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L-1 Intercompany Transfer Visa
As a nonimmigrant visa, L-1 visas are temporary in nature. They are used transfer professionals from a subsidiary or parent office in a foreign country to an office of the same company in the U.S. The primary requirements for this category are that the employer must already to business in the U.S. and at least one foreign country, and the employee must have worked for the company for at least one year out of the past three years.
In order to keep company goals and standards consistant from one branch to another, it is often advantageous to transfer highly proficient managers, executives, or professionals with specialized knowledge. The L-1 visa is ideal for companies who would like to expand their services in the U.S., or establish an office here, while maintaining the integrety of the company. This visa also aids multi-national companies in rotating managerial-level employees, allowing the exchange of ideas on a global level, which further strengthens a company's competitiveness.
There are two kinds of L-1 visas:
L-1A Intercompany Transfer of Executive or Manager. These employees must have worked in an executive or manager position with the company in the past and will continue to do so. Being considered an executive or manager means that you can make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight, and manage essential functions at a high level without supervison. For executives or managers establishing a new office, the inital period of approval can only be for one year. For companies that already have an office in the U.S. established, they can have an approval period for up to three years. Extensions are given in two year increments until you have reached a maximum limit of seven years in the U.S.
L-1B Intercompany Transfer of Specialized Knowledge Professional. Specialized knowledge can be on a company's products, research techniques, procedures, services, or equipment, and how their application in foreign markets. They are coming to the U.S. to impart this knowledge onto employees in the U.S. The period of stay is similar to L-1A visa holders, where professionals establishing an office can have an initial approval for one year in the U.S. and all other professionals for three years. However, L-1B visa holders may only extend their visa until they have reached a five year maximum limit.
An important consideration for determining eligiblity for an L-1 visa is if the duties performed by the foreign professional are regular and systematic for the company. Attending a conference, meeting with officials or other professionals, and training do not count as regular duties. The B-1 visa would be more suitable for these kinds of activities.
One extra benefit of the L-1 visa is that it is dual intent. This means that you can apply for a Green Card to adjust your status to permanent resident without jeopardizing the L-1 visa status. In addition, because L-1 visa holders typically apply to adust their status through the EB-1 category, they will almost never have to wait for their priority dates to become current. This greatly expedites a process that can take a decade or longer.