Corporate Transfer Immigration Laws

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 What is Corporate Transfer Immigration?

Corporate transfer immigration, or “Intracompany Transfer”, is an immigration process based on the transfer of an employee from a non-U.S. company to an existing branch within the U.S.  It is a non-immigrant visa designation, meaning that the foreign national’s stay in the U.S. will only be temporary (for the purpose of work and not for settling or relocating in the U.S.).

Corporate transfer immigration cases are usually filed under the L-1 Intracompany Transfer visa category.  There are two sub-categories of L-1 visas:  L-1A for Transferee Executives or Managers, and L-1B for Transferee Employees with Specialized Knowledge.

L-1 visas are generally valid for 3-7 years.  They aren’t subject to any quotas (yearly limits on the number issued), and are available for both small and large businesses. 

What are the Requirements for Corporate Transfer Visas?

L-1 visas for corporate transfer are subject to very strict requirements.  For both A and B subcategories, the general requirements are:

  • The foreign national must have a legitimate, qualifying work relationship with the foreign company (the “qualifying organization”, i.e., the parent company, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch); AND
  • The foreign national must be doing business (either as an employer, manager, or employee with special skill) in the U.S. through the qualifying organization throughout their stay in the U.S. under the L-1 visa. 

While the qualifying business organization needs to be active and viable, there is no immigration requirement that the business itself be engaged in trade of an international designation.  If the business closes or otherwise ceases operations in the U.S., the visa holder may be required to forfeit their non-immigrant status and vacate the country.

Lastly, for the L-1 A and B subcategories, there are specific definitions for key terms such as “Executive”, “Manager”, and “Employee with Specialized Knowledge”.  These are defined in a very specific manner and are enforced very strictly; the applicant may require the assistance of an attorney to determine whether they qualify under these specific definitions. 

Is Corporate Transfer Immigration the Same as for a Regular H-1 Visa?

No- H-1B visas are generally reserved more for employees with a general skill base, and have different requirements.  For example, H-1 visas may require labor certification on the part of the employer that is petitioning the foreign worker; it may also be associated with different compensation levels that need to be met.  On the other hand, L-1 visas don’t have these requirements, and instead focus on the relationship between the foreign national and the qualifying business organization.  

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for Help With Corporate Transfer Immigration Laws?

Corporate transfer immigration is a highly specific area of immigration law.  You may wish to hire a qualified immigration lawyer in your area if you need help understanding how L-1 visas work.  Whether as an employer or employee, working with an attorney may be necessary to ensure that the visa application is met fully, and that you won’t experience any delays during the process.  Also, an attorney can provide legal representation in the event that you need to make an appearance before an immigration judge.

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