Purpose of L-1 Visas for Intra-Company Transferees
The L-1 classification is popular with multinational companies because it is designed for intra-company transferees – employees who work for companies operating both in the United States and abroad.
There are many advantages to the L-1 visa classification:
- Unlike H-1B visas, there is no cap, or annual limit, on L-1 visas.
- Employers do not have to obtain a labor certification before petitioning on behalf of L-1 employees.
- When applying for their L-1 visas at a United States consulate abroad, employees do not have to prove their intent to remain in the United States for only a temporary period.
- L1-A visa holders fit into the first preference employment-based category for priority workers—EB-1, making it much easier and quicker for them to obtain permanent residency. This is because EB-1 petitions, unlike other employment-based petitions, do not require labor certification before the filing of Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.
Employers must file applications for L-1 employees on Form I-129, Petition for Alien Worker and complete the “L” Supplement. Applications must be filed with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the place of intended employment. Extensions are filed also filed on Form I-129.
To qualify for an L-1 visa, an employee must:
- Have worked abroad for a continuous period of one year, out of the three preceding years, for a company that is related to the company the employee will be joining in the United States. (The company abroad is related to a United States company if it is the branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the United States company.); and
- Be coming to work in the United States in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
L-1A Managers and Executives
Managers and Executives are issued L-1A visas, which are valid for up to seven years. Unlike the H-1B visa for professional workers, current law does not permit L-1A visa holders to apply for an extension beyond the seven-year period.
To qualify as a manager, an employee must hold a position in which the employee primarily:
- Manages the company, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the company;
- Supervises and controls the work of other managerial or professional employees, or manages an essential function of the company, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the company;
- Has authority to hire and fire other employees or recommend personnel actions (If the employee does not directly supervise employees, the employee may meet this required by showing that the employee holds a senior position within the company); and
- Has discretion over the daily operations of the activity the employee is in charge of.
To qualify as an executive, an employee must hold a position in which the employee primarily:
- Directs the management of the company, or a major component or function of the company;
- Establishes the company’s goals and policies;
- Has wide latitude in making discretionary decisions; and
- Receives only general supervision or direction from more senior executives, board of directors, or stockholders.
L-1B Specialized Knowledge Professionals
Specialized knowledge professionals are issued L1-B visas, which are valid for up to seven years. Unlike the H-1B visa for professional workers, current law does not permit L1-B visa holders to apply for an extension beyond the five-year period.
To qualify as a specialized knowledge professional, an employee must:
- Have special knowledge (knowledge that is noteworthy or uncommon) of the company’s products or services and their application in world markets; or
- Have an advanced knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures or procedures.
An employee is probably a specialized knowledge professional if the employee:
- Has knowledge that is valuable to the company’s competitiveness;
- Is uniquely qualified to contribute to the United States employer’s knowledge of foreign operations;
- Is a key employee in the company and has been assigned to projects that have improved the company’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or financial strength; and
- Has knowledge that can only be gained through long-term prior experience with the company.
Blanket L Visa Petition
Large companies that frequently bring many employees to the United States may want to file a blanket petition. An approved blanket petition means a company does not have to individually petition for each employee it needs to bring to the United States.
To qualify for a blanket petition, a company must meet the following requirements:
- The company’s United States office must have been operating in the United States for at least one year;
- The company must have at least three domestic or foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates;
- The company’s offices, both in the United States and abroad, must be engaged in commercial trade or services; and
- The company must show one of the following:
- The company won approval for at least 10 petitions for L-1 employees during the past 12 months;
- The company has U.S. sales of at least $25 million; or
- The company has more than 1,000 employees in the United States.
A blanket petition is valid for three years but may be extended indefinitely. Blanket L-1 employees are admitted for the same time periods as individually petitioned for L-1 employees: executives and managers are admitted for seven years, and specialized knowledge professionals are admitted for five years.
New U.S. Office L-1 Petition
Special rules govern the transfer of an L-1 employee coming to the United States to start a new office.
Generally, a new office petition must:
- Provide evidence that premises have been secured for the new office;
- Provide evidence that the new office’s nature, size, scope, operations, and organizational structure require a manager of executive; and
- Provide evidence that the size of the investment in the new office is sufficient for the company to start and continue doing business in the United States.
New office petitions are approved for an initial period of only one year.
Extensions require the filing of a new Form I-129, Petition for Alien Worker, along with the “L” Supplement.
To obtain an extension for a new office petition, a company must:
- Provide evidence that the U.S. office and the overseas office have the required relationship for an L-1 petition;
- Provide evidence that the U.S. office has been doing business for the past year;
- Provide evidence of the financial status of the U.S. office;
- Provide a statement describing the L-1 employee’s duties over the past year and what the L-1 employee’s duties will be during the period of extension; and
- Provide a statement describing the staffing pattern of the U.S. office and the number and the type of positions filled, with proof of the wages paid for those positions.
L-2 Status for Family members of L-1 Visa Holders
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of L-1 visa holders are eligible to apply for L-2 status. It does not matter if the L-1 visa holder came to the United States under an individual or blanket petition.
Persons with L-2 status may work and study in the United States and apply to change their status to any visa classification for which they qualify.
L-2 visa holders must file their applications to extend stay on Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.