L1A Visa Executive or Manager Intracompany Transfers
Senior employees being transferred within a company to work in the US on a temporary basis will generally look at the L1A visa.
The US L1A visa allows non-US national employees, including British citizens, who are in a managerial or executive position to be transferred to the USA for the same employer in a parent, sister, associate, subsidiary or branch of the UK-based company. It is the primary visa option for intracompany transfers of senior-level employees to the US and may also be open to business owners.
The US L1A visa eligibility requirements aren’t, however, straightforward, and unless the organization has a blanket L, the supporting documentation needed to accompany the petition is extensive.
What is an L1A visa?
The L1A visa may be applied for if a US employer wishes to move an employee into a managerial position at an affiliate office in the US.
An L1A visa holder may split their time between the US office and other international branches.
Employers may also use the L1A visa for an employee in a managerial position to establish a new branch, subsidiary or affiliate office in the US. A foreign employer setting up a new office must be able to show that sufficient premises have been secured for the company.
An employee who is just visiting the US for meetings, conferences or training would not be eligible for an L1A visa. Alternative immigration route should be considered, such as the B-1 visa.
The L1A visa is not only open to large, multinational companies; smaller businesses and start-ups are increasingly making use of the L1A visa to expand in the US market. There is also no cap on the number of L1A visas that can be issued.
L1A visa holders can be accompanied by their dependants, including their spouse and children, under the L1A dependent visa. L1 spouses may also be able to work in the US, by applying for employment authorization.
The L1A visa also offers a path to US permanent residence.
L1A visa duration
Executives and managers will in most cases be granted the L1A visa for an initial period of three years. L1A visa holders can apply to extend this in two-year increments, up to a maximum of seven years as long as the company continues to operate as a multinational organization during this period.
For new branches, the L1A visa will be granted for one year, with the option of extending the visa.
If you opt not to apply for US permanent residence, you are required to leave the US on completion of the maximum L1 visa allowable period for at least one year before a new application can be made for L1 (or H) status.
L1A visa requirements
It is not necessary to be in full-time employment within the company to apply for the L1A visa, but you must be able to prove that a regular and large portion of time has been dedicated to the company. Likewise, there is no pay restriction on applying for an L1A visa, however, lower salaries may cause some issues with evidencing seniority and responsibility of the role.
There are no restrictions on applicant nationality (unlike, for example, the E visas).
To qualify for an L1A visa, you must be employed as either a senior manager or an executive and have worked for the non-US subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the US company for at least 12 months out of the three years immediately preceding the application.
The criteria to be considered a manager or executive are strict. It is a closely-scrutinised area of eligibility as you must be able to prove that you are directly responsible for major decisions within the company and have employees to direct and supervise:
L1A visa manager criteria
To qualify as a manager you must manage an organization or major department. You will need to supervise staff at a supervisory level. You will have the authority to ‘hire and fire’ employees. Essential functions of the organization will be your responsibility. Day to day functions will be under your control.
It will be important to take an objective assessment of whether the individual applicant meets these criteria. The petition will be tested thoroughly during the petitioning process. For example, a first line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a managerial capacity by virtue of the supervisor’s supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional.
L1A visa executive criteria
To qualify as an executive you will be someone who directs the management of the company. You will set the goals and policies of the organization. You will have the freedom to make discretionary decisions. There will be minimal direction from higher-level executives, board members and stockholders.
Job roles that meet the L-1A executive requirements are usually company executives, employees that sit on the board of directors or shareholders of the organization.
L1A visa for business owners
The L1A visa can offer a route to owners of businesses (of potentially all sizes) to grow their US presence without a substantial investment requirement, provided the non-US business remains operational while the owner is working in the US.
L1A visa employer requirements
While there is no investment requirement under the L1 visa guidelines, the employer must be currently, or soon be, actively doing business as an employer in the US and other countries directly or through a qualifying organization.
A qualifying organization may be a parent company, sister company, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the company. They will also need to have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company.
The company does not yet need to be trading at the time of the application, but it must have been officially formed and set up in the US.
L1A visa application process
Both employer and employee will be required to input into the application.
The employer should complete Form I-129, a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and pay L1A visa application fee of $190. This should be completed at least 45 days before your start date, but no more than 6 months.
The list of L1A supporting documents is extensive and it is important to get it right as mistakes inevitably result in applications being subject to delay or even refusal. Documents should include:
- evidence that the petitioner and the organization which employed you or will employ you are qualifying organizations;
- evidence that the employee will be employed in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity;
- evidence that the employee will have one continuous year of full-time employment abroad with a qualifying organization within three years preceding the filing of the petition;
- evidence that the employee’s prior year of employment abroad was in a position that was managerial, executive, or involved specialized knowledge; and
- evidence that the employee’s prior education, training and employment qualifies him or her to perform the intended services in the United States.
