What is an L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa?

The L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa which allows companies to relocate foreign qualified employees to its US subsidiary, affiliate or parent company.

Do I qualify for L-1 Intracompany Transferee Status?

Companies wishing to transfer their executives, managers and other special employees from a foreign office to a related office in the United States may be eligible for L-1 status. L-1 status may be accorded to applicants who meet the following criteria:

  • Was continuously employed in a full-time role for one year, of the preceding three, by a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the US petitioning company;
  • Was employed abroad as an executive, manager or in a position requiring specialized knowledge;
  • Will be employed in the US as an executive, manager or in a position requiring specialized knowledge (although it is important to note that the roles in the US and abroad need not be the same; for example an individual may have worked in a position requiring specialized knowledge in the foreign office but will be transferred to the US as a manager).

The position in which an individual will be employed in the United States determines which of the two L-1 sub-categories is appropriate. L-1A is designated for executives and managers and L-1B for those with specialized knowledge.

What is a ‘Managerial’ employee?

For the purposes of L-1A, an individual will be deemed to be employed in a managerial role if he or she has the following primary duties and characteristics:

  • Managing the organization, department, subdivision, function or component;
  • Supervising and controlling the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees; or manages an essential function within the organization or department or subdivision of the organization;
  • Hiring and firing employees or being equipped with the authority to recommend personnel actions (if these traits are not relevant to his or her role, employee must function at a senior level within the hierarchy); and
  • Exercises discretion over day to day operations of that which he or she manages.

What is an ‘Executive’ employee?
  • For the purposes of L-1A, an individual will be deemed to be employed in an executive role if he or she has the following primary duties and characteristics:
  • Directing the management of the organization or a major component or function;
  • Establishing goals and policies;
  • Exercising wide discretion in decision making; and
    Receives limited supervision.

Distinguishing between managerial and executive capacity can be difficult and analysis often centers on the particular business in question. Roles will naturally differ between large multinational corporations and SMEs.

Who qualifies as an individual with ‘Specialized Knowledge’?

Establishing specialized knowledge can be difficult especially since it is a far more subjective and narrowly defined standard than under L-1A. Specialized knowledge has been defined as “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.” Characteristics of individuals with specialized knowledge include but are not limited to:

  • Possessing knowledge that is valuable to the employer’s competitiveness;
  • Possessing knowledge which can normally only be gained through prior experience with the foreign employer;
  • Possessing knowledge of a product or process that cannot be easily transferred or taught to another individual;
  • Has been utilized abroad in a capacity involving significant assignments which have enhanced the employer’s competitiveness, productivity, image or financial position; and
  • Is qualified to contribute to the US employer’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions as a result of special knowledge not generally found in the industry.

Can I send an employee to a US office that is not yet established?

Yes. You will make an application for L-1 New Office.

New office
For foreign employers seeking to send an employee to the United States as an executive or manager to establish a new office, evidence of the following must be submitted:

  • Sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured;
  • The employee meets the one-year full-time continuous employment requirement; and
  • The intended US office will, within one year of the petition’s approval, support an executive or managerial position.

Can I bring my family?

Yes – your spouse and children (under 21 years) can obtain L-2 visas. The basis for their eligibility is their relationship with you, the L-1A or L-1B holder.

Can my family work and study?

Your spouse can work (upon successful application made after entry) and/or study and your unmarried children under the age of 21 can study without requiring an F-1 Student Visa. Employment Authorization will need to be obtained before a spouse may work. Children can attend school without further action.

For how long is an L-1 visa valid?

This depends upon whether the petition is for a new or established office. A new office petition, as described above, will be approved for one year only. After which, the office is required to support the transferred employee.

For an employee who is sent to an established office, L-1A and L-1B visas are generally approved for an initial period of up to three years. Managers and executives who obtain L-1A status may be granted extensions of two years, up to a maximum of seven years; those entering under L-1B may too be granted extensions of up to two years but have a lower maximum duration of five years.

Dependent L-2 visas are approved for the same duration as L-1 principal visa holders. Applicants must however be mindful of children who are due to reach 21 years. Children of non-immigrant visa holders are only eligible for such status until 21 years. Call us today to discuss all options for children who are likely to “age out”.

What are the benefits of L-1 Intracompany Transferee visas?

L-1 visas are advantageous for many reasons including:

  • No size limitation of the company
  • No nationality requirement on the company or employee being transferred
  • No specified investment amount
  • Premium processing is available (15 days)
  • No labor certification required
  • A route to permanent residency

What are the limitations of L-1 Intra-company Transferee visas?
  • New office petitions are approved for one year only
  • Inappropriate for new businesses that do not have rapid growth
  • Requires considerable staffing for an established office

Where do I file?

Firstly, you must file a petition with USCIS. This can be premium processed (within 15 days) for a fee. Standard processing generally takes far longer. Following receipt of an approved petition, you will apply for a visa at your local embassy/consulate.

Is there a route to obtaining a green card through an L-1 visa?

This decision is made by the petitioning company, so employees may not apply for a green card without the company’s cooperation. While your L-1 visa does not convert to a green card after meeting any given requirements, it is possible to apply for an immigrant visa (green card) through EB-1C Multinational Manager or Executive. There may also be other options available to an individual seeking a green card – call us today to discuss your options.