L-1 Visa for Intra-Company Transfers

L Visas allow key employees within a company to be transferred to the United States on a temporary basis. There are two categories of L-1 status: L-1A for executives and managers and L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge. L-1 visas may only be used for intra-company transfers.

Requirements for L-1 Status

The employer petitioning for the transfer must be a United States or foreign corporation, firm, or other legally registered entity, and must do business as an employer in the United States and at least one other country. The organization may satisfy the second requirement by having a special relationship to organizations in another country, such as a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate.

The employee for whom the corporation is petitioning must have been employed by the employer or a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the employer for at least one continuous year out of the three years preceding the petition. The employee must also fit into either the L-1A executive or managerial category or the L-1B special knowledge category.

L-1A: Executive or Managerial Capacity Requirements

An employee of a corporation may qualify for L-1A status if they fit into either the category of executive or managerial employees.

To qualify as a manager, the employee must have job responsibilities that primarily include (i) managing the organization or a department, subdivision, or component of the organization; (ii) supervises the work of other supervisors, professionals, or managers; (iii) has hiring and firing powers, or may make recommendations regarding hiring, firing, or other personnel decisions; and (iv) has discretion over day-to-day operations regarding the organization or department over which he or she has authority.

To qualify as an executive, an employee must have job responsibilities that primarily include (i) directing the management of the organization or a major department or function of the organization; (ii) creating the goals and policies of the organization or the part of the organization the individual directs; (iii) exercising wide discretion in decision-making; and (iv) having only general direction from higher-level executives, directors, or stockholders.

L-1B: Specialized Knowledge Requirements

To qualify as an employee with special knowledge for L-1B status, the employee must either (i) have special knowledge of the organization’s products or services and their use in international markets; or (ii) an advanced level of knowledge pertaining to the company’s processes or procedures.

A beneficiary may possess either special or advanced knowledge, or both. A beneficiary has special knowledge if he has knowledge of how the petitioning organization manufactures, produces, or develops its products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests. A beneficiary has advanced knowledge if he has knowledge of the specific petitioning organization’s processes and procedures not commonly held throughout the particular industry. This knowledge need not be proprietary in nature or narrowly held within the petitioning organization to be considered specialized. Specialized knowledge workers need not occupy managerial or similar positions or command higher compensation compared to their peers.

Validity Period

Individuals who qualify for L-1A status may be granted a visa for up to seven years, and those who qualify for L-1B status may be granted up to five years. However, duration of the visa is at the discretion of the USCIS and generally an L-1 visa will be granted for only three years, with extensions allowed up to the maximum five or seven years. For new companies, the USCIS will generally only grant a visa initially for one year. Under the doctrine of dual intent, however, individuals who are present in the United States under an L-1 visa may simultaneously apply for permanent residency under EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 categories.

Important Considerations

An L-1 visa holder’s spouses and children under the age of 21 years old may be admitted under the L-1 visa as dependents. Spouses of individuals who enter the United States under an L-1 visa are also eligible for employment authorization. They must apply upon arrival in the United States, and they cannot work until the application has been approved by the USCIS

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