Employers are to provide documents from the US company such as stock certificates, business lease, evidence of initial investment, tax returns, any employer quarterly reports, bank statements, audited accounts as well as contracts, invoices and company letterhead, among others.
The UK-based company will need to submit their business license, article of incorporation, all income tax for the last three years, audited accounts, information on employees with an organizational chart and position that the transferee holds, a company brochure, documents of all business transactions, bank statements and company letterhead.
Once the petition has been completed, the employer will need to complete Form I-197, Notice of Action showing the approval of Form I-129 granting the right to apply for an L1A visa.
The employee then uses the receipt number from the I-129 to complete the online Form DS-160.
L1A visa interview
Once the application has been submitted, the applicant will need to arrange and attend a visa interview.
At the interview, documents will need to be presented that evidence the transfer within the company, the applicant’s capability to conduct business in an executive position and verify the applicant’s identity. For example:
- Passports including a valid one with a minimum six-month validity from the date of the interview
- Latest resume
- A copy of the L1 petition
- Letter from the employer to consulate requesting the L1 visa on the applicant’s behalf
- Salary and tax documents
- Organizational chart
- Reference letters
- Description of duties
- Two of the applicant photographs
During the interview, you will be asked questions designed to verify your eligibility.
L1 blanket petitions
The L1 visa regulations allow employers who frequently use the L1 visa category for intracompany transfers to apply for a Blanket L Petition Approval. The advantage of a Blanket L Petition Approval is expedited processing of individual L1 visa petitions; rather than waiting for a USCIS petition approval, L1 candidates can apply directly for the L visa stamp at a US consulate.
Without Blanket L, a petitioning employer must file USCIS L1 petitions for their L1 candidates.
To qualify for a blanket petition, the organization must:
- Have a US-based office that has been doing business for at least one year
- Participate in commercial trade or services
- Have 3 or more domestic and foreign branches
- have obtained at least 10 L1 approvals in the year prior to applying for the blanket petition
- have US subsidiaries or affiliates in which the combined annual sales are a minimum of $25 million
- or have 1,000 employees or more.
The blanket visa will not guarantee the employee being granted L1A classification but will provide the employer the ability to transfer eligible employees to the US quickly.
L1A to Green Card
Whereas the L-1A is a non-immigrant visa (NIV), permitting temporary stay for specified permitted activities and duration, the EB-1C is an immigrant visa (IV), allowing the holder to remain in the US permanently.
The EB-1C category is an employment-based visa, aimed at multinational managers and executives who have already transferred to a US operation within a specialist managerial or executive role. L-1A visa holders generally have a high prospect of success with transfer to the EB-1C status.
EB-1C visas can only be applied for an individual basis; there is no blanket option unlike with the L-1A. There is no significant investment required to apply for the EB-1C, and no “conditional” green card period applies.
The qualification requirements are similar to those of the L-1A. Specifically, applicants must have been employed in the US as an executive or manager for at least one year with a sister, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the intended US employer.
The US operation must have been active for more than 12 months, and the overseas employer must make regular business transactions with the US and other countries.
The individual must have a job offer in the US in order to petition, although a valuable benefit is that EB-1C applications are exempt from the PERM Labor Certification.
Put briefly, the process of applying for EB-1C Green Card requires:
- Your employer files I-140 form
- Checking the Department of State visa bulletin for your priority date
- Filing for an adjustment of status or Consular processing to obtain legal permanent residency as soon as petition approved:
- Consular processing: applicants outside the US will be required to attend an interview at a local embassy.
- Adjusting your status: applicants in the US, file form I-485 with USCIS. Expect this to take 6 months. Note there is no option for premium processing.
There may be cases where an employer does not sponsor you for the EB-1C. You may have other options, such as the EB-1A for Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities. Take professional advice on your circumstances to ensure you proceed with the most appropriate category for you.
Difference between L1A and L1B visa
The L1B visa is for ‘specialized knowledge’ professionals who can evidence unique or special knowledge of the company’s service, research, product, techniques, management, equipment or interests and application in international marketplaces, or an advanced knowledge level, or expertise in the organisation’s procedures and processes.
It is granted for a period of 1 year for new companies and three years for existing companies. L1B visa holders may be granted L1B visa extensions of two-year increments for up to five years.
Do you have a question about the L1A visa?
As dedicated US immigration attorneys, NNU can help you and your business with L1 visa petitions and interview preparation.
We can assist you with all aspects of the L1A visa process, from compiling supporting documents to dealing with the US immigration authorities. We also support with petitions for extensions and change of status applications.
If you have a question about the L1A visa, or any other US immigration-related matter, please contact us for advice.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.