The L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa
By Masood R. Khan, Esq.


This column is of a general nature and is not to be construed as legal advice. Be sure to consult an attorney for your specific legal issues.

With generous investment opportunities in the US, one of the easiest ways Pakistani entrepreneurs may gain legal status is through their own businesses with the L-1 intra-company transfer visa.

The basics
L-1 intra-company is designed to allow employees of an overseas company that has an affiliate or subsidiary company or branch operating in the US to come to work for that branch in the US.

What’s the difference between an L-1 and other employment-based visas?
While there are a number of important requirements to qualify in this category, it offers a number of advantages that make it worthwhile over other types of visas. For example, there is no annual quota; one may pursue a green card while on an L-1 visa and for many L-1As, there is a matching permanent residency category that makes getting a green card relatively quick and pain-free.

The Requirements

The first requirement for the L-1 is for the applicant to have been continuously employed overseas for one year within the last three years for a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of a US employer. The employer may be a corporation, company, and even a profit, non-profit, religious, or charitable organization.
Second, the foreign business and the US business must have a “qualifying relationship.” Both the US and the foreign business must have common majority ownership, or, if there is less than majority ownership, common control by the same person or entity. Essentially there should not be different groups controlling the foreign firm and the US firm.
Third, the applicant must be employed as a manager, executive or specialized knowledge employee. A "Specialized knowledge" refers to employees with
• a special knowledge of the company's products and their applications in world markets;
• an advanced or unique knowledge of the company's processes or procedures.
Lastly, the applicant must intend to depart the US when his or her stay is over. However, the applicant may also pursue permanent residency simultaneously without a negative impact on the ability to keep or extend an L-visa. This is allowed based on the doctrine of dual intent which applies to L-1 visas (just like H-1B visas). For this reason, this makes the L-visa a popular option for multinational firms.

What is the difference between an “executive” and a “manager”?
An “executive” is one who directs the management of the company. Usually these are executive positions such as presidents, vice-presidents and controllers. An executive is expected to have a supervisory role in the company and would not include people who are primarily performing the lower tier and menial tasks such as production or providing service to customers. A “manager” directs the organization, a department, or a function of the organization. Like executives, a qualifying manager will not be overseeing the primary performance of menial tasks.
Executives and managers may stay in L-1 status for up to seven years. They are granted L-1A status. Specialized knowledge employees may stay in the US for up to five years and are called L-1Bs. Those who wish to obtain L-1B visas must go through the labor certification process. The visas will be granted with an expiration of up to three years. Whether the visas are multiple entry or not depends on the applicant’s country of origin.

What about persons setting up a new office in the US?
Persons coming to set up a new office in the US can only be granted a one-year stay in the US. The INS will also typically require additional information about the plans for the new office such as proof that office space has been obtained, that the applicant has had the appropriate experience with the foreign company and that the foreign company will remain in existence during the full period of the applicant’s transfer to the US. If the company wants to have the L-1 visa extended beyond the initial year, it will have to demonstrate at the time of extension that it has proceeded with the plans outlined in the initial petition.

How should you apply for L-1 status?
Applications for L-1 visa status must first be approved by the regional USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the location where the transferred employee will be situated. The employer must submit the application with supporting documentation and filing fee to the USCIS Service Center. After the Service Center approves the application, the employee must apply at the US Consulate for the visa.

What if my company has a large number of applicants?
Companies with a large number of applicants may apply for “blanket approval” for their workers rather than having each employee apply individually. There are special procedures that make it easier for companies sending over large numbers of applicants to get L-1 visas for their employees.
Spouses can seek employment authorization after acquiring L-2 status as a spouse/dependant.
(Masood Khan is an attorney with Khan & Associates. He can be reached via telephone at (888) KHAN LAW or via email at Mkhanlaw@aol.com)


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