P.O. Box 10748 Bainbridge Island, WA 98110



Temporary visa permits employers to transfer key staff from abroad to work for U.S. related businesses. It is one of the most useful visa options for businesses that are setting up operations in the U S. Not every employee can be transferred to the U.S. on an L-1 visa and only executives, managers, or persons with specialized knowledge may qualify. A permanent visa with very similar requirements is available to executives and managers.


1. U.S. business is sufficiently closely related to business abroad. Generally both businesses must be at least 50% owned and controlled by the same person(s) e.g. parent/subsidiary, affiliates, or branch office
2. The employee to be transferred (transferee) must have worked continuously for the employer abroad for one out of the three years before applying for L-1 status
3. The transferee’s prior year of employment abroad must have been in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge position
a. U.S. immigration has its own definitions for executive, managerial, and specialized knowledge
i. It is critical for executives and managers to show that there are other employees who relieve them from performing low level tasks
ii. Specialized knowledge is defined as special knowledge of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.
b. Responsibilities must be primarily (i.e. more than 50%) executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge
4. The transferee’s proposed U.S. position must also be in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity (see above)
a. Not necessarily the same capacity as employed abroad
5. Both the U.S operation and a related entity abroad must be actively doing business as an employer throughout the term of the L-1 visa.
6. If the U.S. operation has been operating for less than a year, the petitioner must also show that the U.S. business has physical premises and is financially viable.
7. L-1 petitions are generally filed with one of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Centers which will then forward notice of approval to a U.S. Consulate abroad for visa.
a. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadian citizens may apply for L-1 status at a major border crossing and the petition will be adjudicated there and then. The petition may also be filed directly with the appropriate USCIS Service Center and this is often preferable where eligibility for L-1 status is not clear. Canadians are visa exempt and do not have to go to a U.S. Consulate for an L visa stamp.
8. Managers and executives may stay in the U.S. for up to seven years and persons with specialized knowledge may stay for up to five years.
a. Three year stay granted initially — one year for a new business that has been operating for less than a year
b. Two year extensions granted up to the maximum stay
c. No maximum stay if holder can document that he/she commutes to part time work in the U.S. from a residence abroad or employment in the country is seasonal, intermittent, or less than 6 months per year.
9. The L-1 authorizes the holder to live and work in the U.S. as specified in the petition. An amended or new petition must be filed if the holder changes employment or has a significant change of duties.
10. Spouses and children (under 21) may accompany the L-1 holder to live and/or study in the U.S. Spouses may also apply for work authorization.
11. Once the U.S. operation has been doing business for one year, an L-1 manager or executive may qualify for a Green Card as a multinational manager or executive without the employer having to advertise the position to make sure no qualified U.S. workers are available.