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An L-1 visa is for an “Intracompany Transferee” – a foreign national transferring from a business entity in another country to a related business entity in the U.S. The foreign national must have worked for the entity abroad for at least one year out of the last three before coming to the U.S. There are two types of L-1 visa: an L-1A Multinational Executive or Manager visa and an L-1B Specialized Knowledge visa.

Here we mean that the overseas company for which the foreign national worked abroad for the qualifying time period (one year out of the last three years) and the U.S. company for which he or she plans on working here in the U.S. must share ownership. Specifically, these situations qualify:
The overseas company can own more than 50% of the U.S. company;
The U.S. company can own more than 50% of the overseas company;
Both the U.S. company and the overseas company can be more than 50% owned by a third entity; or
The U.S. company can be a joint venture of the overseas company and some other entity.

The L-1A is for a foreign national coming to the U.S. to serve as an executive (an individual who, with only general supervision or guidance from superiors, has wide latitude in discretionary decision-making, directs the management of the organization or a major part of it, and establishes corporate goals & policies) or manager (an individual managing either subordinate employees or a discreet function of the company). An L-1A can normally be obtained for three years at a time but not for longer than seven years in total. The L-1B is for a foreign national coming to the U.S. to serve in a specialized knowledge capacity, meaning that the foreign national has acquired knowledge of the company’s products, procedures, techniques or practices through that person’s experience with the foreign related entity that is special or advanced. An L-1B can be obtained for three years at a time but not for longer than five years in total. For both L-1As and L-1Bs, there may be much shorter visa validity periods for the first visa if the U.S. entity is new. See our New Business/New U.S. Office FAQ for more details.

No. A foreign national employee technically does not need a particular degree – or any degree at all – to be eligible for an L-1 (though for certain L-1 employees the lack of a degree may later present a problem if the employee is later sponsored for permanent residence by the company). The foreign national also need not be making a specific salary (there is no pre-certification that the employee is making prevailing wage required, as with the H-1B LCA requirement). The employee needs only to have been employed by the related entity abroad for one of the three years preceding the application and must be coming to the U.S. to perform in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity. However, USCIS will look at the salary in determining the general credibility of the case and ask questions if the salary is far lower than what is typical for the position offered (especially executive or managerial positions).

Yes. The L-1 is considered a “dual intent” visa – a visa which allows the foreign national to want to remain in the U.S. temporarily for the time being, but also eventually to wish to stay permanently. Therefore, one may remain in the U.S. or leave and return to the U.S. on the L-1 while pursuing a permanent residence application.

As with most myths, there is some truth to this. However, it is not entirely true – and it normally isn’t true at all for L-1B specialized knowledge workers. There is a permanent residence category for multinational executives or managers which is similar (though not identical) in requirements to the L-1A non-immigrant visa category. The main difference between the L-1A category and the permanent residence category is that the permanent residence multinational executive or manager category requires that the foreign national have worked as an executive or manager at the overseas entity abroad, not only in the planned job with the U.S. entity. The L-1A non-immigrant visa doesn’t require this. Many L-1A executives or managers were executives or managers with the overseas entity and so will qualify under the permanent residence category, but not all. Virtually all L-1B specialized knowledge workers will need to go through the labor certification process to obtain permanent residence.