When a U.S. employer wants to transfer an executive or manager from its affiliated foreign office to its U.S. office, the executive or manager can qualify for an L-1A visa; if the transferee is a professional employee with specialized knowledge, the employee can qualify for an L-1B visa. L-1 classification also allows a foreign company (that does not have a U.S. office) to send an executive or manager to the U.S. so that its U.S. office can be established.
Requirements for L-1
The employer must:
1. Have a certain relationship with a foreign company---the foreign company has to be either a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate; and
2. Currently be, or will be, doing viable business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country, directly or through the foreign company described above, during the L-1A employee’s stay in the U.S. The business being conducted does not have to be international trade.
The employee must:
1. Have been working for the foreign company described above for at least 1 continuous year within past 3 years; and
2. Be coming to the U.S. to work as an executive or manager (L-1A) or an employee in a specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B).
How to apply
1. First, the U.S. employer has to file a Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, along with proper Supplements and supporting documents, with USCIS.
2. Once the I-129 petition is approved, the employee can apply for an L-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
Certain organizations, by filing a blanket petition, can establish their intra-company relationship prior to filing individual L-1 petitions. Eligibility for a blanket L certification can be established if:
1. The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
2. The petitioner has an office in the U.S. which has been doing business for at least 1 year;
3. The petitioner has at least 3 domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
4. The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations meet one of the following criteria:
----- Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
----- Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
----- Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1 classification. However, it will provide the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the U.S. quickly without having to file an individual petition with USCIS.
Dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of L-1 workers are entitled to L-2 visas/status. Spouses, after they are admitted into the U.S. as L-2, can apply for work authorization by filing a Form I-765; once it is approved, spouses can legally work for any U.S. employer.
Period of Stay
L-1 employee coming to the U.S. to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of 1 year. All other L-1 employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of 3 years. For all L-1A employees, extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional 2 years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of 7 years (L-1A) or 5 years (L-1B).