L Visas: Which Companies Qualify to Transfer Employees to the United States
L-1 visas are available for intracompany transferees, i.e., certain types of employees who are transferred from a foreign company to a related company in the U.S. Only those companies which exactly meet the Immigration Service's definitions of a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate qualify to petition for an L-1 intracompany transferee visa. These definitions are very precise and require an analysis of both the foreign and U.S. ownership of the companies. Both the foreign and U.S. operations must be doing business for the entire time that the L-1 employee is working in the United States.
There are provisions to allow a new office to open in the United States provided that evidence is submitted to the Immigration Service to prove that the new office has a suitable place to do business, a qualifying business structure exists, and that the employer has the ability to pay the employee and to begin doing business in the United States.
Each case must be well documented with evidence proving all of the legal criteria are met.
The L-1 visa category is intended to facilitate international business by permitting the transfer of non-U.S. managers and specialized personnel into the U.S. by companies with operations in the U.S. and abroad. There are two types: L-1A and L-1B.
"L-1A" visas are available for executives and managers. They permit a maximum initial period of stay of up to three years, and a total period of stay of up to seven years.
"L-1B" visas are available for "specialized knowledge personnel." They permit a maximum initial period of stay of up to three years, and a total period of stay of up to five years.
L-2 visas are available for the Spouse or Child of Intracompany Transferees (L-1A or L-1B). Note that under current law L-2 Spouses CAN obtain authorization to WORK in the U.S.
The main requirements for L-1 visas are as follows:
1)The employee must have worked abroad in either (a) a managerial or executive position, or (b) in a position performing services entailing "specialized knowledge"; and must be coming to work in the U.S. in one of these capacities.
2)The company for which the employee worked abroad must be either the same company for which the employee will be working for in the U.S., or a branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of that company.
3)The employee must have worked abroad for that particular company for one continuous year within the three year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition for the L-1 visa.
4)The employee must be qualified, in terms of education and experience, for the position.
5)The employee must intend to leave the U.S. at the end of the authorized period of stay.
6)The company in the U.S. and the related company abroad must continue doing business in the U.S. and in one foreign country during the entire period of the transfer.
How Does the Company Get an L-1 Visa for its Employees?
A petition for an L-1 visa must be filed by the company with the Immigration Regional Service Center having jurisdiction over the place of intended employment. Except for a company which is opening a new office in the United States, the initial petition may be granted for a three-year period and renewed in two-year increments up to the maximum permitted stay. New offices are limited to an initial twelve-month period with extensions depending on the business performance of the new office. Once the petition is approved, the employee may apply for an L-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. If the employee is in the United States and maintaining some other legal status, he or she may apply for a change of status in the United States.
Spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of intracompany transferees may be granted L-2 visas. An L-2 visa holder is not permitted to work in the United States.
The smooth transfer of your company's key employees to the United States is always of great concern. Most executives, managers and employees with specialized knowledge can come to work in the United States using the L-1 intracompany transferee visa. An introduction to that visa which includes changes made by the Immigration Act of 1990 is presented here. Be sure to consult with an attorney experienced in immigration matters to see if this visa is appropriate for your situation.