Employees being transferred from a foreign company to a U.S. company require an L-1 visa. The employee must be an executive, manager or a person with specialized knowledge with at least one year of previous work experience with a foreign company. The employee may be eligible to either work at a pre-existing subsidiary/branch office or to start up a new subsidiary/branch office for the parent company abroad.
An executive is one who directs the management of an organization or major component or function of the organization. He 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 or 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 has an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes or procedures.
There 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 three years immediately prior to filing this application. If you enter the United States 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.
A relationship between companies is demonstrated by showing that the corporations are the same, or that one is a subsidiary, affiliate or branch office of the other.
How to Apply
An L-1 visa application for foreign nationals must be approved through a USCIS Regional Service Center. USCIS then sends the approval notice to a U.S. consulate where the applicant obtains the L-1 visa. Where the applicant is in lawful status in the United States, he may change his status from within the U.S.
Duration of Visa
For a business that is just starting up, an L-1 visa is generally valid for one year. For businesses that have been doing business in the United States for one 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 USCIS Regional Service Center where the business is located.
Status of Spouse 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 may apply for work authorization to work in the United States.