L-1 intra-company transfer visas are for individuals who are working for multinational companies and are coming to the U.S. to work for a company that has a legal relationship to a company abroad. The L-1 category offers a number of advantages over other visa categories. First, there is no annual limit on the number issued. Second, it is a dual intent visa which means that one may pursue permanent residency without affecting the ability to enter on or extend the L-1 visa. Third, for L-1A managers and executives there is an easier path to lawful permanent residency.
To qualify for L-1 status, the applicant must have been continuously employed abroad for one out of the three previous years for a foreign company that has a qualifying legal relationship to a company in the U.S.
The qualifying legal relationship can be a parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch of the U.S. company. The employer may be a company or other any other legal entity including a for-profit, non-profit, religious, or charitable organization. Both the U.S. and the foreign company must have common majority ownership, or, where there is less than majority ownership, common control by the same person or entity.
For L-1A visas, the applicant must be coming to the U.S. as a manager or executive. For L-1B visas, the individual must be coming to the United States because he or she possesses specialized knowledge. “Specialized knowledge” means that the applicant has a special knowledge of the company’s products, specialized skills, or particular knowledge about the application of the product in world markets. Specialized knowledge can also include an advanced or proprietary knowledge of the company’s processes or procedures.
An L-1 visa applicant must intend to depart the U.S. when his or her stay is over. However, despite this requirement, the L-1 visa is a dual-intent visa. This means that the applicant may also pursue permanent residency simultaneously without a negative impact on the ability to keep or extend the L visa.
If the L-1 applicant is coming to open a new office, the examiner will require information about the new office including proof that office space has been obtained, that the applicant is qualified to open a new office and that the foreign company will remain in existence during the full period of the applicant’s transfer to the U.S. Additionally, new office L-1’s are only granted for one year. If the company wants to have the L-1 visa extended beyond the initial year, it will have to demonstrate at the time of extension that it has proceeded with the plans outlined in the initial petition.
Executives and managers may stay in L-1A status for up to seven years. Specialized knowledge employees may stay in L-1B status for up to five years. Persons coming to open up a new office in the U.S. will initially be granted a one-year stay in the U.S.
There are special procedures that make it easier for companies with large numbers of multinational employees to obtain L-1 visas for their employees. Companies that qualify can receive a “blanket approval” for all of their L-1 employees rather than having to apply individually for each employee. To qualify for a blanket petition, the company must show:
A key difference between blanket L-1 employees and regular L-1 employees is that the employee need only work for six months outside the U.S. for the company rather than a year.
L-2s spouses can obtain independent employment authorization pursuant to their L-2 status, after entry into the U.S. in L-2 status, and filing an application for employment authorization.
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