Transfer Of Foreign Employees To The United States (L-1)


The L-1 visa allows Business Executives, Managers and employees with “specialized knowledge” to transfer from a foreign company to a US office, subsidiary, or affiliate. This visa may be used to allow the transfer of key personnel to open a new office in the United States.

  1. There must be a “Qualifying Organization”. To have a qualifying organization there must be a foreign business operation that remains an active ongoing business during the entire time that the L-1 employee is working in the United States. This foreign business must be related to an existing U.S. business or in the process of establishing a new business in the U.S… The U.S. business must be a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign business or must be a 50/50 joint venture partner of the foreign business.
  2. The employee to be transferred must be an “Executive”, “Manager” or have “Specialized Knowledge” and must be coming to the U.S. to fill one of these capacities with the U.S. employer.
  3. The employee must have worked abroad for the foreign company for a continuous period of at least one year in the last three years.
  4. The foreign company for which the employee has worked must be the same employer or a parent, subsidiary, affiliate or 50/50 joint venture partner of the U.S. company.
  5. The L-1 employee must intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of his/her authorized stay. However, due to changes made to the U.S. Immigration laws in 1990, the filing of permanent residence papers by the L-1 employee will no longer be considered in determining whether an L-1 visa petitions will be issued or extended.

An Executive employee is one whose primary duties are to direct the management of the business or a major component of the business and establish business goals and policies, exercise a wide latitude of discretionary decision-making, and receive only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or shareholders of the company. An employee with titles such as President, Vice President or Treasurer should generally qualify as an Executive.


A Managerial employee is one whose primary duties are to direct a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the organization, or a function, or one who controls the work of other professional, supervisory, or managerial employees, who has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those actions as well as other personnel actions, and who exercises discretionary authority over day-to-day operations.


An employee is considered to have specialized knowledge with respect to a company if the employee has a special knowledge of the company products and its application in international markets, or has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.


The initial petition may be approved for a maximum of three years. Extensions can be granted to a total period of stay of seven years for Executives and Managers. Employees transferring based on specialized knowledge may stay up to a total period of five years. When the employee is coming to the U.S. to open a new office, the initial petition will be approved for one year. After one year, an extension can be obtained upon providing proof that the company has been doing business both in the U.S. and abroad during the initial one year.


Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old may be granted L-2 visas which allow them to live in the U.S. and go to school. Spouses may obtain permission to work but children may not.


A petition along with supporting documents is filed with the INS Service Center having jurisdiction over the place of intended employment. After the approval notice is received, the employee takes it to a U.S. Consulate abroad to obtain the visa. If the employee is in the United States, he or she may apply for a change of status in the United States.


L-1 employees who are executives or managers can qualify for permanent residence without the need for the usual labor certification, thereby easing the procedure and time required to obtain permanent residence