The “L” Intracompany Transferee Visa has become one of the most important of the nonimmigrant work visas. The “L” allows organizations with operations abroad to assign certain of their personnel to the United States temporarily. Like the H-1B visa seeker, a candidate for L-1 classification is not required to have a permanent residence abroad which he or she has not intention of abandoning. Unlike the H-1B visa, there is currently no annual cap on L-1 visas.

The L-1 category applies to foreign persons who are seeking admission to the U.S. to work for a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the applicant’s employer abroad. The applicant must have been employed abroad for the corporation, firm, or other legal entity (or an affiliate or subsidiary thereof) on a full-time basis for at least one continuous year out of the three-year period immediately prior to filing the visa petition to qualify. The candidate must be seeking to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis to perform services either in a managerial or executive capacity (L-1A) which entail specialized knowledge (L-1B).

“L-1A” Managerial or Executive Capacity: To qualify for “L” visa classification, in an executive or managerial capacity a demonstration that the visa candidate has high level of authority and a broad range of job responsibilities. Managers and executives plan, organize, direct, and control an organization’s major functions and work through other employees to achieve the organization’s goals. The duties of a position must primarily be of an executive or managerial nature, and a majority of the executive’s, or manager’s time must be spent on duties relating to policy or operational management. An executive or manager may direct a function within an organization. In general, however, individuals who control and directly perform a function within an organization, but do not have subordinate staff (except perhaps a personal staff), are more appropriate for consideration knowledge employees.

If a small or medium-sized business supports a position for which the duties are primarily executive or managerial, it can qualify under the L category. However, neither the title of a position nor ownership of the business, are, by themselves, indicators of managerial or executive capacity. The sole employee of a company may qualify as an executive or manager, for L visa purposes, provided his or her primary function is to plan, organize, direct and control an organization’s major functions through other people.

“L-1B” Special Knowledge Capacity: Petitions to accord L status may be approved for persons with specialized knowledge, but not for persons who are merely skilled workers. To serve in a specialized knowledge capacity, the “L” visa candidate’s knowledge must different from or surpass the ordinary or usual knowledge of an employee in the particular field, and must have been gained through significant prior experience with the petitioning organization. A specialized knowledge employee must have an advanced level of expertise in his or her organization’s processes and procedures or special knowledge of the organization, which is not readily available in the United States labor market. A specialized knowledge “L” visa candidate must be shown to posses knowledge that is valuable to the employer’s competitiveness in the market place; be uniquely qualified to contribute to the U.S. employer’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions; have been utilized as a key employee abroad and have been given significant assignments which have enhanced the employer’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or financial position; and possesses knowledge, which can be gained only through extensive prior experience with the employer.

“L-1” New Office Petition: It is not required that the beneficiary of an “L” petition be coming for employment at a pre-existing, U.S. based office of the employer. A petition may be approved for candidate in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity who is otherwise classifiable under the “L” provisions who is coming to the U.S. to open or be employed in a new office. While it is expected that a manager or executive in a new office will be more than normally involved in day-to-day operations during the initial phases of the business, he or she must also have authority and plans to hire staff and have wide latitude in making decisions about the goals and management of the organization. “office” petition seeking transfer of a managerial or executive employee must demonstrate that within one year of approval of the petition, the U.S. operation will support an executive or managerial position.

A petition for a qualified employee of a new office will be approved for a period not to exceed one year, after which the petitioner must demonstrate that the U.S. firm is engaged in the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services in order for the petition and alien’s stay to be extended beyond one year, and in the case of an L-1A managerial or executive employee, that the transferee is principally engaged in the exercise of managerial and/or executive responsibilities.

Petition and Visa Application Procedure: An employer seeking to accord status as an “L” intra-company transferee status to a qualifying employee must file a preliminary visa petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the U.S. Following petition approval, the visa candidate may apply for the L-1A or L-1B visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. Special “Blanket Petition” procedures benefit certain relatively large, established, multinational company’s who have been in business in the U.S. for over one year, and meet other regulatory requirements including number of recent L-1 visa petition approvals, sales revenues, and/or number of U.S. employees.

Duration of Stay/Petition Validity: The total period of stay for L aliens employed in a specialized knowledge capacity may not exceed five years. The maximum allowable period of stay for an alien employed in a managerial or executive capacity may not exceed seven years. These limitations do no apply if the L-1 employees employment in the U.S. has or intermittent, or for an aggregate of six months or less per year. Approved individual L petitions, except those involving new offices, are initially valid for the period of established need for the beneficiary’s services, not to exceed three years. Extensions of stay may be authorized in increments of up to two years.

Family Members: The spouse and children of a L-1 nonimmigrant who are accompanying the principal alien in the United States are entitled to L-2 classification and are subject to the same visa validity, period of admission, and limitation of stay as the L-1principal. Upon application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the spouse of a L-1 alien will be granted employment authorization.