The L1 visa is an intra-company transfer US visa. It allows a US company to transfer a key employee from one of its offices in another country into the United States.
It also allows companies to open a US operation for the transfer of its executives, managers and specialized employees.
There are two types of L1 visa:
L1-A is for managers and executives, who are either transferring to a US office, or coming into the US for the purposes of setting up a US office.
L1-B is for specialized employees, who have essential specialist skills or knowledge.
In either case, it is the employer (“petitioning employer”) that submits the visa application.
For both L1-A and L1-B, the employee must have worked for the corporation for one continuous twelve-month period in the previous 36 months.
The L1-A visa grants a maximum stay of up to 7 years. L1-B grants up to 5 years. However, if the employee has previously worked in the US under an H visa, that time may be deducted from the allowed stay.
L1 Visa Requirements
The petitioning company may be a corporation, charity (or other non-profit organization), or a religious organization. Other types of qualifying entities may also be permitted.
The petitioning employer (in the US) must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company. Types of qualifying relationships include: parent company, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate.
The employer must be doing business as an employer in the US and in at least one foreign country. This means they are actively and continually delivering goods or services, simply having an office does not qualify.
The employee must have completed a minimum of one year’s continuous employment for the company outside of the US within the three years immediately prior to the application. Any time spent working in the United States will not count towards the twelve months.
The employee must intend to leave the United States at the end of the visa term.
Making an L1 Application
Unless the petitioning company is already established and well-known, it may be necessary to provide extensive documentation to prove that the requirements are being met.
For the L1-A visa, you may need to provide evidence that the employee occupies an executive or managerial role.
For L1-B, you may need to provide evidence to prove the employee’s level of skill, knowledge, or experience. This should be “specialized knowledge”, which means that their knowledge is not commonplace either within the industry or within the organization. The knowledge may relate to a wide range of topics including technology, services, or company processes.