INTRACOMPANY TRANSFEREE VISA (L-1)
The Intracompany Transferee non-immigrant visa was implemented in response to the need for the free movement of executives and managers of international business organizations. The law provides that this visa is available to:An alien who, immediately preceding the time of his application for admission into the United States, has been employed continuously for one year by a firm or corporation or other legal entity or an affiliate or subsidiary thereof and who seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to continue to render the services to the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate in a capacity that is managerial, executive or involves specialized knowledge, and the alien spouse and minor children of such alien if accompanying him/her or following to join him/her.
The Department of State uses the visa symbol “L-1” for the intracompany transferee and the symbol “L-2” for the spouse and minor children of the principal alien.
At the time the petition for the visa is submitted to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the employee who is being transferred must have been continuously employed for a minimum of one year by the firm or corporation or other legal entity or parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary thereof which seeks to transfer the employee to a branch of the same employer or a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate thereof in the United States.The employee must be employed in a capacity which is managerial or executive, or involves specialized knowledge, and the current foreign employer must intend to remain in business after the employee is transferred to the United States. The petitioning employer may be the foreign company or an affiliate, subsidiary or branch office located within the United States.The U.S. based office need not be fully established at the time the petition is approved, but the petitioner must submit: (1) evidence that the physical premises of the business has been acquired by purchase or lease; (2) the corporation has opened a bank account; (3) the corporation has obtained city and county occupational licenses; and (4) a list of the proposed initial employees with salaries and job descriptions.
Unlike other forms of non-immigrant visas, applicants for an L-1 visa do not need to show that they have a permanent home abroad which they intend to return to. However, the applicant must show that he intends to return to his home country upon expiration of the visa.
Before an American Consulate will issue an L-1 visa, a visa petition must be approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Service office having jurisdiction over the place in the United States where the alien will be employed. The petition, which is presented on Form I-129L, must be filed by the alien’s prospective employer, along with supporting documents, a statement describing the capacity in which the beneficiary was employed abroad and the capacity in which he/she will be employed in the U.S., and the appropriate filing fees. (See Appendix A for a complete list of documents required for L-1 visa processing.)An approval of the petition will result in derivative non-immigrant status, without the need for separate petitions, for the beneficiary’s spouse and minor children, if accompanying or following to join him/her. However, the L-2 status of such spouse and minor chi ldren does not permit them to work in the United States absent prior authorization from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.The processing time for an L-1 visa petition may vary depending on the office in which the application is presented. The notice of petition approval will be sent to an American Embassy or Consular Post where the alien will apply for the visa. Upon receipt of the notice of approval, the American Embassy or Consular Post will issue a notice for interview and thereafter issue the L-1 visa for the beneficiary and L-2 visas for his/her family.
An alien who has qualified for an L-1 visa will be admitted for an initial period of three years with extensions in increments of one year. Except for very rare and exceptional cases, not more than a two year extension will be granted. If the U.S. office is a start-up operation, the initial visa is issued for a period of one year. At the end of the one year period, the applicant may solicit a two year extension.
CONVERSION OF L-1 VISA TO PERMANENT RESIDENT STATUS
While the intracompany transferee visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa, an individual is not barred from seeking adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident status if he/she subsequently decides to remain in the United States permanently. After the U.S. based corporation has been in existence for at least one year and is functioning as a viable ongoing concern, the company may offer permanent employment to any employee who maintains L-1 status in an executive or managerial capacity. On a yearly basis 270,000 immigrant visas are allocated among six preference classes and a non-preference class. Beneficiaries of L-1 visas may be eligible for classification under the third preference as professional or under the sixth preference as skilled workers in short supply. Individuals employed on L-1 visa status who seek to convert their temporary non-immigrant visas to permanent resident status are exempt from having to obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor, as do other intending immigrants who seek permanent resident status through offers of employment.
The L-1 visa is a useful vehicle to facilitate the transfer of key personnel from a company based abroad to a subsidiary, affiliate or branch office based in the United States. Should the employer eventually require the services of the employee on a permanent basis, the L-1 visa may be converted to permanent resident status under the third or sixth preference category.