L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa Information

The L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that permits a foreign worker to live and work in the United States for a limited time.

Requirements: To qualify for L-1 Visa, an applicant must prove all of the following:

A U.S. company or organization must be established and must be active.  Its operations must occur on a regular, ongoing basis.  Applicants must provide evidence of activity, such as the business registration, lease or deed for business premises, occupational license, photographs of the business premises and operations, proof that the business has employees (such payroll tax records), advertising, receipts for business expenses, invoices, contracts, and recent financial information (such as balance sheets, financial statements, company income tax return, and recent bank statements for the company).

The U.S. Employer can be newly formed!  In this case, applicants must provide a lease or deed for business premises, a business plan that describes how the company or organization will earn money, financial projections that estimate the company organization’s income and expenses over the next three years, and evidence to show the company or organization has funds available to pay for its operations.  This can include bank statements, letters confirming financial support from affiliated companies or organizations, or business contracts that will produce income.

The applicant must provide evidence that a company or organization located outside the U.S. is currently active and conducts business on a regular, ongoing basis.  This foreign company or organization must continue to be active for the duration of the applicant’s L-1 Visa.

To be “related entities,” the U.S. Employer and the Foreign Employer must be affiliates OR one should be the subsidiary of the other.

To qualify as affiliates, the same individual or groups of individuals must own a controlling interest (at least 50%) in both the U.S. Employer and the Foreign Employer.   To qualify as a subsidiary, the Foreign Employer must own the U.S. Employer or vice versa.  Evidence must be provided to show who owns the U.S. Employer and the Foreign Employer, such as U.S. and foreign company income tax returns and stock certificates. 

For example, if John Smith owns 100% of an active company in the U.K., and recently purchased 50% of an active business in the U.S., then he owns a controlling interest in both companies.  The companies are affiliates, meaning they are related and will qualify for an L-1 Visa.

The U.S. Employer and the Foreign Employer do not have to engage in the same line of business, though it helps the application if there is some logical connection between the two entities.

The applicant must prove full time employment by Foreign Employer for at least one continuous year out of the past three years.  The applicant should have received some form of compensation.  Company payroll records or tax forms must be provided as evidence of employment. 

The applicant must also prove that he or she worked as an executive, or manager, or ‘specialized knowledge’ employee.  These terms are complicated, but are extremely important.

Under U.S. immigration rules, an “executive” does all of the following: (1) directs the management of the organization or a major component or function thereof; (2) establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function; (3) exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and (4) receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

A “manager” does all of the following: (1) manages the organization or a department, subdivision, function, or component thereof; (2) supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization or a department or subdivision thereof; (3) if another employee or other employees are directly supervised, has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization) or, if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and (4) exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.

A “specialized knowledge” worker must have knowledge that differs from or surpasses the ordinary or usual knowledge of an employee in the particular field.  The knowledge must have been gained through significant prior experience with the company or organization located outside the U.S.  The worker must have an advanced level of expertise in his or her organization’s processes and procedures or special knowledge of the organization which is not readily available in the United States. 

The applicant must come to the U.S. to work exclusively for the U.S. Employer. 

In addition, the applicant must show that he or she will work as an executive, manager, or specialized knowledge employee.  An explanation of meaning of the words “executive,” “manager” and “specialized knowledge” has been provided above.  The easiest way to qualify as an executive or as a manager is to show that the applicant will supervise one or more professional-level workers OR will supervise a supervisor, who in turn supervises one or more regular workers. 

The government likes to deny L-1 Visa applications if it believes that the applicant is not a manager or executive, but instead is a “front line supervisor” (someone involved in regular operations who supervises non-professional workers).  For the same reason, problems also can occur if U.S. employer has no employees, or is very small.  The government often asks who provides the goods and services offered by the company.  It should not be the applicant.  The applicant must fill a senior position within the company or organization.

The applicant should provide evidence that he or she is qualified to work in the position offered.  This includes a resume, relevant diplomas and reference letters from prior employers.

Duration of L-1 Visa:

If the U.S. Employer is less than 1 year old, then the L-1 Visa will only be issued for 12 months.  Before 12 months passes, the applicant must apply for an extension of L-1 Status and must prove all of the requirements listed above again with updated information.  If the U.S. Employer is more than 1 year old, then the L-1 Visa will likely be issued for three years. 

After the first L-1 Visa, extensions are usually granted for two years at a time.  An L-1 executive or manager may live in the U.S. in L-1A status for up to seven years.  An L-1 ‘specialized knowledge’ employee may live in the U.S. in L-1B status for up to five years.


Other applicable rules.

Family: The applicant may bring his or her spouse and children under 21 to the U.S. using L-2 Visas.  A spouse (not children) can obtain employment authorization cards once he or she enters the U.S.

Permanent Residence:  When the U.S. Employer has been active for more than 12 months, an alien may apply for Permanent Residence in the U.S. (a “Green Card).  The alien can have an L-1Visa at the time of applying or can be living in the U.S. with a different type of visa (such as an E-2 Investor Visa).  To qualify for a green card, the alien must prove all of the requirements listed above.  

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