The L1-A and L1-B visas allow foreign nationals who are executives, managers and professional employees to transfer to their employers’ U.S. offices on a temporary basis. The L1-A and L1-B visas are nonimmigrant visas (meaning that the foreign national must have an intent to return to his or her country of citizenship); however, obtaining an L1-A or L1-B visa is also permissible for foreign nationals who have dual intent to work in the U.S. temporarily and eventually secure lawful permanent resident status.

L1 visa applications require both the employee and the employer to meet certain qualifications. If a foreign national qualifies for an L1-A or L1-B visa, his or her spouse and children can obtain L2 visas to travel to the United States as non-immigrants (or on a dual intent basis) as well.

Visa Qualifications

Employer Qualifications

The employer qualifications for L1-A and L1-B visas are the same. In order for a company’s employees to be eligible to work in the United States on an L1 visa, the employer must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate; and,
  • Currently be, or intend to be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one foreign country.

If either of these qualifications is not satisfied (for example, if the company is seeking to relocate to the United States rather than maintaining facilities in the U.S. and a foreign country), then its employees will not be eligible for L1 visas. However, other temporary work visas may be available.

Employee Qualifications

In order to qualify for an L1-A or L1-B nonimmigrant visa, an employee must meet two primary qualifications as well. These are:

  • At least one year of continuous work experience at the employer’s foreign location within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and,
  • Intent to enter the United States to serve in an executive or managerial capacity (L1-A) or to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity (L1-B) for the employer.

As defined by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), “executive capacity,” “managerial capacity” and “specialized knowledge” have the following meanings:

  • Executive Capacity– The ability to make a broad range of decisions with limited oversight.
  • Managerial Capacity– The ability to supervise and control the work of professional employees or to manage the organization or one of its departments, subdivisions, functions or components.
  • Specialized Knowledge– Either (i) special knowledge of the employer’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests; or, (ii) advanced knowledge or expertise in the employer’s processes and procedures.

For L1-A and L1-B visa holders, the maximum initial length of stay is three years unless they are entering the U.S. to establish a new office, in which case the maximum initial length of stay is one year. Extensions may be granted in two-year increments, subject to a maximum limit of seven years for L1-A visa holders and five years for L1-B visa holders.

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