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L-1A Visas: Transferring Executives and Managers to The United States

An L-1A visa is a nonimmigrant status and visa typically valid for three years, with two-year extensions, for a maximum stay of seven years. With an L-1A visa nonimmigrant classification, a U.S. employer is allowed to transfer an executive or manager from an affiliated foreign office to one in the United States or send such an employee to the U.S. to establish one. Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year instead of three years, but they are also eligible to extend their visas for the maximum seven year stay.

Common L-1A Questions And Answers

Who is eligible for an L-1 visa?

L-1 visas are available to executive and manger level employees of international companies that have offices both in the U.S. and abroad. With this type of visa, the managerial or executive employee can relocate to the company’s office in the U.S.

Are there any other qualifications associated with an L-1 visa?

Yes. The employee must have worked abroad continuously for at least one year within the three years prior to being admitted to the U.S. for the overseas company that shares a parent-subsidiary, branch, or affiliate relationship with the U.S. company that is sponsoring them.

Are there any special requirements for the company, or can any company qualify?

A company will qualify to sponsor L-1 visas if the U.S. branch and foreign branch are related in one or more of these four configurations:

  • Parent company and subsidiary
  • Branch office and headquarters
  • Sister companies with a common parent company
  • “Affiliates” with similar percentages of common ownership

The company must also already have employees in both the United States and one other country, except when a new U.S. branch is to be established.

Can any level of employee qualify for an L-1 visa?

To qualify for an L-1 visa, an employee must have already served in an executive or managerial position for a company and must have worked for the company for at least one continuous year within the three-year period immediately before being admitted to the U.S.

Can this type of visa be used if the foreign corporation is trying to establish a new office in the United States?

This type of visa can be used to create a new office in the United States if these conditions are met:

  1. The employer has a physical premises for the new office.
  2. The sponsored employee has been in an executive or managerial position with the company for at least one of the three prior years.
  3. The proposed U.S office site will support a position for an executive or manager within a year of the petition’s approval.

Are there any other caveats regarding employees coming to the United States to establish a new office?

If a qualified employee enters the United States to establish a new office, their visa for that purpose will have a one-year time limit, rather than three years.

Are employees who are coming to the United States to establish a new office allowed to extend their stays if necessary?

Yes, the rules regarding L-1A visa extensions are the same for everyone. Granting extension may be in increments amounting to an additional two years. However, in no case shall the time period of an L-1 visa exceed the maximum seven-year limit.

Can a spouse or children accompany an L-1 worker to the United States?

Yes, legal spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for and be granted L-2 visas for the same time period as the L-1 employee.

Are spouses of L-1 workers eligible for gainful employment in the United States?

Yes, L spouses are considered employment authorized based on their valid L nonimmigrant status.

What is a “blanket petition” by a company and does that automatically qualify the company to transfer L-1A employees?

Certain larger companies with significant sales, employees (minimum 1,000), multiple branches, and with a history of having obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous year, can apply for a blanket petition. However, this does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1A classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States quickly and with short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS.

Can an L-2 spouse seek employment in the United States?

A legal spouse of an L-1 recipient may apply for work authorization by filing a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Schedule A Free Case Evaluation with Fok Immigration Law

At Fok Immigration Law, we know L-1 immigration law. Our team diligently guides foreign nationals through the visa process. We can help you secure a temporary employment visa and offer assessments for pathways to permanent employment visas. Call our San Jose office at 408-606-8911 or contact us online. We serve clients in the Bay Area and throughout California.

Note: The information above has been derived and summarized from a more extensive United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) L1-A visa description.