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 L-1 Visa for Managers, Executives and Specialized Knowledge Employees

1. The Overview of L-1 Visa  

The L-1 intracompany transferee visa allows managers, executives, and especially knowledgeable employees who work outside the U.S. for a company that has an affiliated entity inside the U.S. to come to the U.S. and perform services for that entity. There are no limits on how many people can get L-1 visas every year.

The U.S. Congress created the L-1 nonimmigrant visa category in 1970, primarily to assist multinational companies that experienced difficulties in bringing to the United States critical personnel temporarily from abroad. To be eligible for an L-1 visa, a foreign national normally must have been employed by the foreign company continuously for at least one year during the preceding three years in a managerial or executive position, or in a position where the individual gained specialized knowledge.  

The individual must be coming to the United States to provide services to the same employer or a branch office, subsidiary or affiliate. For this reason, L-1 visa holders are known as intracompany transferees. Executives and managers enter the United States on an L-1A visa. Employees with specialized knowledge enter the United States on an L-1B visa. 

To qualify for specialized knowledge, the employee must possess special knowledge of the petitioning employer's product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge in the employer's processes and procedures.

Since the L-1 program creation, U.S. Congress has consistently responded to the needs of the business community by facilitating the process by which multinational companies import key personnel through the L-1 visa. Originally, the L-1 beneficiary had to have worked for the company abroad during the year immediately before filing the L-1 petition. A later amendment broadened the qualifying period to one year during the prior three year, thus permitting a former employee to rejoin the multinational company in the United States.

A blanket L visa petition allows employers to have a petition on file that certifies that the organization meets the requirements of the blanket L visa program.

2. The L-1 Visa Is a Temporary Professional Work Visa

For years, the L-1 visa has been a vital tool for both U.S. companies with an international presence, and international firms expanding into the U.S. Although not a heavily utilized visa, the L-1 visa has done much to foster foreign investment in U.S. Many foreign companies use L-1 visa program to build U.S. factories, open offices, and hire significant number of U.S. workers. In fact, L-1 visa is the principal immigration vehicle U.S. companies use to bring in qualified personnel temporarily from their operations abroad, to serve as managers or executives, or to apply certain specialized knowledge.

An L-1 visa allows foreign nationals working abroad for a multinational company to be transferred to work in the United States. The L-1 work visas are designed for people transferring from a company abroad to work in the United States for a related company. Unless U.S. and foreign companies are able to bring key personnel to their American operations, U.S. companies will be put at a competitive disadvantage, and foreign companies will be unlikely to establish or expand their presence in U.S.

This visa category requires that the employee holds an executive or managerial position, or has specialized knowledge about company products or processes. The L-1 visas are a popular option for multinational firms. The L-1 visa is a temporary professional work visa:

  • It is valid for up to seven years for managers and executives (L-1A);

  • It is valid for up to five years for specialized knowledge employees (L-1B), and

  • L-1 dependents (spouses and children) receive L2 status. L2 spouses may obtain authorization to work in the United States in any type of employment.

3. Meeting the Basic Criteria for an L-1 Visa

A worker qualifies for an L-1 visa if he or she has been employed outside the U.S. by the sponsoring company for at least one continuous year out of the past three years, and is being transferred to the U.S. to work as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker. Managers and executives receive L-1A visas, and people with special knowledge receive L-1B visas.

The U.S. company to which you are transferring must be a parent, branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or joint venture partner of the non-US employer. Non-US company means that it is physically located outside the United States. Such a company may be a foreign division of a U.S.-based business or it may have originated in a country outside the United States. Either one fits the definition of a non-U. company. 

The company must continue operations for the duration of your visa, and the visa holder should expect to be transferred back upon return. In case the foreign employer closes, the U.S. employer must have a related foreign company to which the L-1 visa holder could theoretically be transferred.

4. About the Company Filing the L-1 Petition

The company filing the petition must be doing business as an employer in the United States, and in at least one other country directly or through a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary for the duration of the alien's stay in the United States as an intracompany transferee. 

