Transferring Your Foreign Business To The U.S.

February 2011 - By Shahzad Ahmed with NeJame Law

The L-1 Visa is one of the most common non-immigrant work-related visas. The L-1 Visa is available for foreign national executives, managers and other persons with specialized knowledge who have been working for a non-U.S. company and that may be transferred to a U.S. company. The U.S. company must be a subsidiary, branch, affiliate or joint venture partners of the non-U.S. company but do not have to engage in the same line of business than the foreign company. The L-1 Visa is typically approved for an initial period of three years with the possibility of two-year extensions later on.

The L-1 Visa has two different subcategories: L-1A and L-1B. The L-1A visa is available for managers and executives and the L-1B for staff with specialized knowledge about the company's products and services, systems, proprietary techniques, management, research, or procedures.

L-1 Visa – Requirements

  • The L-1 Visa is available for managers, executives or persons with specialized knowledge.
  • The applicant must have been employed abroad continuously by the foreign operation for the immediate prior year.
  • The employment position for the applicant should require the special knowledge and skills the applicant has.
  • If a change in the purpose of your visit is needed, a change in the visa status is mandatory.
  • The foreign company must remain in operation while the L-1 Visa is in effect
  • The L-1 Visa holder must work for the company who petition for the L-1 Visa and may not change employer without losing status.
  • The L1 Visa petition must be filed by the employer.
  • The U.S. and the organization abroad are both actively engaged in doing business.
  • The U.S. operation will support the executive or managerial position within one year.

L-1 Visa Holder's Privileges

  • L-1 Visa holders may legally work in the US.
  • May bring his/her spouse and dependents less than twenty-one years of age to the US on L-2 visa.
  • L-1 Visa holders' spouses with the L-2 visa can study and work in the U.S. by obtaining proper authorization.
  • Children with the L-2 can attend US schools, colleges and universities.
  • L-1 visa holders may travel in and out of the U.S.
  • May apply for permanent residence without losing L-1 status.
  • The L-1 Visa holders are exempt from Labor Certification.
  • Managers and executive can be on an L-1A Visa for up to 7 years.
  • Staff with specialized knowledge can be on an L-1B Visa for up to 5 years.

The opinions in this column are not meant to be tax or financial advice. For tax advice, please consult with your Certified Public Accountant.