L-1 – Intracompany Transferee Visa

L-1 visas are used for foreign nationals who have been employed abroad for one year of
the preceding three-year period with a multinational company. The individual must have been employed in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity at the US employer’s parent, subsidiary or affiliate office overseas. The multinational company must be doing
business in the US and at least one other country while the foreign national is employed in the
US. Except in limited circumstances, L-1 visas are filed with the USCIS and once approved,
the foreign national must apply for the L-1 visa at the US Embassy or Consulate.  However, employees of companies with approved blanket L petitions may file for the L-1 visa directly at
the US Embassy or Consulate and do not need to receive an approval of L-1 status from the USCIS. Similarly, Canadians may file the petition at a Class A port of entry located on the
US-Canadian border or at a pre-flight/pre-clearance inspection station.The petition must
document that the US employer is either the parent, affiliate, branch or subsidiary of the
foreign national’s overseas employer; that the employee will be employed in either a
managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity; and the employee has been employed in that capacity for one of the preceding three years abroad.The definition of
”manager” includes those who manage a “function” of an organization. A manager must
meet the following criteria:

  • Manage the organization or a department, subdivision, function or component
of the organization;
  • Supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial
employees OR manage an essential function within the organization or a
department or subdivision of the organization;
  • Has the authority to hire and fire OR recommend those or other personnel
actions; or, if no employees are supervised, functions at a senior level within the
organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
  • Exercise discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for
which the employee has authority. A first-line supervisor is not considered to be
acting in a “managerial capacity” merely by virtue of the supervisory duties unless
the employees supervised are “professional.”

An employee is defined as an “executive” when the individual:

  • Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function;
  • Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component or function;
  • Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
  • Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the
board of directors or stockholders of the organization.

“Specialized knowledge” is defined as special knowledge of the company product and
its application in international markets or an advanced knowledge of the processes and
procedures of the company. Possible characteristics of an alien who possesses specialized knowledge include:

  • Possesses knowledge that is valuable to the employer’s competitiveness
in the marketplace;
  • Is qualified to contribute to the US employer’s knowledge of foreign operating
conditions as a result of special knowledge not generally found in the industry;
  • Has been utilized abroad in a capacity involving significant assignments which
have enhanced the employer’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or
financial position;
  • Possesses knowledge which normally can be gained only through prior
experience with that employer;
  • Possesses knowledge of a product or process which cannot be easily transferred
or taught to another individual.

Managers and executives who qualify for L visa status may also file their immigrant visa petitions without receiving a labor certification. However, specialized knowledge employees must still file a labor certification before filing for an immigrant visa petition or “green card.”  Unless they are entering the US to open a new office, those L-1 visa holders who meet the definition of a manager or executive are initially admitted to the US for three years, but may extend their status for a total period of seven years. Specialized knowledge employees are also admitted for a period of three years, but may only extend their status in the US for a total period of five years. Those entering the US to open a new office are admitted for one year, and must reapply to extend their L-1 status at the conclusion of that one-year period
by proving the successful operation of the enterprise. L-2 spouses are eligible for work authorization and to attend school while in the US. The filing fees for an L-1 visa include the Form I-129 fee of $325 and a one-time $500 Fraud Fee. Additionally, if the employer wishes for the USCIS to approve the application within 15 days, it can file a Form I-907 request for premium processing and pay an additional $1,225 filing fee.

Copyright © 2011 Law Offices of Melissa Harms.  All rights reserved.

The above discussion is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Individuals should visit a licensed attorney to evaluate the legal circumstances surrounding their situation and to receive appropriate legal advice.