Getting an L-1 Visa

Intra-Company Transfer of Personnel

The L-1 Visa can be used by foreign companies to transfer an executive, manager, or specialized employee to a U.S.-based branch, affiliate or subsidiary company.

The requirements for an L-1 Visa are as follows:

  1. Both the U.S. and foreign company must be owned by the same group of people in approximately the same proportions.
  2. The other main requirement for the L-1 Visa is that the beneficiary must have been employed by the foreign company for at least 1 of the 3 years preceding the Visa petition.

Executives & Managers

The L-1A Visa is a non-immigrant visa designed for Executives and Managers of the Company. This non-immigrant visa category gives the visa holder temporary work authorization. The petition must prove that the beneficiary was employed by the foreign company in an executive or managerial capacity. The petition will also have to prove that the beneficiary will serve in an essential executive or managerial capacity for the U.S. based company, which is the ability to direct and supervise the work of other professional workers.

This is what the L-1A Visa entails:

  • The L-1A Visa can be granted for an initial period of 3 years.
  • It can be renewed until the beneficiary accrues a period of stay of 7 years in the United States.
  • The L-1A classification allows dual intent and there is a direct path to permanent residency (Green Card) through the EB-1 Visa category.
  • In fact, owners of foreign businesses can obtain permanent status in the United States by expanding operations to the U.S.

There are usually three steps during this process:

  • At first, the L-1A visa is issued for a period of one year to set up operations of the new U.S. branch;
  • Second, the L-1A visa must be renewed based in part on the first year record of the U.S. branch;
  • Third, once renewed for an additional two years, the L-1A visa holder can apply for U.S. Permanent Residency, of course with the support of the U.S. branch.

Specialized Employees

The L-1B Visa is for specialized employees of the company. U.S. immigration law defines a specialized employee as an individual possessing special knowledge of the petitioning organization's product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or expertise in the organization's processes and procedures. U.S. consular officers and USCIS will be looking for knowledge that is truly specialized and they will need to make sure that such knowledge is not readily available within the United States.

Here are the basics regarding L-1B Visas:

  • Generally speaking, the petitioning employer in the U.S. must demostrate to have a valid relationship with the foreign organization or branch where the employee works.
  • The foreign company or petitioning employer might also plan to start its operations or business in the U.S. during the request period of stay for the L-1B employee.
  • The L-1B Visa can be granted for an initial period of 3 years, and can be extended only for a maximum period of stay of 5 years. Further, this category is not subject to an annual limit or prevailing wage requirements.
  • The petitioning employee's unmarried children below 21 years of age and his or her spouse are eligible to enter U.S. using the dependent L2 visa.

Section 214(c)(2)(B) of the INA establishes that "for purposes of section 101(a) (15)(L) an alien is considered to be serving in a capacity involving specialized knowledge with respect to a company, if the alien has special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets, or has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company."

L-1 Visa Reform Act

In 2004 the USCIS has implemented the L-1 visa Reform Act. The law was passed in December 2004 and effective for Fiscal Year 2005. The L1 Visa Reform Act clarifies that the petitioning employee must be, while working in the U.S., supervised or controlled by the affiliated employer only. Moreover, the job functions performed by the petitioning employee shall not be considered as labor for hire.

Starting a New Office in the U.S.

The L-1 Visa can also be used by foreign companies to send an executive, manager of specialized employee to start the operation of a new U.S. branch. In this case, the L-1 Visa is granted for an initial period of 1 year. An L-1 Visa extension will be granted only if the company shows that their business can support a managerial, executive or specialized position, and that sufficient staff was hired.

As a New Jersey immigration attorney, I have helped many multi-million dollar companies obtain L-1A and L-1B Visas. For a first initial assessment of your case, please contact us by phone or by filling out a case evaluation form.

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