The L-1 intra-company transfer visa is available to a foreign national employee who seeks to enter the U.S. temporarily to work for the same employer or its affiliate or subsidiary. The individual must have worked for the entity abroad continuously for one year at any time within the preceding three years. In order to qualify for L-1 status, employees of an L-1 employer, whether or not the employer is an individual or foreign company, must be engaged in activities that are executive, managerial, or supervisory in character. If he or she is not so employed, he/she must possess “specialized knowledge” that make the services that will be rendered for the efficient operation of the business.

According to regulations, an individual possessing specialized knowledge will possess special knowledge of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests in its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the company’s processes and procedures.

The Employer must be doing business in the U.S. and at least one other country for the duration of the employee’s stay in the U.S. as an L-1 nonimmigrant.

Pursuant to the Immigration Act of 1990, “L” visa holders are exempted from the requirement of having to establish their continued non-immigrant intent, greatly facilitating the transition to an immigrant employment based visa, leading to a “green card”.

Since June 2005, the law prohibits the issuance of L-1B “specialized knowledge” visas when the U.S. employment is primarily at client sites if (1) the employee will be principally controlled and supervised by the client; or (2) the work does not involve the provision of a product or service that requires specialized knowledge specific to the L-1 sponsoring employer. Thus, the rules still allow L-1 employees to accomplish work at client sites when the employees remain under the L-1 employer’s full control and when the employer is implementing its own specialized product or service at that client site.


The definition of “manager” includes those who manage a “function” or “component” of an organization, and not only personnel. Managerial capacity has been redefined by USCIS to mean an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily:

  • manages the organization or a department, subdivision, function or component of the organization;
  • supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees OR manages an essential function within the organization or a department or subdivision of the organization;
  • has the authority to hire and fire OR recommend hiring, firing, or other personnel actions; or, if no employees are supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
  • exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. A first-line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a “managerial capacity” merely by virtue of the supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are “professional.”

The definition of “executive” applies to those assignments where the employee:

  • directs the management of the organization or a major component or function;
  • establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component or function;
  • exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
  • receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors or shareholders of the organization.
Special Knowledge

The “specialized knowledge” category means special knowledge possessed by an individual of the organization’s products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests and their applications in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.

With certain exceptions, L-1B specialized knowledge visas will not be issued to individuals working at a third-party employer site other than the petitioning employer’s worksite. Off-site placement to provide labor to a third-party employer is not permitted. This provision will apply to initial applications as well as to extensions or amendments as of June 6, 2005.

The inclusion of “functional” managers and executives within the definition of L-1 managers/executives makes it possible for many more L-1 beneficiaries to immigrate, as employment-based first preference (EB1) managers and executives are exempt from the labor certification process. So-called “specialized knowledge” L-1 employees cannot qualify for this particular employment-based immigrant category.

Duration of Stay

The initial L1 visa petition is generally approved for up to 3 years. However, applicants coming to the U.S. in order to open up a new office will only be approved for 1 year and thereafter must show meeting the managerial/executive standards. For such “new office” cases, the INS requires additional detailed information before the initial 1-year petition approval is granted. There is a 7-year maximum extension limitation for managers and executives (L-1A) and a 5-year maximum limitation for persons with specialized knowledge (L-1B).

If an L-1 visa holder has reached the maximum period of stay in the United States as an L or an H (including H-1B) or L nonimmigrant, he or she may NOT seek extension, change status, or be readmitted to the U.S in an L or H status unless he or she has resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for the immediately prior ONE year. Regulations provide an automatic 240-day extension of employment authorization for individuals in L-1 classification whose status has expired but who have filed a timely application for extension of their L-1 status.

Spouses and children of L-1 workers are eligible for dependent visas in the L-2 classification. L-2 spouses can apply for employment authorization.

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