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What you need to know about the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees

What you need to know about the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees

Maria Magdaleena Lamp
6
min read

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What you need to know about the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees

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The L-1 visa for intracompany transferees is a great option if you’re moving employees from an office abroad to your office in the United States. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how (and if) you can make use of the L-1 visa to relocate your employees.

What is the L-1 visa?

The L-1 visa allows foreign companies to transfer executives, managers, or specialists to the US to work at—or establish—an affiliated branch. 

One of the standout features of the L-1 is that although it is a temporary visa (i.e. it doesn’t offer permanent residence), it is eligible for dual intent. Dual intent allows people applying for an L-1 to also apply for an employment-based green card—an option that most visas do not provide.

There are two types of L–1 visa:

The L-1A visa

The L-1A enables a US employer to transfer an executive or manager from one office overseas to an office in the United States. It also allows a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an executive or manager to the US to establish a local branch office.

To qualify for an L-1A visa, the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) requires your transferring employees to meet the these criteria:

  • They have been working for you for a continuous year within the three years before their admission to the United States.
  • They intend to provide an executive or managerial service for your US branch when they arrive in the country.

To send an employee to the United States to establish a new office, you must show that:

  • You have physical premises for the new office;
  • The employee has been working for you as an executive or manager for one continuous year within the previous three years;
  • The office you are planning to open in the US will support an executive or managerial position within one year.

The L-1B visa

The L-1B visa is virtually the same as the L-1A in most ways, except instead of managers and executives, it lets you transfer employees with specialized knowledge.

The maximum initial length of stay for employees entering the United States to establish a new office on an L-1B visa is one year. Other qualified employees can be granted a three-year stay.

How to qualify for an L-1 visa as an employer

To qualify for L-1 classification, you have to meet two main criteria:

1. Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company 

 There are a few different types of qualifying relationships:

  • Parent-subsidiary
  • Branch 
  • Affiliate 

For the relationship to qualify you for the L-1 visa, the foreign entity must have command and control over the US entity: the power to make operational decisions—hiring and firing, salaries, strategic business decisions, etc.

2. Do business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country. 

The business must be viable, but not necessarily engaged in international trade. Doing business here refers to regularly providing goods and services—the mere presence of an agent or office is not enough.

Can L-1 visa holders move with family members?

Your employee transferring to the US on an L-1 visa can bring their spouse and children under 21. If approved for the L-2 nonimmigrant visa, spouses and children are usually granted the same length of stay as the L-1 visa-carrying employee.

Can you extend an L-1 visa?

The L-1A visa is initially granted for three years. It’s possible to request two renewals and get up to two extensions, each lasting an additional two years, meaning that the maximum length of stay is seven years. The period of stay for the L-1B visa is identical to the L-1A, except for the maximum stay limit: L-1B applicants are allowed to stay for five years instead of seven. 

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