The L-1 visa is for “intracompany transferees” and has a long history under U.S. immigration law. 

To qualify for L-1 classification, the employer must: Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (either a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as “qualifying” organizations); and currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the intended beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1.  While the business must be “viable”, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade. The term “doing business” refers to the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods or services by a qualifying organization. It does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization both in the United States and abroad. To qualify, the named employee must also generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States. 

There are two types of L-1 visas: L-1A visas are for multinational corporate executives and managers, and L-1B visas are for individuals with “specialized knowledge”. The L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.  This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States for the purpose of establishing one.  A manager is a person who manage a function or oversee a component of a company, establishes the goals and policies of an organization or a major part or function of an organization, exercises wide latitude of discretionary decision-making and receives only general supervision or direction from higher –level executives. It is also important that these individuals can prove that they supervise professional and not just first-line employees.

The L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to an office in the United States.  This classification also enables a foreign company, which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help establish one.  An employee with specialized knowledge is defined as an individual “with knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or with an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.” 

In appropriate circumstances, larger U.S. employers may file “blanket” L petitions, by which they seek approval for a number of employees at the same time, instead of filing separate petitions for individual employees. 

L-1 visas are not limited to “for-profit” corporations or partnerships. Accordingly, charitable organizations, as well as religious and non-for-profit organizations, may file for L visas, as well. 

The L-1 visa has no annual quota. Therefore, qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of only one year.  All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years.  For all L-1A and L-1B employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee involved has reached the maximum limit. L-1A visa holders have a maximum time limit of five years and L-1B visa holders have a maximum of seven years. Additionally, the spouse and children of an L-1 visa holder are admitted in the United States as L-2s, and they are allowed to work in the country as well.

One of the privileges and distinguishing characteristics of the L1 visa, as opposed to many other nonimmigrant visas, is that it is a “dual intent” visa. In other words, under the terms of the L-1 visa, the L-1 visa holder may have a pending application for a “Green Card” and become a lawful permanent resident without jeopardizing his or her L-1 visa status or his pending visa applications.

Persons who believe they might qualify for an L-1 visa, should consult a lawyer with expertise in business immigration law. An experienced immigration lawyer can prepare these complex applications.

* This article is based on information available as of its publication and is not intended to be all-inclusive or to furnish advice in a particular case.  We are not responsible for any changes in regulations that may occur subsequent to publication.  Please feel free to contact our office for further information and advice.

Michael J. Wildes, is the Managing Partner of Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. Mr. Wildes is a former Federal Prosecutor with the United States Attorney's Office in Brooklyn (1989-1993). Mr. Wildes has testified on Capitol Hill in connection with anti-terrorism legislation and is internationally renowned for his successful representation of several defectors who have provided difficult to obtain national security information. He is frequently a legal commentator/analyst for network television. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and teaches Business Immigration Law. From 2004 through 2010, Mr. Wildes was also the Mayor of Englewood, New Jersey–where he resides. Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. has offices in New York, New Jersey and Florida. If you would like to contact Michael Wildes please email him at michael@wildeslaw.com and visit the firm’s website at www.wildeslaw.com. 

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