An L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that may be obtained by executives, managers or specialized employees of an existing foreign company. These employees must have worked abroad at the foreign company in their managing role for one of the past three years to qualify.
There are two types of L visas that can be obtained by employees:
L-1A and L-1B
An L-1A visa is reserved for an employee who serves the foreign corporation in either an executive or managerial capacity, meaning that the employee has wide latitude to make high-level decisions for the corporation without experiencing much oversight. L-1A employees supervise and manage the work of other employees and are ultimately responsible for the work product of those who work underneath them.
An L-1B visa is reserved for employees who may not be employed in an executive or managerial capacity, but who have specialized knowledge about the field or corporation that is not common, either within the field or organization. The employee with specialized knowledge essentially refers to an employee who performs a specialized key role within the corporation, more than a normal specialized professional would.
Advantages of the L-1 Visa
There are many advantages to L-1 visas. Unlike other work visas, there are no salary or educational requirements. L-1 visas may be renewed for a total of seven years for executives or five years for specialized employees. L-1 visas may be transferred to EB-1 green card status after a reasonable period of time holding the L-1. This is because the L-1 visa has presumed dual intent, and thus the process of adjusting status is much easier than with other visas. L-1 visa holders may travel in and out of the United States with impunity.
Additionally, one of the best advantages of the L-1 visa is that the holder’s immediate family is automatically granted L-2 visas. This means that the immediate family automatically obtains work authorization, and their visas are automatically renewed with the L-1. The L-1 visa has no annual quota unlike the H-1B visa.
Businesses and L-1 Visas
More than individuals, corporations benefit from the L-1 visas. Though any business can take advantage of the L-1 visa, there are two main types of businesses that do: expanding businesses and large or multinational corporations.
A foreign corporation wishing to expand its business into the United States markets by sending some of its personnel to the United States and starting a new office will usually go the L-1A route. To establish a new office in the United States, the foreign corporation must have secured physical premises for its office. The corporation will then send over the employees who have L-1 visas to start working at the office.
Once the employees arrive, the United States branch of the corporation must begin doing business as an employer in the United States. If after one year the branch is still doing business for the foreign corporation in the United States, the L-1 visas will be extended. A common example that our office sees is a manufacturing company from another country that wishes to gain more U.S. clients or bypass middlemen by directly establishing a sales office in the United States. That nonU.S. company will apply for the L-1A visa for a manager who knows the business of the nonU.S. company well enough to run a new office set up in the United States.
A large or multinational corporation that has many employees and wants to transfer its employees wholesale to an existing branch in the United States may apply for an L-1 blanket petition. These corporations must already be engaged in a significant amount of trade in the United States and already employ a significant amount of employees at its U.S. branch. Using the L-1 blanket petition program, the corporation only needs to apply once. Once approved, it can then apply the blanket visa to as many managerial, executive or specialized employees it wishes to send to the United States. Large multinational corporations such as HSBC or Toyota commonly use this method to send high-level employees to the United States.
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