The purpose of this Guide is to provide an overview of the requirements and procedures involved in applying for an L-1 (intracompany transfer) visa, seeking admission to the U.S., and complying with the terms and conditions of the visa.
The L-1 visa is for organizations doing business both overseas and in the U.S. A visa may be granted to a foreign national who for one of the preceding three years has been employed continuously overseas for a legal entity of the organization and who will be coming to the U.S. temporarily to render services to another legal entity of the organization. These entities must be related as parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary. The year of overseas employment and the U.S. employment must be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
The spouse and unmarried minor children of an L-1 transferee are entitled to be admitted to the U.S. in L-2 status, subject to the same period of admission. L-2 spouses are eligible for employment authorization.
This Guide discusses a variety of specific business scenarios, including filing an L-1 petition for a “new office” just starting U.S. operations and “blanket” petitions for mature companies that are frequent users of the L-1 visa program.
As is true with many aspects of U.S. immigration law, the L-1 visa program is impacted by shifting political winds. During the recent U.S. recession and the slow recovery, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the State Department have heeded calls for protection of the American workforce by closely scrutinizing L-1 petitions for specialized knowledge workers and for workers who will be placed at third-party worksites. These agencies have also been sensitive to accusations of fraud and abuse in the L-1 visa program, especially allegedly by certain Indian, Russian, and Chinese companies. L-1 petitions buffeted by these political winds must be supported by extensive supporting evidence, and L-1 visa applicants must be well prepared for their interviews at U.S. Consulates. Even then, some cases will be subject to delays due to USCIS requests for additional evidence and agency investigations.
In short, there is no L-1 visa application that’s a “sure thing.” But the L-1 visa can be a useful tool in the immigration lawyer’s toolbox to be deployed on behalf of companies with sound business reasons to transfer qualified employees to the U.S.