Integrity Legal

8th September 2009

US Visa Thailand: The L1 Visa

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An L1 Visa is a travel document which is used to enter the United States of America for the express purpose of working in lawful L1 visa status. The visa categorized as L1 is a non-immigrant visa. The visa is valid for a short amount of time when compared to longer term United States visas, usually L1 visas are granted with a validity of 1-3 years.

L1 visas are statutorily intended to be used by the employees and executives of companies and business entities with an international presence. Generally, these entities have offices in countries abroad and in the United States. Some companies with no presence in the United States of America seek to set up a business presence in that jurisdiction while also maintaining a business presence in the home country. L1 visas were created for foreign employees to transfer to the company’s United States office after having been employed with the company’s foreign office for a minimum of at least one year prior to being approved for  L1 visa status. The office in the United States of America must be the direct owner of the US company (parent company relationship), subsidiary to the US company (child company relationship), or an affiliate of the US company (sister company relationship). The major factor in determining if two entities meet the L1 criteria has to do with a “commonality of shareholders.” This means that the two companies must be substantially intertwined from an ownership perspective.

There are two subcategories of the L1 visa. The L1A visa and the L1B visa.

L1A visas are reserved for for Managers and Executives.  The term “Manager” means one who oversees the day-to-day operations of the company or organization. Usually, Managers either supervise the endeavors of other subordinate managers or specialists, or else they oversee important tasks within the corporation. As a rule, a manager is one who has a great deal of authority with regard to routine operational issues.

Those employees who are considered “Executives” are tasked with providing leadership to the management of the company or of a significant division within the corporate hierarchy. Managers set company policy as well as long term goals and have a great deal of autonomy to make decisions regarding the direction of the company. They function with little or no scrutiny from supervisors.

L1B visas are granted to those with specialized knowledge of the company’s business or the inner workings of the company itself. The specialized knowledge denoted in this category is company specific, meaning that an L1B visa holder should be intimately aware of issues relevant to the overseas entity specifically.

A major concern of US immigration authorities is the, not unfounded, suspicion that some companies are changing their corporate structure in order to obtain visa benefits for their executives, managers, and specialists. This is of particular concern with regard to small companies. Readers should note that it is never advisable to make business decisions solely for the purpose of obtaining Immigration benefits as doing so could bring up issues of immigration fraud.

Note: The L1 visa is a dual intent visa, so even though the visa is for non-immigrants it is possible that the visa holder could eventually adjust status in the United States and obtain lawful permanent residence.


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