L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows overseas companies to transfer executives and managers including business owners for up to seven years under the L1A visa and specialized knowledge employees under the L1B visa for up to five years to a new or existing US office. To qualify for an L1 visa the employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the US Company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.
This can be an excellent way for businesses including small businesses to expand into the US with a minimal investment. Business owners wishing to set up a business in the US and emigrate can do so without having to make a large investment as required under the EB5 immigrant investor scheme.,
There are two types of employees who may be sponsored for USA L1 visas:
• L1A Executives and Managers
L1 Visa requirements for management and executive roles for these purposes is quite strict, and a detailed description of the duties attached to the position will be required. In particular, the executive or manager should have supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or for a key function of the department or subdivision of the employer. Such personnel are issued an L1A visa, initially for a three year period extendible in two year increments to a maximum of seven years.
• L1B Specialized Knowledge Staff
This category covers those with knowledge of the company's products/services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or procedures. This should be explained in some detail when applying for the L1 visa. Staff in this category are issued an L1B visa, initially for three years extendable to a maximum of five years.
L1 Visas and Employment Based EB1C Green Card
The requirements for employment based immigration (permanent residence) under the EB1C immigrant scheme are similar
to the requirements for the L1A Executive and Manager visa category. Many overseas executives and managers including business owners come under the L1A visa scheme first and then apply at a later date for EB1C
as an international manager or executive which is one of the best ways of gaining an employment based immigrant visa
(green card). The business needs to have been established for at least one year before being able to come under this green card scheme.
Companies operating in the US can apply to the relevant USCIS service center for an L1 intracompany transfer visa to transfer someone to the US from their overseas operations. Employees in this category will, initially, be granted an L1 visa for up to three years. For a new office the L1 visa is granted for one year.
On completing the maximum allowable period in L1 visa status, the employee must be employed outside the United States for a minimum of one year before a new application is made for L or H status.