The L1 visa, also known as intracompany transfer visa, is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that allows international companies with offices in the US and offices overseas to transfer certain qualified employees to their US office.
Initially, the USA L1 visa was created to legally transfer foreign national executives or managers with specialized or advanced knowledge to large multinational companies in the US. Now, the L1 visa for USA also helps small businesses and start-up companies expand their business and services to the US.
L1 Visa Types
There are two types of L1 visas:
1. L1A Visa: Executives and Managers
The L1A Visa is designed for executives and managers who have supervisory responsibility for a key function or a department of the employer. It facilitates the transfer of managers and executives to a US branch to work or establish a new branch of the company. L1A visas are issued for up to 1 year for start-ups and 3 years for existing companies. The L-1A visa is valid for up to 7 years, with extension.
2. L1B Visa: Specialized Knowledge
The L1B Visa is designed for professional employees with specialized knowledge whose skills can be related to a service or product of the company, or is necessary for the operation or expansion of the US business. It facilitates the transfer of employees to impart their knowledge of their company's product to new US employees. L1B visas are issued for up to 1 year for start-ups and 3 years for existing companies. The L-1B visa is valid for up to 5 years, with extension.
L1 Visa Requirements & Eligibility
Employers and employees that meet all the following L1 visa requirements are eligible for an L-1 visa.
- Employee must have worked in the same company abroad, for at least one continuous year prior to the transfer within the previous three years.
- The employee must have been employed abroad in an executive or managerial position.
- The employee must be transferred in order to fill a managerial or executive position.
- One of the following qualifying relationships between the US and non-US employers must apply:
- Parent and Subsidiary
- Branch and Headquarters
- Sister companies owned by a mutual parent
- 'Affiliates' owned by the same or people in approximately the same percentages
L1 Visa Benefits
L1 visas may be beneficial for the following reasons.
- L-1 visa holder may live and work legally in the US.
- L-1 visa holder may travel within and outside the US.
- Spouse and children under 21 years of age are eligible to accompany L-1 visa holder on L-2 visa.
- Allows foreign company, which does not yet have an affiliated office in the US, to establish a US branch.
- Spouses of L1 visa holders (L2 visa holders) are allowed to work in the US without restriction.
- Children of L-1 visa holders can attend school in the US.
- The L1 visa is a dual intent visa. It allows L-1 visa holders to apply for a Green Card from L1 visa status and acquire permanent residency.
L1 Visa Validity
Employees working in the US on L1 visa may stay for a maximum for 7 years, depending on their L1 visa type.
- The maximum initial stay for employees entering the US to establish a new office is 1 year.
- The maximum initial stay for all other employees is 3 years.
- The maximum stay with extension is 7 years.
L1 visa extensions are given 2 years at a time.