International companies can transfer managerial and specialized knowledge employees from their foreign office to their US office through the L-1 visa classification. Foreign companies are also permitted to establish a new office in the United States. The L-1 visa, also referred as “intra-company transferee” visa allows international companies to transfer their employees to the US for work within the same or related company. It is mandatory that the employees being transferred should have been employed by the foreign company for at least one year within the three years before filing under the L-1 classification.
The L-1 visa category is further divided into two sub categories:
- L-1A visas are for employees who come to the US in a managerial position. The employee’s responsibilities are managing either people or processes. It is not necessary for these employees to be managers at present to qualify, but the proposed US job must be of a managerial level.
- L-1B visas are for employees who have “specialized knowledge”, meaning ones who have knowledge about a particular product/process that cannot be mastered in a reasonable period of time. Main developers of a new technology OR employees who have a long history with the company’s product line that is necessary for developing next generation products fall under this category.
L-1 visas are valid for an initial three-year period. It can be renewed for two years at a time, rising up to a maximum of seven years for L-1A visa holders and five years for L-1B visa holders. Maximum time limit simply refers to the employee’s physical presence in the United States. If you come under the L-1B visa category and during your US employment you leave the US a few times for vacation or business, the total amount of time spent outside of the US can be added back to the total amount of time permitted in the US. In simple terms, the maximum time in L-1 status is restricted to the time that someone is physically present in the US.
Unless you, the L-1 visa holder are granted lawful permanent residency (greencard) in the US before the maximum time limit (seven years for L-1A visa holders and five years for L-1B visa holders) is reached, it is mandatory that you leave the US for a full year (365 days) before you become eligible to get another L-1 visa.
Features of the L-1 Visa Category
It facilitates transfer of employees of international companies from a foreign office to a US office of the same or related company. It is divided into two sub categories, for managers and specialized knowledge employees. L-1A visa holders are limited to a maximum stay of seven years and L-1B visa holders are limited to a maximum stay of five years. Time previously spent in H-1B status will be counted toward the L-1 maximum limit. Dependent spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age qualify for L-2 status. Such dependents can study in the US and L-2 spouses are permitted to apply for separate work authorization. It is a dual-intent visa that allows for permanent residency by filing the green card application simultaneously while working in L-1 status.