How to Get an Intracompany Transfer Visa for the USA.
The intracompany transfer visa, also known as the L-1 visa, permits qualifying non-US citizen professionals of multinational companies to work within a US-based parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company.
The L-1 visa category can also be used if a company does not yet have an operation in the United States, but wishes to deploy a key employee to the US with the purpose of establishing a presence.
L-1 petitions are facing greater scrutiny under the current US Administration. With US immigration policy favoring US resident workers, L-1 applicants and their employers will have their work cut out when building their petition and satifying adjudication thresholds.
Careful consideration should initially be given to eligibility under the visa classfication, and then to ensuring a comprehensive and robust application is compiled and presented to the authorities to evidence that both the individual applicant and the role they will be undertaking while in the US meet the stringent visa requirements.
We look at some of the key questions to ask when preparing to apply for an intracompany transfer visa to the USA.
Which intracompany transfer visa USA?
There are two different types of L-1 visa, one for employees working in an executive or managerial capacity (L-1A), and one for employees who have specialized knowledge about a company’s products, services and management procedures (L-1B).
The L-1A visa, specifically for executives and managers, allows key personnel who can prove they have previously worked in this capacity to transfer to the U.S to work in the same or similar role.
However, as an L-1A applicant, there must be clear evidence of your position within the company proving that you plan, organise, direct and control the organisation’s major functions. You will need to demonstrate a certain level of authority, whereby you are responsible for the running the business and/or managing other employees.
To be eligible for an L-1B visa, you do not need to be working in an executive or managerial role, but you do need to possess specialized knowledge of the company that you work for.
As an L-1B applicant you must possess extraordinary and inimitable proprietary knowledge over the organisation’s products, services or its management procedures, typically gained through years of experience, making you vital to the overall functioning and competitiveness of the business.
Please note that knowledge that is widely held, or related to common practices or techniques that are readily available in the U.S job market, will not be regarded as “specialized” for the purposes of L1B visa classification.
Are the intracompany transfer visa eligibility criteria satisfied?
To be eligible for an L1 visa, under both L1A and L1B classification, the petitioner will need to show the following:
- You have worked in an executive, managerial or specialised knowledge role for a period of at least one year in the three years prior to the filing of the petition for L1 status.
- You will be undertaking work in the same or similar role in a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the United States.
- There is a qualifying relationship between the overseas company and the U.S. company, namely, there is a high degree of common ownership and control between the two entities.
- The relationship between the overseas and U.S companies existed for the duration of your one-year period of employment abroad.
- The relationship will continue for the duration of your stay in the United States under L1A or L1B status.
Does the employer hold L1 status?
The L1 visa application process first requires theU.S. employer to file a petition on the applicant’s behalf to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This can be done using Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker).
In support of the petition, the employer will primarily need to prove the relationship between the U.S. company and the company abroad. This demands a considerable amount of documentation in support.
However, for larger companies that fulfil a number of regulatory requirements there is the option to apply for a blanket L petition. A blanket petition can be used to transfer several key personnel to the United States.
To qualify for blanket L certification, the employer will need to satisfy one of the following three criteria:
- The company has already transferred ten L-1 managers, executives, or specialised knowledge professionals to the United States in the last twelve months.
- The company has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million.
- The company has a U.S. workforce of more than 1,000 employees.
Once approved, a blanket petition removes the need to file an individual petition for each and every transferee, shortening the visa process from several months to just weeks.
For both individual and blanket petitions, expert advice should be sought on the nature of the documentation required to prove the requisite qualifying relationship with the overseas company.
This will include, but is by no means limited to, articles of incorporation, organisational charts showing the structure and relationship between the two entities, stock issuance and stock certificate records, promotional business material, annual reports, financial statements and tax returns.
Preparing the application for an intracompany transfer visa
Once the L-1 petition has been approved, applicants will need to apply to the Department of State for the visa using online Form DS-160. They will also need to schedule an interview at a U.S Embassy or Consulate overseas, usually in the applicant’s country of residence.
At interview, applicants will be required to attend with various documents in support of the application. As with the petition, the documentation required is extensive. This includes the employer’s approved petition, a letter confirming the transfer and job description, proof that the individual has worked within that company for at least one year in the past three years and, where relevant, proof of specialized knowledge.
They will also be required, amongst other things, to answer numerous questions relating to work history with the overseas company and their future role with the U.S. company.
In the event that the information and documentation provided are deemed incomplete, applications may be delayed with requests for further information. In some instances it can even be denied, so seeking expert legal help in advance is always advisable to avoid this happening.
Check duration of stay
If granted an L1 visa, typically this will be for an initial period of three years, unless the visa holder is setting up a new affiliated office in which case the visa will last for just one year.
In either case, the visa can be extended in increments of up to two years for a maximum period of seven years under an L1A visa and for five years under an L1B visa.
For those to settle in the U.S. on a permanent basis, under an L1 visa there may be the option to apply for a green card. The L1 is considered by the USCIS to be “dual intent”, meaning visa holders are able to pursue lawful permanent resident status during their stay.
Indeed, many overseas executives and managers come to the U.S. under an L1A visa, then apply at a later date to change their status using the EBC1 route. It is a little trickier to apply for a green card under L1B status, where they may need to consider the EB2 or EB3 routes instead, but, with the right legal advice, it is still possible.
Do you have a question about an intracompany transfer visa for the USA?
The rules and requirements relating to L1 visas are strict and current decision-making affords no benefit of the doubt in favor of the applicant. There is zero room for error across the petitioning process, requiring contribution and supporting documents from both the employer and the employee.
If you wish to secure an intracompany transfer visa to the USA, we can help. We understand that employee transfers can be business- and project-critical, and the commercial value of this type of mobility to an organisation.
As specialist US immigration attorneys, NNU Immigration advise businesses and their employees on US visa and immigration options and support through the application and interview process.
Contact us for advice with your L visa.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.