The L-1 Visa: Intracompany Transferees
WHAT IS AN L-1 VISA?
The L-1 Intracompany transferee visa allows US & foreign entities operating both inside and outside of the U.S. to transfer certain qualified employees to the U.S. operations for periods of five to seven years.
The employee will not be required to show 'non-immigrant' intent, which is the basic requirement for most non-immigrant visas.
The employee may remain on the foreign entity's payroll, or may receive payment from the U.S. source. (Quite often this is important to people that want to maintain seniority, pension &/or other benefits once they return to their foreign home.)
L-1 visa holders may not be self-employed and are only permitted to work for the sponsoring U.S. entity. L-1 visa holder's spouse & minor & unmarried children (who enter the U.S. on L-2 visas) may obtain work permits in the U.S. that are unrestricted as to employer.
Furthermore, employees working on an L-1 visa may obtain permanent residence in the U.S. through sponsorship of their employers (see "Employment Sponsorship" page.)
Which entities can petition for L-1 visas?
In most cases, the two entities must fulfill the criteria set by the Citizenship & Immigration Service, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS/DHS which we will simply call CIS) for a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate company.
Furthermore, both the U.S. and foreign entities must be operating for the entire duration of the L-1 visa.
A foreign company may file for a L-1 visa for the purpose of setting up a new office in the U.S. In such cases, the visa will be approved for an initial period of only one year.
Companies meeting additional requirements (mainly extensive U.S. operations) may file for blanket L-1 petitions. This enables large numbers of the company's qualifying employees to apply for L-1 visas directly to U.S. consulates abroad without having to obtain the approval from CIS.
Which employees are eligible for transfer?
In order to qualify, an L-1 visa beneficiary must have worked abroad for the petitioning company (or affiliate) for at least one of the three preceding years in one (or both) of the two following categories:
- Managerial/Executive capacity (L-1A):
The law contains specific definitions of the terms managerial and executive capacity. In order to determine if an employee qualifies under this category, an analysis of his/her position is required.
- Specialized knowledge (L-1B):
The law defines specialized knowledge as 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.
The period of qualifying employment may have taken place any time within the three-year timeframe. Also, the one year of employment may involve a combination of more than one of the above categories. Please note that only continuous full-time employment may be considered for L-1 visa purposes.
Furthermore, in some situations, it is possible for a person on L-1B to 'convert' to L-1A, which, as mentioned above, makes obtaining permanent residence in the U.S. easier.
Length of stay.
Initial L-1 visas may be granted for up to a three-year period (one year if the petitioner is opening a new office in the U.S.) Extensions may be granted up to a total of seven years for managers and executives, and five years for employees with specialized knowledge.
An L-1 visa application must be filed by the petitioning company with a regional service center of the CIS (citizens of Canada may file directly at the U.S. border.) If the beneficiary is outside of the U.S., after the CIS service center issues an approval notice, he/she must obtain a visa stamp from the nearest U.S. consulate before entering the U.S. (see "Consular Process.")
General Document Checklist
1. Examples of some of the documents normally submitted which relate to the U.S. entity, the position & prospective employee:
- Letter from U.S. employer that explains the nature of the business and of the alien's position, his/her qualifications, the exact terms of employment, but also gives a statement confirming that the alien will leave as soon as the visa expires;
- Corporation brochure, articles of association, articles of incorporation;
- website printout;
- business history;
- business plan;
- employment contract including future salary;
- resume of alien; and,
- his/her diplomas, certificates, degrees, school reports.
2. Examples of some of the documents normally submitted which relate to the foreign entity, the employee's position & employment history:
- Letter from a qualifying foreign organization confirming that the alien has worked with the foreign entity for at-least one year, within the preceding three years;
- letter from past employer abroad; and,
- reports from past employer.
3. Examples of some of the documents normally submitted which verify that the qualifying relationship between the two entities is that of a branch, parent, affiliate, or, subsidiary:
- an annual report;
- shareholder registry;
- shareholder certificate; and,
- stock certificates.
RO:09/95 - CA:08/97 - NZ/KC:08/01 - FC/PW:09/07
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