How to Obtain and Qualify for an L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa

Qualifying and obtaining an L1-Visa is a complex and fact specific process and the information below is a general overview. Please consult with an attorney at Theta Law Firm with your specific facts. An attorney is vital to help guide an employee and their family through the process of obtaining an L1-Visa in a timely fashion that will not disrupt or interfere with your business.

Is the L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa for me?

The L-1 classification allows a United States employer to transfer an executive, manager, or specialized knowledge professional from a foreign office to one of the employers' offices in the United States. The L-1 also can allow a foreign company which does not yet have an office in the United States to send an executive manager to the United States in order to establish an affiliated U.S. office.

Qualifications for both Employer and Employee

In order to obtain L-1 classification both an employer and employee must meet certain requirements and present evidence of such when filing an I-129 petition.

The employer must:

    1. Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (that relationship may include being a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate (all known as qualifying organizations); and
    2. Currently be doing or will be doing business (e.g. the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization) as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the visa holders stay in the United States with L-1 status; and
    3. The employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker[1], with a fee, on behalf of the employee they want L-1 Visa status for.
*Note that mere presence of a qualifying organization within the United States and abroad is not enough, the employer must be doing actual business in the United States and in at least one other country.

The employee must:

    1. Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for at least one continuous year within three years immediately preceding the employee's admission to the United States; and
    2. Be seeking to enter the United States to provide services in an executive or managerial capacity or be in a position requiring specialized knowledge for this same employer or one of the employers qualifying organizations (the petition when filed by the employer must include a detailed description of the services to be performed).
    3. Have worked the prior year of employment abroad in a position that was managerial, executive, or involved specialized knowledge and that the individuals prior education, training, and employment qualifies him/her to perform the intended services in the United States; however, the work in the United States need not be the same work which the individual performed abroad.
Executive capacity under statute 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii) means a role within the organization where the employee primarily:
    1. Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
    2. Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
    3. Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
    4. Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization
Managerial capacity under statute 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii) means a role within the organization where the employee primarily:

    1. Manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
    2. Supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages and essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
    3. Has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization) if another employee or other employees are directly supervised; if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
    4. 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 supervisor's supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional.
Specialized knowledge professional under statute 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii) means an individual who has special knowledge of the petitioning organization's product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization's processes and procedures.

Again, it is important to re-iterate that the employer is the one that files the petition showing evidence that both the employer and the employee meet the above-stated requirements.

Further Requirements if Seeking to Establish a New Office

Beyond the above mentioned requirements, there are additional things that must be shown when obtaining an L-1 Visa to send an employee to the United States in an executive or managerial capacity to open or be employed in a new office.

In these cases, the employer must also show that:

    1. The employer has secured sufficient physical space to house the new office;
    2. The employee has been employed for one continuous year in the three year period preceding the filing of the petition in an executive or managerial capacity and that the proposed employment involved executive or managerial authority over the new operation; and
    3. The intended new United States office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.
To send an employee to the United States in a specialized knowledge capacity to open or be employed in a new office, the employer must show that:

    1. The employer has secured sufficient physical space to house the new office;
    2. The business entity in the United States is or will be a qualifying organization as defined above; and
    3. The employer has the financial ability to pay the employee and commence doing business in the United States
Length of Stay

Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1 employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.

Family of L-1 Workers

The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Such family members may seek admission in L-2 nonimmigrant classification status and generally will be granted such status for the same period of stay as the employee.

If these family members are already in the United States and seeking change of status to or extension of stay in L-2 classification, they may apply collectively, with fee, on an Form I-539, Application to Change/Extend Nonimmigrant Status.

Spouses of L-1 workers may apply for work authorization by filing a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization[2] with fee. If approved, there is no specific restriction as to where the L-2 spouse may work.

Blanket Petitions

A petitioning employer who meets the following requirements, may file a blanket petition seeking continuing approval as having the required intracompany relationship and some or all of its parent, branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates as qualifying organizations if:

  • The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
  • The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;
  • The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
  • The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations meet one of the following criteria:
    • Have obtained at least ten L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
    • Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
    • Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
The blanket petition process provides the employer with flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States quickly and with short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. Please consult with an attorney at Theta Law Firm to find out if you qualify for a blanket petition and to guide you through the petition process.

In most cases, once the blanket petition has been approved by filing evidence fulfilling the above requirements on Form I-129, the employer need only do the following:

    1. Complete Form, I-129S,Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition[3]
    2. Send the form to the employee along with a copy of the blanket petition Approval Notice and other required evidence, so that the employee may present it to a consular officer in connection with an application for an L-1 visa.

[1] Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may be found at:
[2]Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, may be found at:
[3] Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, may be found at:

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