The L-1A and L-1B nonimmigrant visas are designed for intracompany transferees. The general criteria for classification in this category are that the employee have worked outside the US for a related company for at least twelve months in the three years immediately preceding the proposed transfer, in either a managerial/executive (L-1A) or specialized knowledge (L-1B) capacity, and that the employee be coming to the US company to perform work in a similar capacity.
The relationship between the employer abroad and the proposed employer in the US is an important requirement for L-1A or L-1B visa status. The US company must show, by submitting corporate documentation, that it is either the parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office of the company abroad.
The L-1 petition is initially granted for up to three years, with possible extensions in two-year increments for up to another two years (L-1B) or up to another four years (L-1A). After five years in L-1B status, or seven years in L-1A status, the individual must depart the US for at least one year before qualifying again for L-1 status.
There is an important exception to the general rule permitting L-1 petitions to initially granted for up to three years. If the petitioning US employer has been doing business in the US for less than one year, then the petition will initially be granted for only one year. Please note that the maximum period of authorized stay with all extensions granted will still be seven (L-1A) or five (L-1B) years.
In addition to the requirement that the employer in the US and abroad have the qualifying relationship, the individual seeking the visa must have been employed for at least twelve months outside the US in an executive/managerial capacity (L-1A) or in a capacity involving specialized knowledge. Furthermore, the job offered in the US must be in one of these two capacities.
The L-1 visa is a temporary visa. It is not a green card, nor does it automatically lead to becoming a permanent resident of the US However, you may pursue a green card while you are in the US in temporary L-1 status.
There are many different ways to become a permanent resident, but the employment-based, first preference immigrant visa for multinational managers and executives is often the route followed by L-1A visa holders, since its requirements are almost identical.
The L-1A nonimmigrant visa classification requires that the employee have worked outside the US for a related company for at least twelve months in the three years immediately preceding the proposed transfer in a either a managerial/executive or in a capacity involving specialized knowledge, and that the employee be coming to the US company to perform work in a managerial/executive capacity.
The L-1B nonimmigrant visa classification requires that the employee have worked outside the US for a related company for at least twelve months in the three years immediately preceding the proposed transfer in a capacity involving specialized knowledge or in a managerial/executive capacity, and that the employee be coming to the US company to perform work in a capacity involving specialized knowledge. L-1B visa holders are generally prohibited from working at job sites other than their petitioning employer if the work will be controlled or supervised by a different employer or if the arrangement is essentially to provide labor for hire.
USCIS regulations define the term specialized knowledge to mean special knowledge possessed by an individual of the proposed L-1B employer’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.