The L-1 visa is granted to qualifying foreign workers who are transferred within a U.S. company from a location abroad. Often referred to as intracompany transferees, L1 visa holders are required to meet a specific set of criteria as dictated by federal law. This page was designed to help foreign workers and their employers decide whether or not they might be eligible to apply for an L1 visa, and if they should consult an immigration attorney. The following topics are covered on this page.
- L-1 visa Basics
- Who is Eligible for an L-1 visa?
- Blanket Approval
- Applying For an L-1 visa
- Is my Family Eligible to Join Me?
- Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?
While this page discusses various subjects related to immigration law, it is not intended as a substitute for speaking directly with a lawyer. Whenever a person applies for a visa, they deal with deadlines, bureaucrats and multiple federal agencies. Consulting an experienced immigration lawyer can often help a visa applicant avoid costly mistakes.
L-1 Visa Basics
As the gears of the global economy continue to turn, managers, executives and other professionals increasingly need to be world travelers in order to keep businesses humming. Thanks to the L-1 visa program, U.S. companies operating subsidiaries, branches and affiliates abroad can bring their most talented foreign employees stateside to work on a temporary basis.
In some circles, the L-1 visa has been referred to as the ‘cousin’ of the H-1B visa, which grants certain workers temporary admission to the country to participate in specialized occupations. The length of stay permitted by an L1 visa varies depending on the worker. In the case of managers establishing a new office in the U.S., the initial stay is usually one year. In other cases, permission to stay in the U.S. may last from three years up to seven years (after extensions).
Who is Eligible For an L1 Visa?
In order to qualify for an L-1 visa, a foreign manager, executive or special worker must be employed abroad continuously by a U.S. branch, affiliate or subsidiary for at least one full year within the three years prior to filing a visa application. They must also have an employment opportunity awaiting them in the U.S., as well as an employer willing to “sponsor” a visa petition on their behalf.
While a job offer of full-time work is not necessary, it is expected that intracompany transferees will spend a significant amount of time in the U.S. working on a regular and systematic basis. The foreign worker must continue working for the same employer in the U.S. as when working abroad.
The type of work the foreign employee must be engaged in includes positions requiring specialized knowledge, managerial positions and executive positions. Federal law defines a specialized employee as having “special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or [an employee that] has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.”
Examples of specialized knowledge include assignments that have significantly enhanced the employer’s productivity and competitiveness, and knowledge that is either sophisticated, or of a highly technical nature.
Federal law defines managerial capacity as an assignment with a company in which the employee supervises and controls other supervisors, professionals or managers. This position can also be responsible for managing an essential function within the company. This worker can have the authority to hire and fire employees and recommend personnel actions.
Executive capacity is defined as a person in a position who directs the management of an organization, establishes goals and practices, and receives only general direction from higher-level executives.
It is important to remember that federal law is complex and these descriptions are by no means exhaustive. If you have questions about your eligibility for an L-1 visa, contact our office to see if we can help.
In some cases, U.S. companies are eligible to save time with the more flexible blanket visa option. This helps companies avoid filing individual petitions for each of the intracompany transferees coming to work in the U.S.
In order to qualify for the blanket-petition option, an employer must have an office that has been doing business in the U.S. for one year, as well as three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates.
Other requirements include $25 million in annual sales or a workforce of 1,000. It is important to keep in mind that the list of blanket visa requirements on this page is by no means exhaustive. If you would like to find out if your business is eligible to file a blanket petition for foreign workers, contact our office to find out if we can help.
Applying for an L1 Visa – Intracompany Transferees
Generally, the U.S. employer is responsible for filing a petition on behalf of intracompany transferees. Unlike many other types of temporary visas, the L1 visa application does not require labor certification.
Once intracompany transferees’ petitions are approved, the workers may apply for a visa by filling out the Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160). This is either filed online or at a U.S. consulate in the worker’s home country. The applicant might be required to submit to an interview with a consulate officer. Once an L1 visa is issued, the foreign worker may enter the country at a U.S. port of entry.
Is My Family Eligible to Join me?
In many cases the answer is yes. Typically, spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) can accompany intracompany transferees. Family members who meet these criteria are eligible to apply for an L-2 nonimmigrant visa.
If approved, they are generally granted the same period of stay as the intracompany transferees they travel with. If you are an L1 visa applicant, and have questions about whether or not your family is eligible to join you, call our office to see if we can help.
Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?
Intracompany transferees and U.S. employers who apply for an L1 visa are not required to retain the services of an immigration lawyer. However, the application process can be daunting.
Multiple federal agencies, bureaucrats and filing systems are involved, and simple errors can result in denials. If you are thinking about applying for an L1 visa, or are already in the process of applying for one. Contact our office to find out if an experienced immigration attorney can help.
 8 USC § 1184(c)(2)(B)
 INA § 101 (a)(44)(A)
 INA § 101(a)(44)(B)