An Overview of the L-1 Visa Program

The L-1 visa program is designed to allow multinational companies to transfer staff members from overseas locations to a US-based office. It also allows foreign businesses that have yet to develop a presence in the United States to send staff members to help establish such a presence. There are two components of the L-1 visa program, both of which are discussed below.

The L-1A Visa Program

The L-1A visa program is designed with executives and managers in mind. Under this program, US-based companies can bring an executive or manager from an overseas office to the United States, and foreign companies without a US presence can send an executive or manager to the United States to establish their presence. Note that this is a non-immigrant, employment-based visa program.

Qualifications for the L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager Program

The L-1A visa program has requirements for both the business and the employee. Businesses must meet both of the following qualifications:

  • The business must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (such as a parent company or subsidiary).
  • The business must currently be or plan to do business as an employer in the US and in at least one other nation, either directly or through a qualifying organization. That relationship must last for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States.

Employees must meet the following qualifications:

  • They must have been employed for a qualifying organization abroad for at least one continuous year within the immediately preceding three-year period.
  • They must be seeking to enter the US to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for a qualifying employer.

What Do “Executive and Managerial Capacity” Mean?

The USCIS defines executive capacity as “the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight”. The organization defines managerial capacity as “the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization.”

Additional Information for Foreign Employers

Any foreign employer sending an executive or manager to a US location must show several things. These include:

  • Office space has been secured.
  • Proof of employment for at least one continuous year of the preceding three with the employer.
  • Proof that the new office will establish operations within a year of the petition’s approval.

The L-1B Visa Program

This branch of the L-1 visa program allows US employers to transfer professional employees with “specialized knowledge” from an overseas branch to a US location. It also provides foreign businesses to send specialized knowledge employees to the United States to build a presence.

Qualifications for the L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge Program

The qualifications that the business and employee must meet for the L-1B visa are the same as the L-1A visa with one notable difference: the employee must enter the US to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity.

What Does “Specialized Knowledge” Mean?

The USCIS defines specialized knowledge as “either special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.”

Stay Duration and Family Member Considerations

Stay durations for the L1-A and L1-B visas differ. L1-A is valid for up to 7 years; L1-B for up to 5 years. Various extension increments up to the maximum stay duration apply for each.

Transferring executives, managers, and employees can bring their spouse, as well as any unmarried children still under the age of 21. Spouses and dependent children must apply for an L-2 non-immigrant visa. Dependents are allowed to work in the US after they apply for Employment Authorization.