L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge

The L-1B visa allows 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 which 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 a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of the prospective L-1B employee.

L-1B Employer Requirements

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.

L-1B Employee Requirements

The prospective L-1B 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 for 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.

L-1B visas for establishing new offices

For foreign employers seeking to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the United States to establish a new office, the employer must also 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.

Initial period of stay

L-1B employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of 1 year.  All other L-1B employees are allowed a maximum initial stay of 3 years.  For all L-1B visa holders, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional 2 years. The maximum limit of L-1B time is 5 years.

Benefits for family members

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 may be admitted to the United States in L-2 status. L-2 visa holders are granted the same period of stay as the employee. In addition, L-2 spouses may apply for work authorization. If approved, the L-2 spouse may work without any specific restrictions on working for certain employers.

Current trends in L-1B visa petitions

In recent years, L-1B visa petitions have faced significantly increased scrutiny. Many applicants have received difficult, comprehensive, and burdensome Requests for Evidence (RFEs). Over the last few years, denial rates have skyrocketed. Prior to 2008, L-1B petitions were denied at a rate of 10% or less. In 2008, 22% of L-1B petitions were denied. In 2012, the denial rate rose to 30%, and in 2013 the denial rate was 34% for the Vermont Service Center and a staggering 40% for the California Service Center.

Although USCIS promised to deliver clear, updated guidance for L-1B applicants in 2012, it has yet to do so. Given this unsteady landscape, prospective L-1B applicants are strongly encouraged to obtain legal representation.