An L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa for "intracompany transferees." It allows managers, executives, or especially knowledgeable employees who work outside the U.S. for a company that has an affiliated entity inside the U.S. to come to the U.S. and perform services for that entity.
There are no limits on how many people can get L-1 visas each year, making it an appealing type of work visa.
Here are some of the key features of the L-1 visa:
You may qualify for an L-1 visa if you have been employed outside the U.S. for at least one continuous year out of the past three years, and your employer transfers you to the U.S. to work as a manager (category L-1A), executive (L-1A), or worker with specialized knowledge (L-1B.)
The U.S. company to which you are transferring must be a parent, branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or joint venture partner of your non-U.S. employer. The non-U.S. company must remain in operation while you have the L-1 visa. “Non-U.S. company” means that it is physically located outside the United States. The company may, for example, be a foreign division of a U.S.-based business, or it may have been started in a country outside the United States. Either one matches the definition of a non-U.S. company.
The company must continue operations for the duration of your permitted stay under your L-1 visa. You will be asked to show that you can expect to be transferred back to your original place of employer after leaving the United States. If your foreign employer closes, the U.S. employer must have a related foreign company to which you could, in theory, be transferred.
You will NOT be asked to show that either your non-U.S. or prospective U.S. employer is operating in any particular business structure. Many legal forms of doing business are acceptable, including, but not limited to, corporations, limited corporations, partnerships, joint ventures, and sole proprietorships. The employer may also be a nonprofit or religious organization.
Although you are generally expected to work full-time in the U.S., you can work somewhat less time if you devote a significant portion of your time to the job on a regular and systematic basis.
To qualify for an L-1A visa, you must meet either the definition of a manager or an executive, both of which are narrower than you might think. Here's a brief summary:
Obtaining an L-1B visa requires proving that you possess specialized knowledge, that is, you understand the company’s specific products, services, procedures, research, techniques, equipment, management, or the like. Your knowledge must not be of a type that is widely held throughout the industry, nor readily available within the United States.
If you meet the eligibility criteria, take a look at the application process to better understand the documents you'll need.