Q. Our company is planning to move an executive from one our overseas divisions to head an important short-term project here in the United States. What type of visa will he need? Any immigration basics you can provide would be helpful.
A. What you describe is called an “intra-company transfer” and you will likely need to obtain an L-1A visa for your executive. Such transfers are quite common, but also quite complicated, and you should consult an attorney experienced in business immigration law to assist you.
In addition, you should retain a relocation provider to assist you in the practical aspects of the transfer (finding new housing, choosing schools and understanding the tax and benefits implications of the move).
The L-1 visa category allows employees of international companies with U.S. and overseas offices to relocate to the United States.
There are two types of L-1 visas:
- L-1A visas (the kind that your executive will likely need) are nonimmigrant visas reserved for executives and managers who will manage essential projects or functions of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others, or will supervise and control the work of professional employees.
- L-1B visas, which will not be discussed here, are nonimmigrant visas reserved for intra-company transferees with specialized knowledge.
To be eligible for an L-1A visa, your executive or manager must have worked abroad for your company or a subsidiary for one continuous year within the previous three years prior to admission in the United States.
If your company has met certain criteria required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and established the requisite intra-company relationship, USCIS may have already determined that you are covered by a “blanket L-1 visa petition.” A blanket petition provides qualified employers with greater flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States quickly and with short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. (It does not, however, guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1A classification.)
If your company has been granted a blanket petition, the visa application of your executive, and its supporting documents, may be filed along with the approved blanket petition with the U.S. consulate or embassy with jurisdiction in the country where your executive resides.
If your company has not been approved for a blanket petition, you must file your executive’s visa application through one of USCIS’s service centers.
If your executive is approved for an L-1A visa, he or she must maintain his or her employment with your company for the duration of his or her stay in the United States. An L-1A visa is valid for up to seven years.