Intra-company transfer visas are visas whereby non-American employees are “transferred” from a company outside the US to an affiliate (parent, subsidiary or simply a US branch) US company located in the United States. As the employee is being transferred to the US office, it is the US office who makes the application. The employee, must have been employed with the Canadian company for a minimum of 1 year, and have worked OUTSIDE the US for a minimum of 1 year continuous year over the past 3 years previous to application.
Due to NAFTA, Canadians have the benefit of applying for their L1 intra-company transfer visas at the pre-flight inspection or port-of-entry as they are seeking entry to the US or by submitting the application to the applicable Service Center. Non-Canadians must have their applications submitted to the applicable Service Center.
L1 employees can fall under 2 categories:
- executive/management (L1-A) or
- specialized knowledge (L1-B)
The first category is pretty much self-explanatory, but there are specific requirements which the US position needs to meet in order to qualify as “management”. For example, one does not necessarily need to manage other employees if he/she is managing, as defined by the legislation, an “essential function” of the company. On the other hand, if a manager is managing people, the people reporting to the manager should be professionals – front-line supervisors are usually not considered “managers” by L1A standards. L1-A visas are valid for up to 7 years.
The other category for L1 employees is the specialized knowledge category. These are employees who, through in-house training and/or experience with the company, have obtained specialized knowledge of the companies procedures, technology, equipment, products, etc., and whose expertise is, as a result, required by the US company. L1-B visas are valid for up to 5 years.
Dependants of L1 holders are entitled to L2 status.* This includes a spouse-by-marriage (common-law partners are not recognized as dependants for visa purposes) and children of the L1 holder.
*On January 16, 2002, President George W. Bush signed bill H.R. 2278 which provides work authorization to the spouses of L visa holders. While the regulations governing the application procedures have not yet been released, it is anticipated that individuals wishing to take advantage of the new legislation will be required to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD). It is expected that the governing regulations will be released in Spring 2002.
New Office Intra-company Transfers
For companies outside the US who are interested in expanding their operations into the US, the L1 visa may be an option for companies who need to send personnel into the US to establish the new office. L1 visas for US offices which have been in operation for less than 1 year are granted for 1 year, after which time the company must show evidence of operations in the US for the L1 personnel to renew their visas.
Petitioners may apply for blanket L1 petitions at US consulates outside the United States if:
- US and each of the non-US companies are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- US company has been doing business in the United States for one year or more;
- US company has 3 or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates; and
- US and non-US companies have obtained approval of petitions for at least 10 L1A managers, executives or L1B specialized knowledge professionals during the previous 12 months OR have US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million OR have a US work force of at least 1000 employees**
** On January 16, 2002, President George W. Bush signed bill H.R. 2278 into law. Under this law, it now provides that in the case of an alien seeking admission as an L1, the required one-year period of continuous employment is reduced to six months if the importing employer has filed a blanket petition and met the requirements for expedited processing of aliens covered under such petition.