L-1 Visa (Intra-company managers)

If one alien has worked outside of the U.S. for one continuous year within the preceding three years in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity for a qualifying organization, he can obtain a non-immigrant L-1 visa to work in the related U.S. company in the same capacity. This type of visa is very useful for people in business world. International companies most commonly use this type of visa for the transfer of their managerial personnel to fill managerial or executive positions in their U.S. parent, subsidiary, or affiliate companies. Unlike other non-immigrant visa categories, e.g. B-1 and F-1, an applicant for L-1 visa can have “dual intent”, which means that nonimmigrant intent is not required in the issuance of an L-1 visa.
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For L-1 application, the following requirement must be met:

  1. The employee must have worked abroad on a full-time basis for one continuous year in the preceding three years.
  2. The company must be doing business in the U.S. during the whole period of the employee’s stay in the U.S.
  3. The overseas company must be related to the U.S. company in a certain way, which generally means that one company must have control of the other.
  4. The employee must have been employed abroad in an “executive” or “managerial” position or a position involving “specialized knowledge”, and the employee must come to the U.S. to fill one of these capacities.

Under INA, “managerial capacity” means that the employee primarily manages the organization, controls the work of other supervisors, or manages a function, has the authority to hire or fire, exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations or function for which the employee has authority. “Executive capacity” means that the employee primarily directs the management, establishes goals and policies, and exercises wide latitude in decision-making. “Special knowledge” means that the employee possesses an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, process and procedures.

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L-1 application is filed by the U.S. employer for the benefit of the alien employee. As such, the employer is the applicant of the application, and the alien employee is the beneficiary of the application.

In the event the employee has come to the U.S., the U.S. company can apply to change the employee’s status to L-1. If the employee is still in foreign country, the employer must first file an application to the INS in the U.S. Once the application is approved, the approval notice is sent to an U.S. consulate where the alien can obtain an L-1 visa to enter the U.S. Without the approval notice, an L-1 visa cannot be issued.

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The document required for L-1 application can be divided into three groups including those of the U.S. company, of the foreign company, and of the alien individual.

Documents of the U.S. Company

  1. Copy of the company’s Certificate of Incorporation
  2. Copy of the company’s Articles of Incorporation
  3. Copy of the Stock certificates of the company
  4. Copy of the documents showing contribution of capital form foreign company, or other document showing parent-subsidiary or affiliation relation between the U.S. company and the foreign company
  5. Copy of the company’s commercial leasing agreement
  6. Copy of the documents showing doing business in the U.S., e.g. bill of sale, contract signed, L.C., purchase order, invoice, company brochure, and product catalogue, etc.
  7. Copy of the documents showing purchase of business, if any, including agreement and bill of sale,

Documents of the Foreign Company

  1. Copy of the company’s business license
  2. Copy of the company’s Organizational chart
  3. Copy of the company’s Financial Statements
  4. Copy of the documents showing doing business of the foreign company, e.g. bill of sale, contract signed, L.C., purchase order, invoice, company brochure, and product catalogue, etc.
  5. Copy of the company’s resolution regarding the transfer of the alien employee to the U.S.
  6. Copy of the documents showing remittance of capital from foreign company to the U.S. company

Documents Prepared by the Alien Employee

  1. Copy of the employee’s passport;
  2. Copy of the employee’s visa, and last I-94 if in the U.S.
  3. Copy of the employee’s certificate of employment from the foreign company
  4. Copy of the employee’s diploma or professional license and certificate
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From July 2001 a “Premium Process Program” is implemented for speeding processing of certain non-immigrant employment-based applications. Under this program, if the applicant is willing to pay an additional $1,000.00 “premium” to the INS, the INS will process the application within 15 days after its receipt of the application. The applicant will receive either an approval or a Request for Additional Evidence within 15 days after INS receives the application. If the application is eventually rejected, the INS will refund the paid premium.

Currently, this program applies to visa types like H-1, L-1, E-2, and O-1 applications. Certainly, for those who need to obtain the status within a short period of time, it has provided a very convenient route.

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The initial authorized stay for L-1 applications vary from case to case. If the U.S. company is newly established or incorporated, the initial period of stay permitted is usually only one year with a possible three-year extension. If, on the other hand, the U.S. company has been operating for more than one year, an alien may be admitted to a maximum initial period of three years. The total period of stay may be extended to seven years for L-1A managers and executives, and five years for L-1B specialized knowledge personnel.
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Spouse and children under 21 of L-1 holders can obtain L-2 status and stay in the U.S. with the principal. The L-2s will be dependent on the effectiveness and validity of the principal’s L-1. L-2s can go to school but they are not allowed to work in the U.S. Of course, if L-2s can obtain their own employment-based statuses, such as H-1, or O-1, they then can work in the U.S.
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Managers of international companies in L-1 status can apply through the first preference under the employment-based category to obtain the U.S. permanent residency. Unlike people applying through second and third employment-based preferences, applicant for first preference does not need firstly obtain a labor certificate from the Department of Labor for further INS applications. For detail, please refer to the section about “First Preference”.
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