In our globalized world, corporations often need a physical presence in countries around the world. Companies from countries with promising business climates like China, India, and South Korea, often seek to expand their activities into new countries, including the United States. This fact of international business means that they have to employ talent from a range of backgrounds. For a company to ensure the uniformity of its products and services and to preserve its brand across far-flung markets, its employees, regardless as to where they reside, must understand the company’s principles and objectives, and be experienced with its day-to-day operations. To these ends, international companies often move employees from one location to another for training and other work-related purposes. Fortunately for them, the L-1 visa category facilitates the process of relocating qualified foreign employees to the United States.
In general terms, L-1 is a temporary nonimmigrant status for foreign employees of companies with offices in the U.S. and abroad. Qualifying aliens, who are the beneficiaries of L-1 applications, must be employees who have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch office of the company for at least one year of the three years prior to filing an L-1 petition. Qualifying businesses, which are the sponsoring petitioners, must be a parent company, child company, or sister company of the foreign company. The L-1 category may be used by nonprofit, religious, and charitable organizations, in addition to for-profit multinational companies.
L-1A: Intercompany Transferee—Executive or Manager The L-1A classification is designed for intra-company executive and managerial transferees relocating to the United States. L-1A holders must have been continuously employed in an executive or managerial capacity for the foreign company at an overseas location for at least one year of the three years preceding filing. In addition, this subtype of the L-1 visa allows a company currently lacking a U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States in order to establish one. The L-1A is granted initially for one year for a new company in the U.S. or three years for a U.S. company with more than one year in existence, with extensions available in two-year increments and a total stay not to exceed seven years.
L-1B: Intercompany Transferee—Specialized Knowledge The L-1B classification is designed for professional employees with specialized knowledge of a company or industry. An example of an employee with specialized knowledge would be one with proprietary knowledge about a company's product who needs to travel to the U.S. to impart his or her specialized knowledge to new U.S. employees. As with an L-1A, companies that do not currently have an office in the United States can use the L-1B to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge to help establish one. The L-1B is issued initially for three years, with one two-year extension for a maximum stay of five years.
Married with Children? If you have been granted an L-1 but (obviously) don’t want to leave behind your spouse and children, you can take them with you to live in the U.S. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible to apply for L-2 visas, which will allow them to live in the U.S. for the duration of the L-1 holder’s stay. Moreover, L-2 holders can apply for work authorization with USCIS, which will allow them to work in the U.S. without restrictions.