The L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa which allows multi-national companies to relocate qualified foreign employees to a U.S. subsidiary or parent company. Companies may opt for the L-1 visa because unlike the H1-B visa, the L-1 has no quota limit. The primary focus of the L visa is to facilitate the needs of intra-company transfers. The qualified employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the company for at least one year out of the last three years. The U.S. company must be a parent company, child company, or sister company to the foreign company. Full-time employment is not required to maintain L status, but the employee is expected to commit a significant amount of his or her time to the company.
Multi-national companies have the opportunity to develop new markets in the U.S. The L-1 category gives preference to high-level employees with specialized knowledge to manage newly established U.S. offices. A rotation of highly qualified managers and executives cultivates innovation within the company through the exchanging of ideas and resources.
The L-1 visa is also an opportunity for small overseas companies to expand their business and services to the United States. The L-1 category is beneficial to smaller companies because it gives experienced executives or managers an avenue for the creation of a new branch that is in compliance with the goals and objectives of the company headquarters. However, since the USCIS examines L visa petitions filed by lesser-known companies more closely, consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer is strongly recommended.
L-1A versus L-1B
There are two classifications of the L-1 visa: L-1A and L-1B. The L-1A classification gives preference to intra-company executive transferees coming to work in the U.S. Qualified executives must have been employed in an executive or managerial capacity for the foreign company for one year out of the past three years. Executives or managers of companies that do not yet have a U.S. office are allowed to obtain L-1A classification in order to establish a new office in the U.S. The non-immigrant status is issued for one year for a new company in the US or three years for a US company with more than one year since its establishment. Extensions are available in two-year increments for up to seven years.
The L-1B classification gives preference to professional employees with a specialized knowledge about the company or its services. A qualifying employee under this classification would possess proprietary knowledge about the company’s product and intends through L-1B status to contribute his or her knowledge to employees in the company’s U.S. office. Companies that do not yet have an office based in the U.S. can obtain L-1B status to send an employee with specialized knowledge to establish one. L-1B non-immigrant status is issued for three years with the possibility of one two-year extension.
L-1 Blanket Petition Program
For companies interested in transferring a certain number of managerial, executive and professional employees USCIS offers the “L-1 Blanket Petition Program”. Under this program, the approved company only needs to receive one approval from the USCIS.