This visa is available to someone who has at least 1 year of experience (within the last 3 years) as either a manager or specialized knowledge worker with a foreign company that is commonly owned and controlled by or commonly owns and controls a business in the US (or will be opening a new office in the US). The foreign national must also be coming to work for the US office as either a manager (L-1A visa) or specialized knowledge worker (L-1B visa).
A manager as defined by US immigration law is essentially considered to be someone who manages professional workers, manages at least 2 tiers of non-professionals or unskilled workers or manages a key and essential function of the organization.
Specialized knowledge workers are those that have specialized knowledge of a company’s products/services or advanced knowledge of the company’s processes, procedures, policies, etc. that is not commonly held in the company or the industry (e.g., knowledge of a proprietary or patented product or service). Generally, if such knowledge can be transferred to someone in the foreign national’s field through reasonable training or if such knowledge is commonly held throughout the company, the government will not find that the foreign employee has specialized knowledge.
There are specific provisions of the US immigration laws that apply to foreign corporations seeking to establish a new US office. These laws require that the new office secure an office or premises from which to conduct its business and essentially set up its operations (ie, incorporate the company, obtain a taxpayer ID, number, secure a bank account, etc.) before an L-1 visa application is made.
One cannot apply for this visa and then come open a US office.
Setting up operations is usually done by a representative of the foreign company. Foreign representatives can enter the US on a B-1 visa or under the Visa Waiver Program to so set up new office operations.
Once operations are established, then the new office can apply for an L-1 visa for the manager or specialized knowledge worker it seeks to transfer to the US. The foreign representative is not permitted to manage/work for the company on B-1 visa or via a Visa Waiver Program entry.
The L-1A visa can be held for up to 7 years total. The visa is usually granted initially for 3 years (unless a new office is involved, in which case the visa would be granted for 1 year), and extensions are granted in 2 year increments up to the 7 years maximum. The L-1B visa can be held for up to 5 years total.
The visa is usually granted initially for 3 years, and extensions are granted in 2 year increments up to the 5 years maximum. The family members of L-1A and L-1B visa holders, specifically spouses and unmarried children under 21, are automatically granted L-2 visas. An L-2 spouse can apply for a work permit in the US, and once granted, this work permit would allow the spouse to work for any US employer, although work is not required. L-2 children are unfortunately not able to apply for work permits, but they can attend school full-time on L-2 visas.
CHECKLIST FOR L-1 VISAS
Documents required from employee (foreign national):
- Copies of the following pages of passport – data (picture) pages, copies of any prior US visas issued, and I-94 (if in the US).
- Copy of employee’s resume. The resume should contain specific start/end dates of employment (month/year to month/year) and detailed description of job duties with current and prior employers.
- Copy of job offer letter, if available. If not available, we must know employee’s proposed US job title and salary, including what benefits will be provided (e.g., health insurance, living stipend, pension, disability or life insurance, etc.).
- Proof of the employee’s employment with foreign office for at least 1 year. This may include a copy of his/her last year’s tax return (if the name of the company appears and clarifies that salary payments make up the individual’s primary income) and/or pay statements for the last year.
- A detailed but concise description of employee’s job duties at the foreign office.
- A detailed but concise description of employee’s proposed job duties in the US.
- If the employee is married and the employee’s family members will join him/her in the US, we will also need the employee’s marriage certificate and birth certificates (or family registers) of any children to document the parent/child relationship.
- We would also need the following pages of the family’s passports – data (picture) pages, copies of any prior US visas issued, and I-94 (if in the US).
Documents required from company:
- Copy of US company’s articles of incorporation (and filing receipt to show the articles have been filed with the state secretary).
- Copy of US company’s bylaws (if the company is a corporation) or operating agreement (if an LLC)
- Proof of US company’s ownership – e.g., stock certificates and register, proof of payment for stock shares.
- Copy of foreign company’s articles of incorporation or registration document.
- If the US office is not (or will not be) 100% owned by the parent company, then proof of the foreign company’s ownership is also required – e.g. Financial statement listing all current owners/shareholders of foreign company.
- Proof that the foreign company is currently operational – e.g., latest tax return or financial statement, bank statements for the last 6 months, etc.
- Organizational chart listing the names and job titles of all employees managed by the employee in the foreign office. It would be idea to also include the educational background of each employee (including highest level of education completed and diplomas held and major field of study).
- Organization chart listing the job titles (and names if known) of all employees that will be managed by employee in the US when L1 transfer is complete. It would be idea to also include the educational background of each employee (including highest level of education completed and diplomas held and major field of study). Copy of company’s latest Form 941 and state quarterly tax returns (for established offices only).
Documents required for New Office L1 cases:
- Detailed business plan (3-5 years projection), elaborating on company’s marketing plans, projected revenues and expenses, forecasted staffing (including dates of expected hires, job titles of expected hires, and job duties of expected hires), business prospects in the US, etc.
- Copy of office lease agreement.
- Copies bank statements since opening of account.
- Copies of any wire transfer receipts evidencing capitalization of US company.
- Copy of most recent phone bill or contract with phone provider.
- Receipts from large expenditures to set up office (such as inventory purchases, contracts/deposits with warehouses, equipment purchases, etc.)
- If any employees have already been hired, then copy of employment contracts and I-9s.
- Proof of current business activity in US, if any, including invoices, contracts with customers, bills of lading, customer lists, etc.