L-1 Visa for Intra Company Executive or Manager, or Specialized Knowledge Employee

Today’s marketplace has become increasingly globalized, leading employers to establish regional offices even headquarters in various countries around the world and building a strong international presence. To support global business operations, employers sometimes need to transfer people to various parts of the world, oftentimes their exectuvies or managers who are familiar with the inner-workings and goals of the business. The U.S., being one of the economic centers of the world, is among the most common destinations to which employees are relocated.

The L-1 visa, sometimes referred to as the “intra-company transfer” visa, is available to international companies that need to bring qualified foreign employees, specifically, managers and executives, to the U.S. The San Jose immigration attorneys at the Law Office of Alison Yew have successfully facilitated numerous “intra-company transfers,” helping companies achieve their business operational goals.

What is an L-1 visa?

The L-1 visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant (temporary) work visa. It enables international companies to transfer or relocate their foreign workers to qualifying U.S. branch, affiliate, or subsidiary in an executive/managerial or specialized knowledge capacity.

An L-1 is also a dual intent status.  This means that the beneficiary or the employee may apply for permanent residency without jeopardizing their L-1 visa status.

What are the different types of L-1 visa and their requirements?

You may be eligible for an L-1 visa if you fall under any of these categories:

  • Intra-company transfer of executives or managers (L-1A) – If you serve the company on an executive or managerial capacity and need to be relocated to the U.S. on a temporary basis. The specific requirements for this subcategory are:
    • You have worked abroad for the international company for one consecutive year within the three years immediately preceding your admission to the U.S.
    • You have been employed abroad in a qualifying position, i.e. an executive or managerial post.
    • You are temporarily relocating to the U.S. to work in an executive or managerial capacity for the U.S.-based branch or subsidiary of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
  • Intra-company transfer of employees with specialized knowledge (L-1B) If you are a non-executive employee who possesses specialized knowledge and need to be relocated to the U.S. on a temporary basis. Specialized knowledge is extensive experience or information possessed by an individual about a company’s products, services, research, management, techniques, processes, procedures, and more. The specific requirements for this subcategory are:
    • You have worked abroad for the international company for one consecutive year within the three years immediately preceding your admission to the U.S.
    • You are seeking entry to the U.S. to work in a specialized knowledge capacity for the U.S.-based branch or subsidiary of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

The USCIS has also set up the L-1 Blanket Petition. It is a special set of procedures designed specifically for large multinational organizations that frequently file for and use L-1 visas. Under this program, a qualifying organization need only receive one approval from the USCIS to relocate managerial, executive, and professional employees. The blanket petition gives multinational companies the flexibility of transferring and relocating eligible employees to the U.S. without having to file multiple petitions with the USCIS.

How long can an L-1 visa holder stay in the U.S.?

L-1A visa holders may remain in the U.S. for a maximum of seven years.  If the U.S. office, the petitioner, is a new office, the employee will obtain a 1 year valid employment period, which is renewable for 2 years at a time until the maximum total years is reached.  If the U.S. office, the petitioner,  is an existing business, the L-1A holder will receive at first a 3 year valid employment period, which is then renewable again for 3 years and then lastly fo 1 year (for a total of 7 years).

For L-1B, similar to the L-1A, qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1B employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years.

What about dependents?

As an L-1 visa holder, you may be accompanied or followed by your spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. They may seek admission in L-2 non-immigrant classification, and once it’s approved, they will be granted the same period of stay as the L-1 visa holder.  L-2 spouses may work in the U.S., but must obtained a work permit (“EAD”) first.

The Law Office of Alison Yew is here to help

L-1 visas permit foreign employees to enter the U.S., but only on a temporary basis. This doesn’t make securing such visas any easier, though. Like in any other visa classification, you (or your employer) still need to go through a grueling and complex application process. Our L-1 visa lawyers in San Jose are committed to help business clients achieve their operational goals by helping them relocate the required talent across the globe.

Are you considering applying for an L-1 visa? Contact the Law Office of Alison Yew today to speak to one of our L-1 visa attorneys for a case evaluation or informative consultation.