Who Is Eligible?
Employees being transferred from a foreign company to a U.S. company require an L-1 visa from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (INS). The employee must be an executive, manager or a person with specialized knowledge with at least one year of previous foreign experience with a foreign company.
As executive is one who directs the management of an organization or major component or function of the organization. He or she establishes goals and policies and exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision making, receiving only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
A manager is one who has supervision and control over the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees, or who manages an essential function, department or subdivision of an organization. A manager has the authority to execute or recommend personnel actions if others are directly supervised. If no other employees are supervised, he or she must function at a senior level within the organization or with respect to the function managed and exercise discretion over the day-to-day operations of the organization of function managed.
To qualify as an employee with specialized knowledge, the individual must possess special knowledge of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests, and its application in the international markets. The employee may also qualify under L-1 classification if he or she has an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes or procedures.
The must be a subsidiary, affiliate or branch office relationship between the foreign and U.S. companies where there is either more than 50% stock control or a 50/50 joint venture with joint veto power. Requirements that the U.S. company train replacement persons have been removed.
The requirements for an L-1 visa include proof of continuous foreign employment for one year in the previous three years immediately prior to the application. The foreign employment requirement is satisfied even if there is a valid interruption in the performance of duties for the foreign company. If you enter the United States in your capacity as an employee of the organization on some other type of visa, the time you spent working in the United States under a valid visa will not be counted against you in assessing the one year requirement. However, neither will it be counted as applicable to the one year previous foreign employment.
The relationship between companies is demonstrated either by showing that the corporations are the same or that one is a subsidiary, affiliate or branch office of the other.
Duration of Visa
For a business that is just starting up, an L-1 visa is valid for one year. For businesses that have already been doing business in the United States for a year or longer, the visa is valid for up to three years with two-year extensions available for a total of up to five years for an employee with specialized knowledge, and up to seven years for an executive or manager. L-1 extensions have to be filed in the U.S. at the INS Regional Service Center where the business is located.
Status of Spouses and Minor Children
The foreign national spouse or unmarried minor children of a foreign national with an L-1 visa are entitled to the same nonimmigrant classification and the same length of stay as the employee. The foreign national spouse and children are admitted with L-2 visas.
The employee’s spouse and unmarried minor children cannot accept employment in the United States. Servants of an L-1 visa holder can receive a B-1 visa with work authorization.