L-1 Visa for U.S. Branch Office Employees (Intracompany Transferees)
L-1 work visas are designed for people transferring from a company abroad to work in the United States for a related company. This category requires that the employee hold an executive or managerial position, or has specialized knowledge about company products or processes. L visas are a popular option for multinational firms.
Requirements – Generally
To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must have been employed in a foreign country for at least one year of the last three for a company related to the employer in the U.S. Any time spent working in the U.S. will not count toward the one year of required employment. In addition, the foreign firm and the U.S. firm must have a “qualifying relationship.” The foreign company may be a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the prospective U.S. employer.
The U.S. and the foreign firm must have common majority ownership or common control by the same persons or entities. The employer may include corporations, non-profits, religious or charitable organizations. Furthermore, you must be coming to work as an executive, manager, or employee with “specialized knowledge.” An “executive” directs the management of the company or a major part or function of the organization, such as a vice-president or controller.
A “manager” directs the organization or a department, or supervises a core function of the organization. Specialized knowledge refers to employees with particular knowledge of the company’s products and their applications in world markets, or proprietary knowledge of the company’s processes or procedures.
Finally, you must intend to depart the United States when your stay is over. However, you may pursue permanent residency while holding and L-1 visa without negatively affecting your status. In other words, the doctrice of Dual intent applies to L-1 visas, just as for H-1B visas.
Unlike the H-1B visa, however, L-1 employers are not required to show that the employee meets the “prevailing wage” of similarly employed U.S. workers. Income in the United States must only be sufficient to prevent the employee from requiring public assistance.
Documentation Requirements – Generally
- Articles of Incorporation
- Company organizational chart reflecting L-1 employee’s position
- Printout of Company’s web pages describing the company and its products or services
- List of Company’s affiliates or subsidiaries
- Company’s Annual Reports for the last two years
Length of Stay
A New Office application may only be approved for one year. Thereafter, it may be extended upon presentation of evidence that the business is active and operating. After that one year period, the below provisions apply.
L-1 visas are granted for up to three year periods and renewable. Executives and managers are granted L-1A status, and may remain in the United States for up to seven years. Employees with specialized knowledge are given L-1B visas, and may stay in the U.S. for up to five years.
Spouses and unmarried children of L-1 workers may receive L-2 status. A recent change in immigration law allows spouses and children to obtain work authorization in the United States, and dependents may study at U.S. schools and universities.
PREMIUM PROCESSING is available for L-1 visa applications. Therefore, processing may occur in as little as 15 days.
L-1 Visa to Open a U.S. Office
If you have a non-U.S. Company and wish to open a U.S. branch, the L-1 visa a good option.
New Office Requirements. If the application is for an employee coming to the U.S. to open a new office, the employer will need to show the following:
- Sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured (i.e., a signed lease);
- Employee has been employed for one continuous year in the three year period preceding the filing of the petition in an executive or managerial capacity and that the proposed employment involved executive or managerial authority over the new operation; and
- The intended U.S. operation, within one year of approval of the petition, will support an executive or managerial position by showing
- The proposed nature of the office describing the scope of the entity, its organizational structure, and its financial goals (i.e., a business plan)
- The size of the U.S. investment and the financial ability of the foreign entity to remunerate the employee and to commence doing business in the U.S. (e.g., website printout, marketing materials, financials including last two years tax returns, orders for inventory, equipment leases, etc.
- The organizational structure of the foreign entity
Length of Stay
A New Office application may only be approved for one year. Thereafter it may be extended upon presentation of evidence that the business is active and operating.
After that one year period, the below provisions apply:
L-1 visas are granted for up to three years at a time and are renewable for a total stay of
- seven years for executives and managers (L-1A)
- five years for (non-executive/non-manager) employees with specialized knowledge (L-1B)
Qualifying Relationships – Ref: 8 CFR 214.2(l)
Parent (the foreign company) = owns 51% or more of a subsidiary (the U.S. company).
Subsidiary (the U.S. company) = owned 51% or more by a parent (the foreign company).
Affiliate = relationship between one or more subsidiaries (the U.S. company and the foreign company) each owned by a common parent, OR two entities owned in the same proportions by the same person or group of persons.
Branch = separate organizational or operational division (the U.S. “office”) of the same company (the foreign company) as opposed to a separate legal entity.