The L-1 nonimmigrant visa category allows existing employees of a multinational employer abroad to transfer to that employer's United States operations. The L-1 category has no annual limitation on the number of employees.
The L-1 category requires the employee to have worked for the employer abroad for at least one (1) year within the past three (3) years, and to be assuming temporary U.S. employment in either an executive/managerial (L-1A) or a specialized knowledge (L-1B) capacity. The U.S. entity of the employer must have a parent, subsidiary, affiliate, branch, or 50-50 joint venture relationship with the entity abroad from which the employee is transferring.
Employers must obtain petition approval for L-1 employees from the Department of Homeland Security; only then may the employee apply for an L-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. The U.S. government has established an expedited "blanket" L-1 program for certain large-scale, high-mobility organizations regularly transferring employees to the U.S. as part of their ongoing multinational operations, which allows individual employees to skip the petitioning process and apply directly with the U.S. consulate.
L-1 employees typically receive three (3) years of authorized temporary employment upon presentation of a valid L-1 visa upon arrival in the U.S. Two-year extensions are available for L employees, with maximum stays capped at seven (7) years for L-1A managers and executives and five (5) years for L-1B specialized knowledge employees. Spouses and children accompanying the L-1 employee may obtain dependent L-2 status; L-2 spouses may also apply for separate work authorization upon arrival in the U.S.