The L-1 visa classification is for employees of multinational companies who have operations in the U.S. and at least one other foreign country to transfer and work in the United States. L-1 visas are available to managers/executives and specialized knowledge workers of such companies. This classification also applies to companies, including large and small startups, that open new offices in the U.S. and send key company personnel to assist with establishing business presence. L-1 workers of already established companies are usually admitted for up to three years initially and may extend their stay for up to two more years for specialists or up to four years in two year increments for managers and executives. Family members may accompany the principal L-1 worker in L-2 status. L-2 spouses are eligible to apply for employment authorization in the United States.

A U.S. employer willing to employ an L-1 worker must have a certain qualifying relationship with a foreign business entity that it the parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the U.S. company. The employer must also actively engage (or document that it will engage if a new U.S. company) in the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services in the United States and at least one foreign country.

Foreign employers or business owners who wish to send a specialist or a manager/executive to open a new office and establish business presence in the United States must show that there are enough business premises for the new office, depending on the nature of the business, the new U.S. office will have the capacity to support either an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the case, and it will have sufficient financial capacity to compensate the employee and to be a viable business.

Large multinational companies may also apply for “preapproval” of the requisite corporate relationship by submitting L Blanket petitions. The foreign national must still qualify individually but the process substantially expedited by pre-approving the corporate relationship. L blanket petitions are typically for established multinational companies with at least three foreign affiliates, subsidiaries, or branches and have either obtained 10 L-1 approvals during the previous twelve month period or have combined annual sales of at least 25 million or have at least 1,000 employees in the United States.

A. L-1A Managers and Executives

L-1A employees must have worked with a qualifying company abroad for at least one out of the preceding three years either in a managerial/executive or specialist capacity, and their offered position in the United States must be either in an executive or managerial nature. Under U.S immigration laws, executives are defined as top company employees who generally have direct oversight powers over establishing and implementing corporate policies and also have wide latitude of decision making authority. Managers typically possess the authority to supervise the work of subordinate professional employees and to manage a department, subdivision, or even an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.

B. L-1B Specialized Knowledge Workers

L-1B specialized knowledge workers must have been employed with a qualifying company abroad for at least one out of the preceding three years either in a managerial/executive or specialist capacity, and they must be employed in the United States in a specialized knowledge capacity. Specialized knowledge is defined as either possessing special knowledge of the organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or having an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. Companies who intend to place L-1B specialist workers at unaffiliated third party sites are also required to demonstrate that they will to continue to control and supervise the worker.