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L-1A (Business Expansion)

US Business Visa Category L-1 (Intracompany Transferee Visa)

Suitable for entrepreneurs/companies transferring an executive or employee to the US

The L-1 visa is defined as a temporary visa for non-immigrants, to allow companies to relocate qualified employees from other countries to its US parent company, affiliate or subsidiary.

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How do I become eligible for L-1 Intracompany Transferee Status? 

If a company is seeking to transfer their managers, executive or other essential employees from a foreign office to their US location, they may qualify for L-1 status.

To be eligible, the following criteria needs to be met:

  • Continually employed in a full-time role for a whole year by a parent, affiliate, branch or subsidiary of the US-based company in question.
  • Employed as a manager, executive or in a role that requires specialist knowledge.
  • Will be employed in the US as a manager, executive or in a role requiring specific knowledge/experience. However, the roles both abroad and the US don’t have to be exactly the same – for example, an employee being transferred might have worked as a manager in an overseas office, but will be undertaking a managerial role once in the US.

The specific position the individual will take in the US determines which of the two L-1 sub-categories are most appropriate.

L1-A is designed for managers and executives, and L-1B for those with specialized knowledge or experience.

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What qualifies as a managerial employee?  

As part of the L-1A sub-category, an individual will qualify as a managerial employee if they meet these characteristics and duties:
  • Managing the entire organization or a department, function, subdivision or component of that organization
  • Possessing the authority to hire and fire employees, or being able to recommend personnel action
  • Controlling or supervising the work of other professional employees within that organization, or managing an important function
  • Maintains constant discretion over daily operations they manage

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What qualifies as an executive employee?   

As part of the L-1A sub-category, an individual will qualify to be employed in an executive role if they meet these characteristics and duties:
  • Directing the overall management of the entire organization, or a major component or function of that organization
  • Initiating goals and policies for other employees within the organization
  • Displaying discretion in all decision making, and needing limited supervision to carry out responsibilities

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Who qualifies as an employee with specialized knowledge?    

Unlike the L-1A sub-category, establishing specialized knowledge can be incredibly difficult due to its subjective nature.

In short, specialized knowledge has been defined as ‘special knowledge possessed by an individual of the relevant organization’s service, product, equipment, techniques, research, management or other valid factors and its application in multiple markets, or a highly advanced level of expertise in the organization’s specific procedures and processes’.

Conditions of individuals granted with specialized knowledge include:

  • Having knowledge that is considered valuable to the competitiveness of the organization
  • Possessing knowledge that is typically only gained from previous experience with their original foreign employer
  • Knowing certain information about a process or product that isn’t easily transferrable or taught to another individual within the organization
  • Is considered qualified to contribute to the US employer’s existing knowledge of foreign operations as a result of their specialist knowledge not typically attained within their industry
  • Has been shown to be involved in important projects or assignments proven to have boosted the organization’s productivity, competitiveness or financial position

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Am I able to transfer a qualified employee to a US office that isn’t yet fully established?   

Yes – you will be given the opportunity to make an application for L-1 New Office.

For employers wishing to send an employee of theirs to the US – whether managerial or executive – to develop a new office, the following list must be submitted during the application process:

  • The employee in question must have been in full-time employment for at least one year as a minimum requirement
  • Legitimate premises that has already been secured for the new office to be based
  • Proof that, within the first year of approval, the relevant office will have the means to support a managerial or executive position.

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Are transferred employees able to bring their family as part of this visa?  

Yes – spouses and children under 21 years of age will be eligible to attain L-2 visas. However, the basis of being approved for an L-2 will be solely dependent on their relationship to the primary L-1A or L-1B holder.

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Can family study and/or work whilst in the US?  

If a successful working application is gained after entry into the US, spouses are permitted to work or study. Unmarried children less than 21 years of age can also study without needing an F-1 Student Visa, and they can attend school without further authorization.

Before spouses are eligible to legally work, Employment Authorization will need to be attained.

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How long will an L-1 visa be valid?  

Validity of an L-1 fully depends on whether the employee in question is being transferred to an already-established or new office. A petition requesting a new office will be approved for one year – the office will be solely responsible to give support to the transferred employee after this time frame.

With regard to an established office receiving a foreign employee, both L-1A and L1-B visas are typically approved for up to three years. Executives and managers with L-1A visas could be granted extensions up to a maximum of seven years, whereas those with L-1B status have a lower maximum extension of five years.

Both L-1 visa holders and spouses/children with L-2 visas will be approved for the same period of time. However, applicants must be aware of children who are likely to reach 21 years of age during this time period – they will only be eligible for L-2 status until their 21st birthday.

For more advice on children likely to turn 21 during this time, give us a call.

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What are the main benefits of L-1 visas?  

Considered beneficial for multiple reasons, L-1 visas have many advantages including:
  • No specific nationality requirement on the employee being transferred or the company itself
  • No company size restrictions
  • Provides a direct route to permanent US residency
  • No minimum investment sum required
  • No labor certification is needed
  • Premium processing of 15 days is available

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What are the main limitations of L-1 visas?  

  • Not suitable for new companies that don’t have evidence of fast growth
  • New office petitions are only approved for one year
  • Extensive staffing will be required for an already-established office

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Is there a direct route to a green card with an L-1 visa?  

Employees will only be accepted for a green card with cooperation from their company. Even if you meet all green card requirements, this doesn’t automatically convert your L-1 visa to a green card – instead, you must apply for a green card through the relevant EB-1C executive or manager.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Taxes, Company Formation, and Residency in the U.S.

We’ve compiled over 150 of the most frequent questions and answers (FAQs) on tax, company formation, and residency in the U.S. in our knowledge base. You can visit our knowledge base here.

If you find that your personal questions have not been answered, book a telephone consultation here.

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Get Advice on Taxation, Company Formation, and Residency in the U.S.

If you already have a project that you want to implement in the U.S., you will most likely have already dealt with the intense framework conditions in the U.S. Online, you can find a wealth of information on almost every subject. Though all this information is available, it is common for one to reach a point of confusion. There are too many aspects to consider simultaneously and the starting position can be complex.

To solve this mental knot and pave your way to success, jump on a 1-hour telephone counseling session based on taxation, incorporation, and residency in the U.S. In this conversation, we will discuss specific technical issues such as tax, U.S. corporations or LLCs. Or we can discuss any strategic options you are considering.

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