Linking Your Company to the U.S. – Overview of the L-visas

For foreign companies that either have or are seeking to establish a parent company, a branch, a subsidiary, or an affiliate in the U.S.; and want to send a foreign employee who is either an executive, a manager, or an employee with specialized knowledge to the already existing entity or to establish a U.S. affiliated office, the L-visa is an option to consider.

What are L-visas?

L-Visas are non-immigrant visas classifications that allow an established foreign company the ability either: 1) to transfer a manager, executive or a specialized employee to one of its affiliated office(s) in the U.S. or, 2) to send a manager, executive or a specialized employee to establish an affiliated office of the foreign entity in the U.S. In both scenarios, the foreign company has to be doing or will be doing business as a U.S employer. There are two types of L-visas classifications: L-1A and L-1B.

The L-1A

The L-1A is a non-immigrant visa for the Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager. It allows a U.S. company to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated offices overseas to the U.S. The L-1A visa classification also allows a foreign company to transfer an executive or manager to establish an affiliated U.S. office(s).

The L-1B

The L-1B is a non-immigrant visa for Intracompany Transferee with Specialized Knowledge. It allows a U.S. company to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge from one of the company’s affiliated offices overseas to the U.S. Similar to the L-1A, the L-1B visa classification also allows an employee with specialized knowledge to be transferred to the U.S. to establish an affiliate office.

Qualifying Relationship, Doing Business in the U.S., and Employee’s role 

In order for an executive, manager, or an employee with specialized knowledge to qualify for this non-immigrant visa classification,  the U.S. employer must have: 1) a qualifying relationship with the foreign company, where the affiliation is established; 2) the foreign company is doing business in the U.S. as an employer for the duration of the visa; and 3) the company is viable. The business, however, does not need to be engaged in international trade.

Defining Doing Business in the U.S. 

For a foreign company to be considered to be “doing business in the U.S.,” the qualifying business must be engaged in the “regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services,”  and does not only have a presence in the U.S.

Employee Requirements

In order for an employee to qualify for the L-visa non-immigrant visa classification, they must meet the following requirements:

  • The employee must have been working for the foreign company abroad for at least one continuous year within the previous 3 years before the employee is admitted to the U.S.
  • The employee’s role in the U.S. company is either in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity for the qualifying organization (in the U.S.) or the parent company.

Period of Stay, Dual Intent and Family Members

Period of Stay

If the qualified  employee is being transferred to the U.S. to establish a new office, they will be given an initial stay of one year; while a qualified employee who is being transferred to work at an existing office, will be given an initial stay of three years. For all L-visa employees (L-1A and L-1B), requests for extension may be granted in two year increments, for up to 7 years.

Dual Intent 

Unlike many other non-immigrant visa categories,  the doctrine of “dual intent” applies to the L-visa category, where beneficiaries of this visa classification do not need to demonstrate that they have have not abandoned their foreign residence. This allows for the beneficiary of this visa classification category to have dual intent –  to be a nonimmigrant, who will return to their country of permanent residence/nationality; while at the same time, be considered an immigrant who intends to permanently reside in the U.S.

Family of L-1 workers

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years old, may be granted admission  to the U.S. to accompany or follow the transferred employer by filing a petition for a L-2 non-immigrant visa classification.


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The views expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and legal information provided in this post should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please contact an Attorney for advice on your specific matter.

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