L-1A and L-1B Visas - Corporate Transfer Visas

According to law, foreign based companies may transfer managers, executives (L-1A Visa), and employees with "specialized knowledge" (L-1B Visa) to their New or Existing, U.S. branch office, affiliate, subsidiary or joint venture, for temporary periods of up to seven (7) years for an L-1A, and up to five (5) years for an L-1B. During the period of transfer, the foreign based company must continue to do business abroad. This is called the L-1 Intra-Company Transferee temporary work visa. In addition, the foreign based company must show that each person to be transferred has worked for the foreign company as a manager, executive or employee with "specialized knowledge", for at least one full year within the preceding 3 year period. The foreign parent company and the U.S. branch office do not need to be involved in the same line of business. Contact an immigration lawyer at our office to discuss your L-1A or L-1B visa.


L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager

The L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one. The employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the employee.

The following describes some of the features and requirements of the L-1 nonimmigrant visa program.

General Qualifications of the Employer and Employee

To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must:

Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and

Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.

L-1 Requirements of the Employee to Be Transferred

Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and

Be seeking to enter the United States to render services in an executive or managerial capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

Executive capacity generally refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight. Managerial capacity generally refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.

New Offices for L-1 Visa

For foreign employers who are seeking to send an employee to the United States as an executive or manager in order to establish a new office, it must also be shown that sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured.

The employee has been employed as an executive or manager for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition; and

The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.

L-1 Visa Period of Stay

Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. Where the U.S. office has been operating for over one year, transferred employees may enter for an initial maximum period of stay of three (3) years. For all L-1A employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.

Family and Dependents of L-1 Workers

The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Such family members may seek admission in L-2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee. If these family members are already in the United States and seeking change of status to or extension of stay in L-2 classification, they may apply collectively, with fee, on Form I-539. Spouses of L-1 workers may apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with fee. If approved, there is no specific restriction as to where the L-2 spouse may work.

Blanket Petitions

Certain organizations may establish the required intra-company relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. In order to establish eligibility for blanket L certification, the employer and each of the qualifying organizations must be:

1. engaged in commercial trade or services.

2. have an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more.

3. have three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates.

4. meet one of the following criteria:

Along with the other qualifying organizations, have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period; or

Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or

Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1A classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States quickly and with short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. In most cases, once the blanket petition has been approved, the employer need only complete Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and send it abroad to the employee along with a copy of the blanket petition Approval Notice and other required evidence, so that the employee may present it to a consular officer.

L-1 Specialized Knowledge Capacity

To serve in a specialized knowledge capacity, the alien’s knowledge must different from or surpass the ordinary or usual knowledge of an employee in the particular field, and must have been gained through significant prior experience with the petitioning organization. A specialized knowledge employee must have an advanced level of expertise in his or her organization’s processes and procedures or special knowledge of the organization, which is not readily available in the United States labor market.

Some characteristics of an employee who has specialized knowledge are that he or she:

(1) Possesses knowledge that is valuable to the employer’s competitiveness in the market place;

(2) Is uniquely qualified to contribute to the U.S. employer’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions;

(3) Has been utilized as a key employee abroad and has been given significant assignments which have enhanced the employer’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or financial position; and

(4) Possesses knowledge, which can be gained only through extensive prior experience with the employer.

L-1 Visa Immigration Lawyer

Our law office is able to assist clients with the incorporation of U.S. companies in any state, and can arrange for adequate initial L-1 Visa qualifying office space at an additional fee.

The processing time for the L-1 Corporate Transferee Visa is only 4-6 weeks, and with the USCIS “Premium Processing” service, the case can be adjudicated within 10 business days. The additional USCIS fee for “Premium Processing” is $1,000.

The maximum initial period of authorized stay in the United States for an employee transferred to an existing U.S. company is 3 years; and for a newly formed U.S. company 1 year. L-1A visas may be renewed for two (2) consecutive three (3) year periods, or for a total period of seven (7) years.

All new L-1 Petitions are subject to the a USCIS $500 Fraud Prevention Fee, as well as the standard $320 L-1 Petition Fee.

Legal fees for the L-1A, and L-1B visas generally range from $2,000 to $3,500 depending on the details of the case.

Written by:Mark Carmel