It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without the direct supervision of others.

REQUIREMENTS OF L-1B:

In order to qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must have the same general qualifications as stated above for the L-1A category. The difference between the L-1A and L-1B category lies in the qualifications required of the stated employee.

To qualify for L-1B classification in this category, the employee must:

  • Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for 1 continuous year within the 3 years immediately preceding his or her admission to the U.S.; AND
  • Be seeking to enter the U.S. to provide services in a specialized knowledge* capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

*U.S immigration law defines “specialized knowledge” as either special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, OR an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures

PROCESSING:

The process for obtaining an L-1 visa requires detailed documentation. Such documents include: Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker; the L Supplement form; a supporting letter from the U.S. employer, confirming that the stated employee will be working for the employer; and other supporting documents and exhibits that serve as evidence of both the employer and employee’s qualifications.

Premium processing service is available to both the L-1 initial filing and L-1 extension petition, whereby the petition will receive an expedited adjudication in 15 calendar days. For premium processing, an additional filing fee is added on the top of a base filing fee and fraud prevention fee, wherever applicable.

An L1 petition for a start-up company may only be granted for a one-year term initially, while the L1 petition for an established company can be granted for an initial three-year term.  Both are renewable in two-year increments, for a maximum of up to seven years for the L-1A visa, and a maximum of five years for the L-1B visa.   The documentation requirements for a start-up L1 and an established L1 are quite different.   The start-up L1 requires proof of capital injection, office leasing agreement and a solid business plan.  The established L1 requires evidence of the company’s business activities, daily discharge of supervisory duties, and employee growth.

For large multinational companies meeting certain size and volume requirements, a simplified blanket L1 may be available for their convenience.   For managers or executives who need to travel to the U.S. frequently, but do not stay in the U.S. for long each time, intermittent L1 is an option.  Also, under some circumstances, L1B can change to L1A or vice versa.   After the U.S. company has been in full operation for one year, the L1-A applicant may consider applying for permanent resident status (green card) through the EB1C channel.

 

Read more about L-1 status and Visatopia’s L-1 services:

Read about some of our successful L-1 cases: