L visas are available to employees of multi-national companies who (i) have specialized knowledge of the company; or (ii) are executives or managers of the company. An individual can stay in the United States for a maximum of 5 years in the specialized knowledge category and a maximum of 7 years in the executive or manager category. At the end of the stay, the person must leave the United States for 1 year before he or she can return on a new L or H visa.
L-1 non-immigrant status is employer-specific employment authorized non-immigrant status available to foreign nationals employed abroad who seek admission into the United States to work for qualifying affiliate U.S. employers in either managerial/executive capacity (L-1A) or specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B). The L-1 foreign national is called an intracompany transferee. The L-1 category requires that the foreign national been employed abroad for the same or related employer for 1 full year within the 3-year period immediately prior to the transfer, which often means that the prospective transferee is currently employed overseas at the time of filing for the L-1. For these reasons, it is often preferable for the foreign national to apply for the L-1 visa at the U.S. consulate overseas rather than a change of status, once the L-1 petition is approved and prior to beginning employment with the U.S. entity. L-1 status is generally approved for an initial period of 3 years. The L-1A (manager/executive) can be extended up to a statutory limit of 7 years.
Dependent family members (spouse and minor children) of an L-1 nonimmigrant are eligible to apply for L-2 derivitive status. Spouses in L-2 status may apply for employment authorization after obtaining the L-2 status. Applications are processed in approximately 90 days. Children and spouses in L-2 status may also attend U.S. schools without changing to student status, although a student in the derivitive L status will not be granted practical training.
Often times L-1A visa is used by foreign business owners to open new affiliate or subsidiary offices in the U.S. or to invest in an existing business while securing an L-1 nonimmigrant status for himself, and L-2 dependent status for his immediate family. L-1A intracompany transferee (executive/manager) often allows for a smooth transition and path to permanent residence for the employee and his/her immediate family.