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L1 Visa

 


Transfer talent stateside with the L1 Visa

The L1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits foreign enterprises to relocate a manager, executive, or individual with specialized expertise to a US-based organization. The US company must have a relationship with the foreign company as a branch office, parent entity, subsidiary, or affiliate.

The transferred employee is required to serve as a manager, executive, or individual with specialized expertise at the US company. If the employee assumes a managerial or executive role, the visa is formally referred to as the L1A visa. If the employee serves as an individual with specialized knowledge, the visa is formally referred to as the L1B visa.


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Understanding the L1 Visa Needs

  • The L-1 visa is based on company affiliation, meaning the U.S. company formally submits the application for prospective employees. Establishing the existence of a U.S. branch within a corporate group is thus an essential prerequisite. The American company must have been actively operating in the market for at least one year (“engaged in business”).

    U.S. locations operational for less than one year may qualify as L-1 applicants under separate provisions (“L-1 New Office”). With this visa, the foreign individual can only work for the U.S. company that submitted the application. The sole exception is “off-site employment,” which permits employees to work for clients under specific conditions.

    Since L-1 visas pertain to intracompany staff transfers, evidence must be furnished to demonstrate a qualifying connection between the foreign location where the employees currently work and the U.S. location (as the “receiving” company unit) to enable the transfer of employees.

    This can be established as follows:

    – The foreign parent company holds at least a 50% share in the U.S. subsidiary or vice versa.
    – Both entities are sister companies with each being at least 50% owned by the same parent company.
    – A U.S. company maintains a permanent establishment abroad or vice versa.

    Thus, both companies must have majority ownership. This list is not exhaustive, and other configurations are possible.

    Employees eligible for the L-1 visa must have been employed (consistently) for a minimum of 12 months within the past three years at a location within the corporate group (outside the United States). This employment must be a regular work arrangement; freelancers or consultants, for instance, do not qualify for this category. The legislation assumes that the offered position in the U.S. also constitutes a regular work relationship (“regular employment”).

    During the minimum one-year employment period at the foreign company, employees must have served as a manager, executive, or specialist, and they must also hold a position at the future U.S. location. The U.S. authorities differentiate between the L-1A visa for managers/executives and the L-1B visa for specialists. The scrutiny for L-1B applications, in particular, is stringent and conducted by the relevant authorities.

    Employees receiving an L-1 visa can continue to be remunerated either by the foreign company or by the U.S. location. While a U.S. employment contract or assignment contract is not mandatory, it is possible.

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