L-1 intra-company transfer is a temporary visa with which U.S. business may bring in an important international employee upon transfer from its related foreign entity, to work in the United States.  Both business entities must be related as a parent and subsidiary, a branch, or affiliates.

Transferring a key employee, from a qualifying foreign entity, to work in the United States is a great way to balance the skills and experience of employees, which is a function of international expansion.  International transfer of employees is an integral part of developing and balancing the international business talent and is made possible by an L1 visa.


  • Qualifying relationship between entities must be established.
  • L1 Employee must have been employed full time, for at least a year, within the last three years, with the qualifying foreign entity.

L1 petitioning entity can apply for blanket petition including all the U.S. entities the employee will be placed and can avoid employee loss of status upon placement in different entities.

There are two kinds of L1 visa available:

1. L1A : L1A is for executive or managerial position where the employee can be approved for up to 7 years (3 yrs. initially with two extensions, each up to two years);

L1 managers carry out the operations of the department, division through others and retain control over

  • the operations and
  • discretionary decision making like hiring and firing

Manage the company or its major division through subordinate employees,
Reports to senior-level executive,
Controls the objectives of the business and its budget and
Retains the hiring and firing power.

A manager or executive may qualify as an L1, even if the sole employee, as long as (s)he is not engaged in production work/ operational activity. Lack of documentation of these criteria could result in a request for evidence (RFE).

2. L1B:
L1B employees must possess specialized knowledge.  The employee can be approved for up to 5 years (3 yrs. initially with an extension for two years.

Specialized knowledge: L1B employee should demonstrate one of the following:

  • Special knowledge petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets that is distinct or uncommon in comparison to that generally found in the industry; or
  • Advanced knowledge of the processes and procedures of the company,” meaning knowledge or expertise in the company’s “specific” processes and procedures that are “not commonly found in the relevant industry” and is “greatly developed or further along in progress, complexity and understanding than that generally found within the employer.

Request for Evidence:

RFEs are frequently issued to obtain additional documents to evidence entity qualified relationship, one year employment with foreign company, eligibility in managerial or executive capacity, specialized knowledge, new office eligibility in this visa category.

It is important in such cases to establish (i) that the two entities are related and (ii) that the employee must have worked abroad for the required period with the foreign entity.  The U.S. and foreign employment are not required to be the same job except in the case of a new office.

New Office:

L1 status can be obtained for someone to work in a business in existence for less than a year in the U.S., as long as the entities establish the qualifying relationship.  This is another RFE question.


Spouse and children can accompany or follow in L2 status and can obtain employment authorization.

Permanent residence:

L1 employees may pursue permanent residence through employment sponsorship and work as L1.


H1B alternative:

Many L1 positions may qualify for H1b.  Companies that have international presence can use L1 as an alternative to relocate its key employees to plan business expansion.  L1 is not subject to per year numerical limit and employers can file the L1 petitions throughout the year.  It comes in as a handy tool to overcome H1B limitations when the annual quota is exhausted or when the H1b petition fails to be picked in the lottery.

It is very common for L1 employees to travel between international entities.  Issues about status expiration, extension, maximum work period and recapture period are all well-known and must be timely addressed to maintain L1 status.

For more Questions call Haranlaw at 317-660-6174.

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