The L nonimmigrant visa is one of the most innovative ways for an international company to bring foreign employees into the U.S. If the basic requirements can be met, the L-1 Visa is the most favorable visa category. After being in L-1 status as an Executive or Manager for one year, the visa holder can also seek permanent residence under an immediately available green card category called EB-1.
To qualify, the U.S. employer must file a petition with the USCIS in order to obtain permission to transfer a foreign national for a temporary period. Once the petition is approved, the approved petition is sent to a U.S. consulate where the worker can obtain an L-1 visa to enter the United States. If the worker is already in the United States in a different nonimmigrant category, his or her status must be changed to the L-1 category.
Basic Requirements for Obtaining L-1 Status
1. The Employee must have worked abroad for the overseas company for a continuous period of one year in the preceding three years.
2. The overseas company must be related to the U.S. company in a specific manner. The law states that the company abroad for which the employee has worked for a year abroad must be “the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate” of the U.S. company.
3. The company must be a qualifying organization.
4. The employee to be transferred must have been employed abroad in an “executive” or “managerial” position (in order to qualify for the L-1A visa), or a position involving “specialized knowledge” (in order to qualify for the L-1A visa).
5. The employee must be coming to the U.S. company to work in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity.
6. The employee must be qualified for the position by virtue of his or her prior education and experience.
7. L-1 alien must intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of his or her authorized stay (including extensions), but may also pursue permanent residence at the same time.
Two major variations exist in the usual procedure for obtaining admission to the U.S. for intracompany transferees:
- Start-Up Period Granted for 1 Year. An employee may come to establish a new office. This allows a petition for a transferee coming to a new office to be approved for an initial period of one year. After that first year, the company will have to petition again in order to show that the new office is established and doing business by that time, and an overseas affiliate remains in operation as well.
- Benefits for Large Companies: The Blanket Visa.When a company has used the L visa category to bring to the U.S. at least 10 managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge professional employees in the preceding 12 months, it may be eligible to use the L-1 blanket petition program. Other standards exist as well in determining whether a company is qualified for the L-1 blanket petition program. The procedure for this program, which enables companies to cut back dramatically on their paperwork and issue their own certificates of eligibility to their transferees, is different than that for individual petitions.
The following graphic shows how an L-1 can be structured: