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L-1 Visa


The L-1 visa permits a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests or a manager/executive from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.  This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee or manager/executive to the United States to set one up.

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Requirements & Eligibility

To qualify for L-1 classification, the employer must:

1. Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (eg. Subsidiary, branch, etc); and

2. Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country directly for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1.

Doing business is defined by the government and means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.

To qualify, the employee must also meet the following two tests:

  • Been working for the qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and
  • Be seeking to enter the US to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity or specialized knowledge capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

Specialized knowledge means either special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.  This is a high standard. 

Executive capacity generally refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight.

Managerial capacity generally refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization.  It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.  While it is not necessary to manage employees, the management of employees certainly helps.

New Offices – A special set of rules (a bit more relaxed) apply when the entity wants to open a new office.  For foreign employers seeking to send an employee to the United States as an executive or manager to establish a new office, the employer must also show that:

  • The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office;
  • The employee has been employed as an executive or manager for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition; and
  • The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.

Application Process

The employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of the employee. Once approved, notice is provided to the consulate and the employee must apply for a visa and bring the approved I-797 to the consulate.  You should seek the assistance of a qualified immigration professional as this process is not as straight forward.

How long does the Visa last for?

Employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year.  All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years.  For all L-1A employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.

How are family members treated?

The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age.  A Spouse is eligible for work authorization and family members can attend school.

Other considerations or related articles?

Find more information on various immigration topics discussed in our blog.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for L-1 Visa

See our great articles that answer various immigration questions on our blog.


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