Multinational companies wishing to transfer an employee from a foreign office to an office in the U.S., or to establish a new office in the U.S., may want to take advantage of the L-1 visa program. The L-1 program allows multinational companies to transfer managers, executives and workers with specialized knowledge from offices abroad to work with a US branch, affiliate, parent or subsidiary of the foreign company. L-1 visa-holders may also travel to the US to establish a new office for their company.
Below is some general information pertaining to the L-1program. If you would like to speak with an immigration lawyer regarding the requirements for filing an L-1 visa petition, please feel free to contact us. Edgecomb Law LLC has a nationwide immigration practice, which means that the firm works with immigration clients in the Boston area as well as throughout the United States and abroad.
What types of companies are qualified sponsor L-1 workers?
To sponsor a worker for an L-1 intracompany transferee visa, the foreign company and the US company must possess a qualifying relationship under U.S. immigration law. Qualifying relationships are limited to relationships between: (1) a foreign parent and U.S. subsidiary; (2) a U.S. parent and foreign subsidiary; (3) foreign and US “affiliate” companies; and (1) foreign and U.S. branches of the same companies. A company’s status as a qualifying entity for L-1 purposes is determined by ownership and control of the companies. Specifically, the two companies must generally share at least 50% common ownership. The rules regarding ownership structure for companies wishing to transfer L-1 workers are highly complex, and companies wishing to file an L-1 visa petition are encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney to discuss these matters in detail prior to filing. Generally speaking, companies wishing to sponsor an L-1 worker are not required to divulge detailed information regarding their corporate structure; however, it should be noted that they may be asked to do so in close cases.
For an L-1 visa to remain in effect, the foreign entity that transferred the sponsored worker to the US must continue doing business abroad for the duration of the worker's L-1 status. The U.S. entity must also continue doing business in the US for the duration of the L-1 worker’s stay. This means that both the U.S. and foreign entities must be viable and engaged in the regular, systematic and continuous provision of goods or services so long as the L-1 status remains in effect. However, there is no requirement that the employers engage in international trade.
What types of workers may qualify for an L-1 Visa?
To qualify for an L-1 visa, an individual must have worked for the foreign entity for at least one year of the three years preceding the filing of the L-1 petition.
Three types of workers qualify for L-1 status: (1) managers; (2) executives; and (3) workers with specialized knowledge. To qualify as a manager or executive of a company, an individual must generally manage the organization, department or component; supervise the work of other professional employees or manage an essential function within the organization; exercise direction over day-to-day operation of the organization or function within the organization; and have the authority to hire, fire, or recommend other personnel actions. To qualify as a worker with specialized knowledge, an individual must possess expertise concerning the company’s processes and procedures, or regarding the company’s products or services. Such expertise must go beyond knowledge that is commonly held by other professionals in the same industry. It should be noted that L-1 workers placed at the worksite of an unaffiliated employer must remain principally under the control and supervision of the affiliated employer named in the L-1 petition.
L-1 Visa Duration
Approved L-1 workers coming to the US to set up a new office are granted an initial stay of up to one year, while other workers are granted an initial stay of up to three years. L-1 visas can be extended in two-year increments up to a maximum of seven years.
Spouses and Children
L-1 workers are permitted to bring their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the US to live with them. Spouses and children of L-1 workers are generally issued L-2 visas, which allow them to work, attend school, open bank accounts and obtain a driver's license.
L-1 Visas for Entrepreneurs
Startup founders and other entrepreneurs may qualify for L-1 visas under some circumstances. For more information, along with other options available to entrepreneurs in need of immigration solutions, please check out our page on Immigration for Entrepreneurs.