L-1 visas allow employees of foreign countries to transfer to a U.S. office
Transferring to a U.S. Company Under an L-1 Visa
The L-1 visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer a manager or an executive from an affiliated overseas office to one of its U.S. offices. The L-1A is for managers and executives, while the L-1B is for specialized knowledge employees. The employer must be doing business in the U.S. and it must have an existing relationship with the company in the applicant’s home country (such as being a parent company, affiliate, subsidiary etc.). Furthermore, the employee must have been working for the affiliated employer in the home country for at least one continuous year within the three years prior to being issued an L-1 visa, and he/she must be going to the U.S. to render services as a manager/executive. Employees will be granted an initial three-year L-1 visa.
Example: KPMG is an accounting company with offices in Canada and in the United States. Sally is a Canadian citizen who has been working as a financial accounting director for KPMG in its Vancouver offices for the past four years. She has accepted a position to work as a financial accounting director at KPMG in its New York office. She is eligible to work in New York under an L-1 visa.
Example: Sally has only been working as a financial accounting director at KPMG in Vancouver for the past six months. She is not eligible for an L-1 visa to work in the New York office. However, she may be eligible for a TN visa or an H-1B visa if, for example, she is a CPA or has at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field.
Opening a New U.S. Office With an L-1 Visa
The L-1 visa also allows a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a manager/executive to the United States for the purpose of setting one up. To do so, the foreign employer must demonstrate that: 1) sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured; 2) the employee has been employed as a manager/executive for one of the three previous years; and 3) the new U.S. offices will support an executive/managerial position within a year of the L-1 visa being issued. These employees will be granted an initial one-year L-1 visa. The visa may be extended in two-year increments up to a total of seven years. However, owners or majority stakeholders of the U.S. office may only be granted the initial one-year visa. Like the h-1B, the L-1 is a dual intent visa – which means that visa holders may pursue permanent residency. The L-1 is an ideal visa for foreign nationals looking to expand to the United States and should be considered as an alternative to the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa if start-up capital is an issue.
L-2 Visas for Spouses and Children of L-1 visa holders
Employees under an L-1 visa are also allowed to bring their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age to the U.S. under an L-2 classification for the same period of stay as the primary employee. Spouses of L-1 visa holders are allowed to work in the United States as well.