L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge
The L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help establish one. The employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with fee, on behalf of the employee.
To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and
- Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.
Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.
To qualify, the named employee must also:
- Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and
- Be seeking to enter the United States to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
Specialized knowledge means either special knowledge possessed by an individual 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 (See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D)).
The L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004 applies to all petitions filed on or after June 6, 2005, and is directed particularly to those filed on behalf of L-1B employees who will be stationed primarily at the worksite of an of an employer other than the petitioning employer or its affiliate, subsidiary, or parent. In order for the employee to qualify for L-1B classification in this situation, the petitioning employer must show that:
- The employee will not be principally controlled or supervised by such an unaffiliated employer; and
- The work being provided by the employee is not considered to be labor for hire by such an unaffiliated employer.
See INA 214(c)(2)(F) and Chapter 32.3(c) of the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual, available in the "Laws" section of the website.
For foreign employers seeking to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the United States to be employed in a qualifying new office, the employer must show that:
- The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office ; and
- The employer has the financial ability to compensate the employee and begin doing business in the United States.
See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(3)(vi) for details.
Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1B employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years.
The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by their spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Spouses and children may seek admission in the L-2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee.
If these family members are already in the United States and seeking change of status to or extension of stay in the L-2 classification, they may apply collectively, with fee, using Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Status.
Spouses of L-1 workers in valid L-2S nonimmigrant status are considered employment authorized incident to status. DHS-issued evidence of such employment authorization that is acceptable for completion of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, include:
- An unexpired Form I-94 with a notation reflecting L-2S nonimmigrant status. As of Jan. 30, 2022, USCIS and CBP began issuing Form I-94 with a new admission code for spouses of L-1 workers: L-2S. An unexpired Form I-94 reflecting this new code is acceptable as evidence of employment authorization for L spouses under List C of Form I-9.
- An unexpired Form I-94 with a notation reflecting L-2 nonimmigrant status, presented together with a notice from USCIS regarding the new admission code. USCIS will send L spouses with a Form I-94 issued by USCIS before Jan. 30, 2022, that was notated with L-2 nonimmigrant status, a notice regarding the new admission code that, together with an unexpired Form I-94 reflecting L-2 nonimmigrant status, serves as evidence of employment authorization for such spouses under List C of Form I-9. For more information, see this web alert.
- An unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD). L spouses are not required to request employment authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, but may still file Form I-765, with fee, in order to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766 EAD). A Form I-766 EAD can be presented to employers as evidence of both identity and employment authorization acceptable under List A of Form I-9.
- An expired EAD with additional documentation to show the EAD is automatically extended (as discussed below).
Certain L nonimmigrant spouses qualify for the automatic extension of their existing Form I-766 EADs if they meet the following conditions:
- They timely filed a renewal Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, based on the same L nonimmigrant status; and
- They have an unexpired Form I-94 showing their status as an L-2 or L-2S nonimmigrant.
Normally, DHS regulations provide for an automatic extension period of up to 180 days from the expiration date stated on the EAD. However, DHS has published a temporary final rule increasing the automatic extension period. Effective May 4, 2022, DHS is temporarily increasing the automatic extension period and providing up to 360 days of additional automatic extension time, for a total of up to 540 days, to eligible renewal applicants. The automatic EAD extension will therefore continue until whichever comes first:
- The end date on the dependent spouse’s Form I-94 showing valid L-2 or L-2S nonimmigrant status, as applicable;
- The date we approve or deny their application to renew the previous EAD; or
- 540 days from the “Card Expires” date on the front of the previous EAD.
Additional information on the temporary increase of the automatic extension period is available on the Automatic Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Extension page.
Eligible L spouses may present the following evidence of the automatic EAD extension to employers for Form I-9 purposes:
- Form I-94 indicating the unexpired L-2 or L-2S nonimmigrant status;
- Form I-797C for a timely-filed EAD renewal application (Form I-765) stating “Class requested” as “(a)(18)”; and
- The expired EAD issued under the same category, Category A18.
From April 30, 2018, to April 30, 2020, the California Service Center and the CBP Blaine, Washington, port of entry (POE) are participating in a joint agency pilot program for Canadian citizens seeking L-1 nonimmigrant status under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For additional information, please visit the Form I-129/I-129S Pilot Program for Canadian L-1 Nonimmigrants.
Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:
- The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;
- The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
- The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations, collectively, meet one of the following criteria:
- Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
- Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
- Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1B classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. In order to qualify under the blanket petitioning process, the employee having specialized knowledge must also be a professional. See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(E).
Where an L-1 visa is required
In most cases, once the blanket petition has been approved, the employer need only complete a Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and send it to the employee along with a copy of the blanket petition Approval Notice and other required evidence, so that the employee may present it to a U.S. consular officer in connection with an application for an L-1 visa.
Canadians with an approved blanket petition seeking L-1 classification
Canadian citizens, who are exempt from the L-1 visa requirement, may present the completed Form I-129S and supporting documentation to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer at certain POEs on the United States-Canada land border or at a United States pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station in Canada, in connection with an application for admission to the United States in L-1 status.
Please refer to CBP’s website for additional information and/or requirements for applying for admission into the United States.
Optional filing of Form I-129S with USCIS
If the prospective L-1 employee is visa-exempt, the employer may file the Form I-129S and supporting documentation with the USCIS Service Center that approved the blanket petition, instead of submitting the form and supporting documentation directly with CBP.
See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(4) and 8 CFR 214.2(l)(5) for more details regarding blanket petitions.