Intra-Company Transfer (L-1) Visa
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
What is an L-1 Visa?
L-1 visas are for intra-company transfers. They exist to allow international companies with a presence in the United States to transfer executives, managers and employees with specialized knowledge from a company outside of the United States to a related U.S. office. The basic idea behind this visa class is to give companies a straightforward way to move their most talented people to the United States, because doing so will improve the competitiveness of U.S. companies.
What are the requirements for an L-1 visa?
Qualifying Relationship: The foreign company must be related to the U.S. company – in other words, they must be a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary. For example, if company A in Germany owns company B in the United States, company A could transfer its employees to B. In another example, Company A in Germany could transfer its employees to company C in the United States if they are both owned by larger Germany company B.
Who qualifies for an L-1 visa?
Executives, managers and employees with specialized knowledge qualify. The employee must have continuously been employed full-time for one year in the preceding three years prior to the transfer. If you’re reading this carefully, you might wonder exactly how this is calculated and how it applies to certain fact patterns. If so, award yourself extra points for critical thinking and reach out for more information :)
L-1A vs. L-1B
Now we start to get into the weeds. L-1A visas are for executives or managers while L-1B visas are for specialized knowledge workers. These definitions refer to both the work done abroad and the work that will be done in the United States. Although the jobs on both sides of the ocean don’t need to be identical, they do have to fulfill the same requirements.
Executives have very high level responsibilities, meaning that they are the ones who direct the other managers (who, in turn, direct the lower level employees of an organization); they establish the goals and policies of an organization; they exercise wide latitude in decision-making; and they receive only general direction or supervision from higher level executives, the board of directors, or shareholders.
Managers have authority that is similar to executives in some ways but more limited in scope. They oversee the lower levels of an organization and have discretion in the day-to-day management of their business units (or even of an entire organization, depending on size and complexity). They carry out the medium and long-term goals of the executives that supervise them and they have discretion to recommend or even make personnel decisions, such as hiring and firing. One can even be a manager without having subordinate staff if they are responsible for an entire business unit and have duties that are primarily managerial, as opposed to duties that primarily involve performing the day-to-day work of that unit.
L-1B Employees with Specialized Knowledge
Specialized knowledge is a concept that is rather vague. From my experience as a consular officer, I would describe specialized knowledge as the kind of knowledge that one usually gains from working (or researching) in a particular field for a significant period of time. I suppose you could also call it expertise. The skills that are most likely to fit this definition are not readily found in the U.S. labor market. For instance, a worker with a decade of experience in quality assurance related to a proprietary manufacturing process. This worker will have a level of knowledge that simply can’t be learned in school (for instance, he or she might know that tolerances are tighter on the products coming off an assembly line in the morning because of the temperature and humidity in the factory). This kind of employee can easily demonstrate their specialized knowledge, whereas a recent college graduate with only minimal training will have a much more difficult time.
How long does an L-1 visa last?
L-1A visa holders can have their visas for up to seven years (usually three years initially, followed by another three years, followed by one year). L-1B visa holders can have their visas for five years (usually three years, followed by two years).
Is an L-1 a dual intent visa?
Yes. This means that someone can qualify for an L-1 non-immigrant visa while at the same time being the beneficiary of an immigrant visa (for example and EB-1 or EB-2).
Can the dependents of an L-1 visa holder work?
Dependents of an L-1 visa holder are eligible to apply for work authorization in the United States.
This general information is not intended as legal advice and it constitutes attorney advertising. Everyone’s situation is different, so please get in touch for advice that is specific to you.