L-1 Intracompany Transferees
The “default” investor visa, but generally for executives, managers, and specialized (i.e. proprietary company) knowledge employees of multinational companies
The L-1 intracompany transferee visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa, often considered the “default” initial U.S. immigration strategy for entrepreneurs and investors. Startup and existing U.S. companies can use the L-1 visa category to sponsor executives, personnel or key functional managers, and employees with specialized company knowledge who have worked in one of these capacities for an affiliated company outside of the U.S. for at least one (1) year.
Below are the general requirements for L-1A Executives and Managers and L-1B Specialized (Company) Knowledge visa qualification:
- The prospective U.S. entrepreneur or employee has been employed:
- Outside of the U.S. by a parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate by majority common ownership to the U.S. sponsor company.
- For one (1) year in the last three (3) years before their transfer to the U.S.
- As an executive, personnel manager, functional manager, or specialized (i.e. proprietary company) knowledge employee.
- The prospective U.S. entrepreneur or employee will serve as an executive, personnel manager, functional manager, or specialized (i.e. proprietary company) knowledge employee when employed in the U.S.
- The U.S. company is “doing business”
- The multinational enterprise is “doing business” outside of the U.S.
VIBE Registration for the multinational enterprise may be recommended to minimize the potential for USCIS challenges to the corporate aspects.
Procedure & Duration
L-1 visa petitions may be approved by USCIS for an initial period of three (3) years, renewable in two (2) year increments up to a maximum of seven (7) years for L-1A and five (5) years for L-1B petitions. On the basis of the USCIS approval, beneficiary employees can be issued a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record by USCIS as an extension or change of status from within the U.S. and/or apply for an L-1 visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Canadians are visa-exempt and can apply directly at a U.S. Port of Entry or Pre-Flight Inspection with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
New Office L-1A as an Investor/Entrepreneur Strategy
“New Office L-1A” is a subcategory which commonly provides for a senior manager or executive of an international business to expand operations to the United States. Startup U.S. companies with less than a year of successful operations, revenues, and employment generally receive an approval under this subcategory for one (1) year, effectively as a probationary period, requiring a substantial amount of evidence of success in order to renew the L-1 status after that year. Other than this implicit requirement to have success within a short period of one year, a common frustration for international entrepreneurs of the new office L-1A category is the requirement that business operations must exist and be maintained outside of the U.S.
Where such a treaty exists between the United States and the nationality of the foreign company, it’s strongly recommended that both multinational companies and entrepreneurs also consider the E-2 Treaty Investor visa, especially during the first few years of business operations, due to comparatively higher USCIS scrutiny and shorter approvals for new companies under the L-1 visa category.
Spouse and Unmarried Children under 21
L-1 status holders can bring their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age to the U.S. These dependents can apply for L-2 visas or status with proof of relationship to the L-1 beneficiary and, if applying for an L-2 visa or admission separately, are recommended to carry proof of the L-1 status holder’s maintenance of status documents.
Can my L-2 Dependent Spouse Work?
Spouses of L-1 visa holders, when admitted in L-2S dependent status, have free market work authorization in the United States “incident to status,” which means that they can start working upon arrival without having to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or work permit. Dependent children cannot work, but both spouses and children can study at a public or private school.
Green Card Pathway?
L-1A Multinational Manager/Executive visa holders who wish to pursue permanent residency often do so under the EB-1C Multinational Manager/Executive “green card” category if they were a manager or executive abroad. Otherwise, L-1B and certain L-1A visa holders who do not have a significant ownership interest in the company may pursue permanent residency through a PERM Labor Certification based immigrant petition under EB-2 or EB-3 categories.
The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.