Doing business means the regular, systematic and continuous provision of goods or services by a qualifying organization, and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office in the United States and abroad. Further, both the U.S. and foreign company must be active.

Affiliate means one of two subsidiaries both of which are owned and controlled by the same parent or individual, or one of two legal entities owned and controlled by the same group of individuals, each individual owning and controlling approximately the same share or proportion of each entity.  

An alien who has been employed abroad continuously for one year by a corporation, or other legal entity or parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary may be admitted temporarily into the United States, in a capacity that is managerial, executive or involves specialized knowledge. Executives and managers who qualify for L-1A status may also qualify for permanent residence under the employment-based first preference immigrant category - EB1-Multinational Executives and Managers (EB-1C) Green Card petition.

5. Work for the L-1 Visa Sponsor Only

The L-1 visa holder should only work for the U.S. employer which is the L-1 visa sponsor. The L-1 visa employer should be a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate that employed the L-1 visa holder outside the U.S. Generally, the L-1 visa holder is expected to work full-time in United States. But the alien can also work less than full-time, if he or she uses a major portion of time to the job. 

The L-1 visa holder can travel out of the United States before the L-1 status expires; and the L-1 visa holder's spouse can apply for employment authorization to work in U.S.

6. The Similarities of Eligibility Requirements for L-1A Visa and EB-1C Immigration Petition

L-1A is a nonimmigrant visa category designed for the intra-company transfer of executives and managers in multinational companies to the United States. The L-1A visa is a nonimmigrant visa which gives the visa holder temporary work authorization. However, the employment-based immigrant category of EB1-Multinational Executives and Managers (EB-1C) Green Card petition allows the same group of aliens to apply for a Green Card. It is very common for employers who sponsor their transferees for L-1A visa to later file an EB-1C petition on behalf of their transferees.

The eligibility requirements for both the L-1A visa and EB-1C immigration petition are similar:

1) there must be a qualifying relationship between the U.S. petitioning company where the applicant will work and the foreign company where the applicant has worked; 

2) the transferee must hold a managerial or executive level position before and after being transferred;

3) the transferee must have worked for the foreign entity continuously for at least one of the past three years. 

The L-1A visa is widely considered to be a necessary precursor to obtain an EB-1C Green Card petition approval. However, it should be emphasized that, while similar, the L-1A and the EB-1C are not directly connected. The L-1A is not exactly a prerequisite for the EB-1C Green Card petition. A multinational company can file an EB-1C Green Card petition directly, provided all EB-1C requirements are met. In fact, the previous visa status of an alien beneficiary is irrelevant to the success of an EB-1C petition, and L-1A holders are not guaranteed an EB-1C approval. 

Please visit http://www.greencardapply.com/manager.htm and http://www.greencardapply.com/manager/mang_package.htm for more information about EB-1C Multinational Executive/Manager Green Card application. 

7. How Could You Help My L-1 Visa Application?

The burden of L-1 visa petition approval rests with the petitioner. The petitioner should provide substantial evidence of L-1 visa criteria that the alien could satisfy. If the alien applicant is qualified, then the success depends largely on the way the application is presented to USCIS. 

To help you apply for or renew your L-1A visa / L-1B visa easily and quickly, we provide a high quality and case proved Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of L-1 Visa/Status Application for Intra-Company Transferees, based on our extensive and practical employment immigration and visa application experience.

As added value in the Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of L-1 Visa/Status Application for Intra-Company Transferees, we provide comprehensive instructions on L-1 visa application requirements and processing, and we also let you know step-by-step application procedures, detailed instructions, all required documents, and how to submit a comprehensive L-1 visa application to USCIS. 

We also provide several sample of petition cover letters, samples of filled petition form, complete petition checklists from yourself and from your employer, all the required USCIS forms, and detailed explanations of many petition related important issues.



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Requirements for a Company and Intracompany Transferee
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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for L-1 Visa
William's Answers for Questions about L-1 Visa
Do-It-Yourself Package for L-1 Visa Application or Extension
L-1 Visa Application and L-1 Visa Extension
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