L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visas: Executives, Managers, Individuals with Specialized Knowledge

The L-1 intracompany transferee visa allows executives, managers, or employees with specialized skills to transfer from the foreign company to a US subsidiary office or affiliated company to work on a temporary basis. The applicant must have been employed by the foreign company for a minimum of twelve months during the three years immediately preceding the filing of the L-1 visa petition. The applicant must be hired to work as either an executive/manager (L-1A), or an employee with “specialized knowledge” (L-1B).

There are no limitations on the nature of the business operations (e.g., import-export, construction, and service businesses such as restaurants). The foreign company or owner may set up a new operation in the United States or purchase an active American business. The latter may be beneficial in order to expedite the process of obtaining permanent residency.

L-1 visas are granted initially for 1) one year, in the event that the American company is a new office, or 2) three years, if the American company has been in active operation for at least one year. Executives and managers with an L-1A may remain in the US for up to seven years. Specialized knowledge employees may stay in the L-1B status for up to five years. Extensions are not automatic: when applying for an extension it is necessary to show that the American company has developed enough to support the need for an executive, manager, or specialist, and that the company is in a financial position to support the L-1 employee. The foreign company must continue in operation throughout the period of the L-1 status.

Who qualifies?

To qualify as a manager (L-1A), you must:

  • Direct or supervise a core function of the organization or department
  • Primarily supervise and control the work of other professional or managerial employees
  • Have the authority to hire, dismiss, or recommend staff for promotion.

To qualify as an executive (L-1A), you must:

  • Direct the management of the organization or a major component or function
  • Determine the goals and policies of the organization
  • Exercise wide latitude in discretionary decision-making.

To qualify as a person of specialized knowledge (L-1B), you must have:

  • Special knowledge of the company’s products and their applications in world markets
  • Advanced or unique knowledge of the company’s processes or procedures.

The US Company must:

  • In the event of a new office, the US company must have office space and be in a position to financially support the visa applicant and initial operations of the company
  • In the event of an ongoing operation, the US company must show the need for an executive, manager, or specialist, as well as office space, tax declarations, and the financial ability to pay the salary offered to the visa applicant
  • Be properly related to the foreign company: have a parent-subsidiary/subsidiary-parent, joint venture, branch, or affiliate relationship.

Advantages of the L-1 Visa:

  • No quota on the L-1 visa, (the number of visas will not run out during the year)
  • No annual limit for a company on the number of visas issued
  • No need for the L-1 visa applicant to show a foreign residence
  • L-1 visa holders may apply for permanent residency
  • L-1As are not subject to the Labor Certification (PERM) requirement (this enables the L-1A holder to obtain a green card relatively quick and problem-free)
  • Minor children and spouses are automatically eligible for L-2 visas. A spouse may work on an L-2 visa upon receiving separate employment authorization from USCIS.

What are some problems, issues, and USCIS/consular questions for an L-1 Petition and Visa Application?

White & Associates has more than 20 years of experience with the L-1 category. Below are some of the problems and issues we have encountered:

  • The terms “executive” and “manager” are interpreted in different ways by USCIS — one officer may consider that the position is executive or managerial in nature while another may not
  • The meaning of the term “specialized knowledge” is disputed and controversial and has been the subject of many lawsuits
  • Small office premises not sufficient to house staff
  • Inadequate start-up capital
  • Boilerplate business plans, job descriptions
  • Inadequate staffing to be considered an executive/manager when requesting an extension
  • Lack of white-collar subordinates to L-1 beneficiary
  • Inadequate finances to pay the L-1 beneficiary
  • Shareholding distribution in the US and foreign companies not in accord with USCIS interpretation of “affiliate”
  • Little evidence to show that L-1 beneficiary supervised and delegated tasks to employees or that employees reported to the L-1 beneficiary
  • Small overseas company with few personnel calling into question whether L-1 applicant worked as executive or manager or that the office will continue to operate in his absence
  • L-1 beneficiary is majority shareholder in foreign company
  • More than one L-1 applicant applying simultaneously
  • Discovery of new, “material facts” by consular officer

How does White and Associates help?

For new US companies, we can assist in registering the new US company; opening a company bank account; obtaining an employer identification number; registering with Dun & Bradstreet; obtaining local permits; arranging for an L-1 specific business plan; preparing the petition; and preparing the employee for a consular interview, or if in the United States, a change of status. For existing US companies, we can help the L-1 beneficiary secure a three-year approval.

We can bring our experience to aid you in resolving difficult issues or situations. We can provide a second opinion if counsel has already been retained. If your petition has been referred back for revocation or is in the process of being referred back, we can assist in forestalling that referral, or respond to a Notice of Intent to Revoke. If your petition has been denied, we can represent you in the appeals process, or seek out other alternatives for the employee. We can represent the employee in resolving personal, immigration-related issues. Because the stakes are so high — a petition denial can irrevocably harm a project; a consular recommendation for revocation of a USCIS approval can delay the arrival of an employee for 6 months or more; a company may be locked-in to an expensive monthly lease payment with its chief executive stranded outside the US for months — contact us to find out more about how we can help you.