L1 Visa – Intracompany Transferees

The L-1 intracompany transferee nonimmigrant visa facilitates the temporary admission to the U.S. of qualified foreign persons to work for a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of their overseas employer. With no numerical cap on visa issuances under current law the intracompany transferee visa is an attractive temporary work visa alternative for the eligible foreign employee of a multinational firm. The L-1 visa classification shares the H-1B-visa category’s exemption from the requirement applicable to many other temporary visa categories that the visa candidate must have a permanent residence abroad that he or she has no intention of abandoning.  L-1 visas are not subject to numerical limitations which restrict the number of new H-1B visas issued annually.

Individual L-1 petitions filed for foreign workers entering the U.S. to accept qualified employment with an employer that has been actively doing business in the U.S. for a minimum of one year are initially valid for the period of established need for the beneficiary’s services, not to exceed three years, with multiple subsequent extensions available for a maximum of two years. The maximum allowable period of stay for a L-1 foreign worker is seven years in the case of a manager or executive or five years for a special knowledge employee, after which the employee must spend at least one year outside of the U.S. in order to become eligible for a new period of L-1 status.

An L-1 principal is solely authorized to work for the sponsoring multinational firm. Dependent spouses of L-1 principals however, are entitled to apply for open market employment authorization pursuant to which they may work during the validity of the principal’s authorized period of stay.

L-1 Intracompany Transferee Requirements

To qualify for L-1 status, the visa candidate must, within three years preceding the time of his or her application for admission into the United States, have been employed abroad continuously for one year by a firm, corporation, or other legal entity or parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary thereof.  In addition, the candidate must be seeking to enter the United States temporarily in order to render his or her services to a branch of the same employer or a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary thereof, in a capacity that is managerial, executive, or involves specialized knowledge. have been employed by the multinational firm outside of the United States on a full-time basis for at least one continuous year during the three-year period immediately prior to filing the visa petition. Furthermore, the candidate must be seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily to perform services either in a managerial or executive capacity (L-1A), or in a position that entails specialized knowledge (L-1B).

L-1A Classification

To qualify for L-1A status, an intracompany transferee candidate must be seeking to enter the U.S. to accept temporary employment in a managerial or executive position. Managers and executives plan, organize, direct, and control an organization’s major functions and work through other employees to achieve the organization’s goals.

L-1A candidates authorized to accept employment in anexecutive capacity” primarily direct the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization; establish the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function; exercise wide latitude in discretionary decision making; and receive only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

L-1A candidates assigned to work in a “managerial capacity” primarily manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization; supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manage an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization.  A manager seeking L-1A visa status should exercise discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.

Front-line supervisors, such as those who plan, schedule, and supervise the day-to-day work of nonprofessional employees, are not employed in an executive or managerial capacity, even though they may be referred to as managers in their particular organization. In addition, individuals who primarily perform the tasks necessary to produce the product(s) or provide the service(s) of an organization are not employed in an executive or managerial capacity.  

L-1B Classification

A multinational firm may sponsor an employee with “specialized knowledge” for assignment to the U.S. under L-1B visa classification. In order to establish the L-1B visa eligibility of a “special knowledge” transferee, the visa petition must show that the beneficiary possesses “specialized knowledge”; the position offered involves the “specialized knowledge” held by the beneficiary; and the beneficiary has at least one continuous year of employment abroad in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity with the qualifying multinational organization within the preceding three years.

A petitioner may demonstrate “specialized knowledge” by establishing that the visa candidate either has “special” knowledge of the company’s product and its application in international markets; or an “advanced” level of knowledge of the processes and procedures of the company, or both.  

The most recent USCIS policy memorandum regarding L-1B adjudication standards confirms that determining whether a beneficiary has “special knowledge” requires review of the beneficiary’s knowledge of how the petitioning organization manufactures, produces, or develops its products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests. Determinations concerning “advanced knowledge” on the other hand, require review of the beneficiary’s knowledge of the specific petitioning organization’s processes and procedures. With respect to either special or advanced knowledge, the petitioner ordinarily must demonstrate that the beneficiary’s knowledge is not commonly held throughout the particular industry.

New Office Petition

The beneficiary of an L petition may be coming to the United States to work as a manager or executive, or in a special knowledge capacity for a newly established U.S. office of the foreign employer.  USCIS regulations provide that a petition filed by the U.S. startup business must demonstrate that sufficient physical premises have been secured to house the new business and that the petitioner has the financial ability to remunerate the beneficiary and to commence doing business in the United States.  A petition for a visa applicant coming to the U.S. to work in an executive or managerial capacity for a newly established U.S. office must also show that within one year of approval of the petition, the U.S. operation will support an executive or managerial position.