An L-1 visa is a temporary visa that allows foreign companies to transfer executives and managers (L-1A) and other workers possessing specialized knowledge (L-1B) temporarily to affiliates or subsidiaries in the United States. This visa category is intended to improve management effectiveness, expand U.S. exports, and enhance competitiveness in markets abroad.
The initial validity period of the L-1 visa is not to exceed three years. Extensions of stay may be authorized two years at a time.
- Definition of “Intracompany Transferee”
- L-1A visas: definition of “manager”
- L-1A visas: definition of “executive”
- L-1B visas: definition of “specialized knowledge”
- Benefits for family members
- Further information
DEFINITION OF “INTRACOMPANY TRANSFEREE”
Intracompany transferee “means an alien who, within three years preceding the time of his or her application for admission into the United States, has been employed abroad continuously for one year by a firm, corporation, or other legal entity or parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary thereof, and who seeks 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.” 9 FAM 41.54 N6
Definitions are very important for L-1 visas. There are strict guidelines for manager, specialized knowledge, affiliate, etc. Not all intracompany transferees will qualify for the L-1 visa. Furthermore, USCIS has found a high rate of fraud in the L-1 visa category, and is now looking very carefully at these cases. For new or small companies, USCIS will likely require substantial additional evidence.
Please note that according to Public Law 111-230, additional fees will apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) nonimmigrant status.
L-1A VISAS – FOR MANAGERS & EXECUTIVES
According to the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, a manager primarily:
- Manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
- Supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
- Has the authority to hire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions or, if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
- Exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.
“First-line supervisors” are specifically excluded from this definition, unless they supervise professionals, which must be proven by providing the credentials of those supervised. In addition, the position must be principally a managerial position, rather than simply having managerial components. Clear descriptions of the duties with percentages assigned to each that show that the managerial duties predominate and a definition of the job that focuses on the management and not production/delivery of goods and services is crucial.
According to the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, an executive primarily:
- Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
- Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
- Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
- Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
An individual shall not be considered to be acting in a managerial or executive capacity merely on the basis of the number of employees that the individual supervises/directs or has supervised/directed.
This category is best suited for the individual who serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), department manager, or in some other traditionally recognized executive or managerial capacity.
The maximum period of stay in L-1A status may not exceed seven years.
L-1B VISAS – FOR TRANSFEREES WITH SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE
Specialized knowledge “means special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.” 9 FAM 41.54 N8.1-3
According to the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, some characteristics of an employee who has specialized knowledge are that he or she:
- Possesses knowledge that is valuable to the employer’s competitiveness in the marketplace;
- Is uniquely qualified to contribute to the U.S. employer’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions;
- 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
- Possesses knowledge, which can be gained only through extensive prior experience with the employer.
This category is not intended for persons who are merely “skilled workers,” whose skill and knowledge enable one to produce a product through physical or skilled labor.
Whether U.S. workers are available to perform the duties is irrelevant. In general, the employee must possess specialized knowledge of a process or product that would be difficult to impart to another individual without significant economic inconvenience to the U.S. or foreign company.
The maximum period of stay in L-1B status may not exceed five years.
BENEFITS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS
The spouse and children of L-1 aliens are eligible for L-2 classification. L-2 spouses are also eligible to apply for an unrestricted work card.
For more general information, please see: the Department of State website.