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L-1 Work Visa

L-1 Visas are temporary nonimmigrant visas issued to managers or executive employees transferred internally inside their company from a foreign office to a U.S. parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate office of the company for business purposes.  

L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager

  • L-1A Visa enables a U.S. employer to transfer their executive employee (like a vice-president or director of international marketing for example) or manager from one of its foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.  This visa also enables a foreign company to bring a manager or executive to the States to establish a new US branch or subsidiary office.
  • The employer must file a Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with L Supplement on behalf of the employee.

The following information describes some of the features and requirements of the L-1 nonimmigrant visa program.

General Qualifications of Employer Petitioner

To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, 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 United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1.  While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

Doing business means 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 United States and abroad.

General Qualifications of Employee Manager or Executive applicant for visa L-1A:

To qualify, the named employee must:

  • Have been working for the foreign office for one continuous year within the last three years; and
  • Be seeking to enter US to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or employer’s affiliates in US.

Executive capacity means the visa applicant employee’s ability to make high level management decisions

Managerial capacity generally 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, or manage an important function of the organization at a high level without direct supervision.

New Offices

For foreign employer  to send an employee to the States as an executive or manager to establish a new office, the employer must show that:

  • The employer has secured an office for the new branch;
  • The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.

Period of Stay for L-1A

  • L-1A Visa for new office establishment is issued for one year.
  • All other L-1A visa holders will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years.
  • For all L-1A visas, the visa will be extended for increments of up to two years, but no longer than the aggregate of seven years in total stay.

L-1B Visa for Intracompany Transferees for Employees with Specialized Knowledge

  • L-1B Period of Stay.  L1B visa is issued for 1 year where it is for a new office in US, and for 3 years for established offices.
  • Specialized knowledge for L-1B Visa Holder means either special unique knowledge of the petitioner company’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.
  • In other words, this employee may not be a manager or executive, but knows something so unique and special about the company’s business that the company cannot find anyone in US with this narrow knowledge.
  • Otherwise, the process of applying for the L-1B visa is the same as L-1A.

Family of L-1 Workers

  • The L-1 visa holder may be accompanied or followed by a spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age.
  • This applies to both L-1As and L-1Bs.
  • The spouse and children will receive L-2 visas.  The L-2 visa holders’ visas will be issued for the same period of stay as the L-1.
  • For family members already in the US, they may file Form I-539 to change their status to that of L-2.
  • Spouses holding L-2 Visa are eligible for work authorization in the US independently of the L-1 lead applicant and can work anywhere.
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