L Visas for Intracompany Transferees

What is an L Visa?

L-1 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.  Dependent spouses and children may accompany the primary L-1 visa holder in an L-2 dependent status. 

2 Options for Employees

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.   

L1-A Visa

  • Executives and managers starting a new subsidiary or an affiliate branch in the U.S., or being transferred to an existing one.
  • 7-year maximum stay

L1-B Visa

  • Employees who have specialized knowledge of the company, its function or processes
  • 5-year maximum stay

At the end of their stay, the employee must leave the United States for 1 year before they can return on a new L or H visa. L visas often allow for a smooth transition and path to permanent residence for the employee and their immediate family.

L-1 Employer Classification Requirements

In order to qualify, the employer must meet the following L-1 requirements:

  • Have an appropriate corporate structure and business nexus between the foreign company and the U.S. office
  • Currently (or in the near future) be operating in the U.S. and at least one other country for the duration of the applicant’s stay

L-1 Employee Classification

L-1A Visa Requirements

To obtain an L-1A visa, an applicant must:

  • Prove they have worked for the business in question (or related business) for at least 1 full year in the 3-year period immediately prior to the application filing
  • Be working for the company overseas and file at the U.S. Consulate in their home country
  • Be seeking to enter the U.S. in order to fill a managerial or executive position
  • Have the expertise to lead a team of professionals without much oversight, and manage the company’s (or department’s) function(s) and development

Often times an L-1A visa is used by foreign businesses to open new affiliate or subsidiary locations in the U.S. If the applicant (executive/manager) is looking to establish a new office in the U.S.:

  • The employer must have secured a physical location for the new office
  • The employee must have been in an executive or managerial position with the company for at least 1 full year in the 3-year period immediately prior to the application filing
  • The new office will support a managerial or executive position within 1 year of approval

L-1B Visa Requirements

To obtain an L-1B visa, an applicant must:

  • Prove they have worked for the business in question (or related business) for at least 1 full year, in the 3-year period immediately prior to the application filing
  • Be working for the company overseas and file at the U.S. Consulate in their home country
  • Be seeking to enter the U.S. in order to fill a specialized role, for which the applicant is highly trained
  • Have advanced knowledge of the business, its processes, or a specific skill necessary for the employer’s development and success

Applying for an L-1 Visa

Once the intracompany transferee has met all the requirements for their respective visas, they can move onto the application process itself:

  1. Employer must file an I-129 on behalf of the employee
  2. Employee must apply for an L-1 visa and bring an I-797 Approval Notice to the U.S. Embassy abroad, together with the rest of the supporting documents prepared by the TBLO office.

Despite the L-1 visa processing time of anywhere from 15 calendar days (Premium Processing) or 3 to 5 months (Regular Processing), the paperwork can be challenging and complicated, so it’s best to hire a qualified business immigration attorney for assistance.

What are L-2 Visas?

L-2 visas are reserved for the family of the L-1 applicant. Dependent family members (spouse and children under 21) are eligible for this derivative immigration status. Spouses may apply for employment authorization, and children may attend U.S. schools.

Begin Business Overseas

Call us at 503.210.2249 or send us a message if you’re looking to open a new office in the U.S., transfer the employees to a new or an existing office, or have an L-1 visa that you would like to renew.

Get in touch to start your journey.

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