L1 Mulitnational Employees & Business Owners


L-1 visas are used by international companies to transfer owners and employees to the US. They are also used by overseas business owners to start operations in the US.


Basics of the L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa is used by large multinational companies to transfer employees to the US. It is also routinely used by smaller companies to transfer their owners and key personnel to the US. Many enter the US to open and run new offices for their companies.

L-1A visas are for managers and owners. L-1B visas are for key personnel.


The L-1 visa was created in 1970 to allow multinational companies to send employees to their US offices. By the late 1960s, companies had started selling their goods worldwide. These companies wanted branch offices in their market-countries and wanted their own employees to run these branch offices.

However, Congress had passed laws in 1965 that delayed employees of these multi-nationals from working in the US. Worried that other countries would retaliate by stopping US workers from entering their countries, US created the L-1 visa category.

The world has changed since the 1970s, when only a few large companies sold their wares internationally. Now even mom-and-pop shops sell to international customers through the world-wide-web. This exponential growth in international sales has resulted in a tremendous growth in the number of L-1 visas being filed.

L-1 visa has become very popular and is used by all sized businesses to establish their presence in the US, which is considered the world’s largest destination market.

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Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an L-1 visa, the foreign company must prove that:

  • It is related to the US company
  • Both the foreign and US companies are doing regular business in their countries
  • Both companies will continue to do regular business while the L-1 visa holder is in the US
  • For an L-1A, the employer must prove that:
    • The person being transferred is either a manager or an executive
    • The person has worked for the foreign company as a manager for over 1 year in the past 3 years before entering the US
    • The person is coming to the US to work as a manager or executive
  • For an L-1B, the employer must prove that:
    • The person has specialized knowledge about the company or its products
    • The employee has worked as a critical resource for over 1 year in the past 3 years before entering the US
    • The employee will continue to work in this capacity in the US

New Office

If a business owner or manager is coming to the US to open a new office, they must first lease an office space and provide a business plan, and also have sufficient funding to prove that the office will be able to support a new manager within a year

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The Filing Process & Duration of the Visa

L-1 visas are filed by the employers with the USCIS. Once approved, the foreign national goes to the US consulate to get the visa issued. If the foreign national is already in the US on a different visa, they request a change of status to start work.

  • Duration of an L-1 visa:
    • Initial L-1A visas are issued for 3 years and can be extended for a total of a 7-year stay.
    • When filing an L-1A through a new office, the initial period of stay is 1 year.
    • Initial L-1B visas are issued for 3 years and can be extended for a total of a 5-year stay.
    • If the person changes to an H1B visa, the L-1 period is counted in the total L-1 stay.
  • Family members enter the US on L2 visas, and the spouse is allowed to file for a work permit.
  • L-1 visas are dual intent visas. This means that the employee can also file for a green card while in the US.
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How We Can Help

Problems When Filing the L-1 Visa

Filing for a successful L-1 visa requires considerable documentation. Both the foreign and US companies must prove that they have physical offices, sufficient corporate income and enough employees to operate a profitable business.

For an L-1A visa, the employer needs to prove that the foreign national was working at the foreign office as a manager or executive overseas.

For an L-1B visa, the employer must prove that the foreign national holds proprietary knowledge about the company.

If the owner of the foreign business is planning to enter the US, they must prove that the company overseas will continue to operate after they relocate to the US.

If the business is transferring the manager or executive to the US, the USCIS will look very closely at their job duties overseas and in the US to decide whether they meet the definition of “manager/executive”. There are a lot of court cases, regulations and USCIS memoranda trying to define what a manager and executive are.

The Solution

It is our responsibility as your attorney to review all your information at the first consultation and to help you decide if an L-1 will suit your short- and long-term goals. Many of our clients are overseas businesses transferring employees to their already established US offices. In these cases, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are able to obtain the right documents from the different offices and to make the process as efficient and timely as possible for our clients.

A growing number of our clients are also smaller and medium-sized companies who already have US customers and now want to grow their operations in the US.

We discuss your funding, your timeline and your professional and personal goals to find the best solution for you. For new offices and for business owners who plan to move to the US, this includes helping you establish a timeline for the visa issuance and guiding you on where to incorporate a new business, and the myriad of complexities of starting a business in a new country.

We understand the reality of doing business in the US market, which is very different from business in other parts of the world. We have spent the past 25 years honing our skills and are adept at making the process easy and efficient for you.

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