Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram


L-1A Visa and L-1B Introduction

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Intra-Company Transfer L-1A and L-1B Visas Editorial:

With worldwide companies continuing to expand, the US market is often high on the list of assignments for executives and management professionals. For those who have built a career with an international company, and would like establish a branch in the US or transfer to current US branch, the Intra-Company Transfers L-1A and L-1B Visas are great options. This video series provides a comprehensive outline of the L-1A and L-1B visas and the differences between the two. This video series may also be a valuable presentation tool when discussing this with employee candidates or boards of directors who are considering the transfer.

Business growth is directly tied to expansion into new territories and countries, and securing a position in the US market with an distribution center, sales or administrative office or other location critical to the future of your company.  Most companies will send a senior manager who is established within the foreign office to oversee the US-based office and lead the employees in that division.

Alternatively, many multi-national companies prepare their key people for leadership by providing them with opportunities to lead in various divisions, and a transfer to the US market can provide invaluable experience to managers and executives.

Finally, a good deal of talent is located abroad, and foreign companies will seek to bring their best and brightest to the US to ensure success. Many of these professionals excel in the STEM skills such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and are increasingly hard to source in the US labor force. In an effort to maintain their competition edge, foreign companies want to ensure that they can bring  the right mix of international talent to the US market.

Intra-Company Transfer L-1A and L-1B Visas Commentary:

US Immigration is very much aware of the international commercial pressures, and has enacted immigration legislation that is intended to create a pathway for companies to expand into the US market, if they haven’t done so already, or simply transfer management-level talent from their foreign offices into an established US branch.

Many of our clients ask – ‘how big does a company need to be before it should be considered multi-national enough to qualify for this type of visa?’ This is a great question, but the legislation does not exactly specify minimum company sizes. Basically, if you have a company that has management and executive staff, supervisory level and then a general employee labor force, then it could be a company with as little as ten employees total.

In truth, the smaller the company the more intensive scrutiny it will be under should an application be made. We would suggest that companies with more than 25 employees, and that’s been established more than five years looking to expand into the US market by opening a new branch would be a better starting point. Where a company is smaller than this, we’d discuss the E2 Treaty Investment visa as perhaps a more suitable option.

The L-1A visa is for executives and managers, and the L-1B visa is for specialists. One of the main, if not most attractive, features of the L-1A is that, unlike the L-1B, L-1A intra-company transferees can secure a green card relatively easily and very quickly indeed. For example, if the intra-company transferee is coming to an already established US branch, then the L-1A transferee could secure a green card within a year.

As a result, many small business owners looking to expand into the US try to squeeze into an L-1A business profile as opposed to the more conventional E2 visa profile, which does not, at present, offer a direct pathway to green card status.

Where the intra-company transferee is the main, majority, and principal shareholder in the foreign company, US Immigration has allowed these aliens to obtain L-1A visa status. But then when that alien is ready to apply for green card status, they have argued that the alien doesn’t qualify because although he/she is technically an employee of the company, in reality, he/she has no superiors and is not answerable to anyone for the most part, and therefore no true “master/servant, employer/employee” relationship exists.

This position is not universally or consistently held within US Immigration, therefore getting from L-1A to green card status where the transferee is the owner of the business, can be somewhat unpredictable and challenging.


US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
Admitted in New York.
Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
401 Wilshire Boulevard, 12th Floor,
Santa Monica,
California 90401
Tel: 442 244 4350

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