Which companies qualify to transfer employees to the United States?
Only those companies that exactly meet the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) definitions of 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 related 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 U.S.
There are provisions to allow a new office to open in the U.S., provided that evidence is submitted to do business, a qualifying business structure exists, a viable business plan is in place, and the employer has the ability to pay the employee and to begin doing business in the U.S.
Each case must be well-documented with evidence proving that all of the legal criteria are met.
Which employees qualify as L-1 intracompany transferees?
Intracompany transferees are executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge. The definition of manager includes an employee who manages an essential function of the business within a qualifying organization. An executive directs the management of the organization, establishes its goals and policies, exercises wide latitude in discretionary decisions, and receives only general supervision. Specialized knowledge employees must have special knowledge of the organization’s products, services, research, equipment, management, or other interests, and its application in international markets, or an advanced knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. Classifying the employee in the correct category is important, particularly if the company might later want to sponsor the employee for permanent residence. The intracompany transferee petition should always be structured to allow the easiest transition to permanent resident status.
A key qualification for all employees is continuous employment abroad with a qualifying foreign employer for one year within the three years preceding the time of the employee’s application for admission into the U.S.
How long can L-1 employees remain in the U.S.?
The L-1 is a temporary visa with specific limitations on periods of stay in the U.S.
- If the employee is qualified as a manager or executive , he or she may remain in the U.S. for up to seven years.
- If the employee is classified in the specialized knowledge category, he or she may remain in the U.S. for to five years.
- An exception to these limits exists where the employment in the U.S. is seasonal, intermittent, or for an aggregate of six months or less per year.
How does the company get an L-1 visa for its employeees?
A petition for an L-1 visa must be filed by the company with the appropriate USCIS service center. Except for a company that is opening a new office in the U.S., 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 12-month period, with extensions depending on the business and financial 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 U.S. and maintaining some other legal status, in many cases he or she may apply for a change of status in the U.S. However, this option is not available to those who entered the U.S. pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program.
A transferee’s spouse or unmarried children under 21 years old may be granted L-2 visas. Spouses of L-1 visa holders may apply for work authorization. Other L-2 visa holders, however, are not permitted to work, although they may attend school.