L-1 Visa (Intracompany Transferee)

   
Overview

The L-1 visa status is suited for individuals working for entities that wish to relocate the employer from a foreign office to a US office.  The L-1 visa holder must have been employed in the foreign office for one year within the previous three years prior to entering the US.  While the L visa is typically used for a simple transfer of office, the L-1 visa category does permit individuals to obtain an L visa entry to establish a new office in the US in some circumstances.

There are two types of L-1 visas:

L-1A (Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager) – The L-1A visa is for individuals to transfer offices in an executive or managerial capacity.  Executive capacity tends to mean that the individual has wide discretion to make decisions on behalf of the entity without much oversight.  Managerial capacity refers to the role of supervising and controlling the work of professional employees, management of important operations of the entity, or managing an important function, department, or subdivision of the entity.

L-1A visas can be granted for up to three years initially and are renewable in up to two-year increments for a maximum of seven years.  For L-1A holders entering to open a new office, the visa can be granted for up to one year initially, renewable for a maximum of seven years in two-year increments.

L-1B (Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge) – The L-1B visa is for individuals with specialized knowledge relating to the entity’s interest seeking to enter the US and utilize that knowledge in the US office.  There is no specific, objective standard for specialized knowledge; however, L-1B holders are typically key employees whom have knowledge/ability not exhibited by most other employees.

L-1B visas can be granted for up to three years initially and are renewable in up to two-year increments for a maximum of five years.  For L-1B holders entering to open a new office, the visa can be granted for up to one year initially, renewable for a maximum of five years in two-year increments.

How To Qualify

L-1 visas are filed by the organization seeking to transfer the employee.  For established organizations with many qualified employees for L-1 consideration, a “blanket petition” may be filed to establish the intra-company relationship for additional employees; however, approval of a blanket petition does not mean all employees will get an L-1 visa.  Each employee needs to show his or her qualification for the visa status before issuance.

For most L-1 seekers, an individual petition is filed showing that the employer has a qualifying relationship between the US and foreign entity in which one may be parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the other.  Proof that the employee has worked for at least one year in the foreign office within the last three years is required, along with proof that the individual is employed and will be employed in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.  Once USCIS approves the petition, the individual may seek a visa stamp from their consulate/embassy.

L-2 Visa For Dependents

Unmarried children under the age of 21 and the spouse of the L-1 holder may apply for a L-2 visa to accompany the L-1 visa holder during the visa duration.  Spouses of L-1 visa holders may apply for work authorization, which is not restricted to a particular employer or job type.  L-2 visa holders (spouses or children) may also take up full or part time study in the US.

Can An L-1 Visa Holder Apply For Permanent Residence in the US?

As long as they are otherwise eligible, there is no restriction on L visa holders applying for permanent residence.  The L visa category allows for dual-intent, which means one can enter the US with both non-immigrant and immigrant intent.  When entering the US in L visa status or changing status to L status, the individual must intend to work according to the terms of the visa, but they are not restricted from seeking permanent residence at the same time by virtue of their status.