Non-Immigrant Work Visas for Intercompany Transfers of Executives or Managers
The L-1 is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from an affiliated foreign entity to one of its U.S. offices. The association between the office abroad and the U.S. office can be that of branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or joint venture partner. This type of visa also allows a foreign company to send an executive or manager from a foreign company to the U.S. for the purpose of establishing a U.S. office.
The employer is required to file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) with a fee on behalf of the employee. The employee who is seeking to obtain the L-1 visa generally must have worked abroad for the foreign entity for at least one continuous year during the three years immediately before applying for an L-1 visa. While trips to the U.S. for business or pleasure do not affect the continuity of the one-in-three requirement, those days will be subtracted from the time during which the applicant worked abroad for the foreign entity. The requirement involves being physically outside the U.S., so time spent in the U.S. while employed by the foreign entity does not count toward the one-year requirement. If the foreign national comes to the U.S. to work for the related U.S. entity in a status other than L-1, the one-in-three requirement will apply to the three years before they were legally admitted to the U.S., rather than the three years immediately before filing the L-1 petition.
There are two different types of L-1 visa: the L-1A visa for managers and executives and the L-1B visa for persons with specialized knowledge. The L-1A is initially granted for a period of three years, but it can be renewed for up to seven years in total. The L-1B’s “specialized knowledge” requirements denote unique knowledge of the company’s business, products, services, research, marketing strategy, or more. The L-1B is initially granted for three years but can be renewed for up to five years in total.
The L-1 visa application process starts with filing a petition with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-129, along with supporting documents demonstrating that the U.S. Company and the foreign branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or joint venture partner meets the legal requirements of the L-1 visa. USCIS gives notice of approval of the Form I-129 on a Notice of Action, Form I-797. This document can be used by the foreign national as the basis of application for visa issuance at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
L-1 applicants who are in the U.S. at the time of applying can request a change of status from their current immigrant status. This can only be done if the applicant has legal status at the time of filing the I-129. It is fine if the applicant is out of status after filing but before approval.
Family members of the L-1 visa holder, such as a spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, are eligible to enter the U.S. under the L-2 status. When children get married or reach the age of 21, they are no longer entitled to remain in the U.S. under L-2 status. Dependents can remain in the U.S. just as long as the L-1 visa holder can legally remain in the country. L-2 family members are allowed to study while in the United States. They can also obtain a driver’s license and open a U.S. bank account. If the L-1 visa holder gets an extension of their status, the L-2 dependent must pursue an extension independently. They will not be extended automatically based on the extension issued to the L-1 visa holder.
The spouse of an L-1 visa holder may be able to get work authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and paying a required fee for this form. The spouse must wait to receive the Employment Authorization document before he or she can start working. The time frame in which the spouse can legally work is stated on the Employment Authorization card.