The L-1 nonimmigrant visa allows foreign companies to transfer certain employees to the United States on a temporary basis. The L-1 visa category is intended to allow a foreign company to send employees to its U.S. affiliate, parent, or subsidiary.
The visa is available to managers, executives, and employees with specialized knowledge who work for the company outside the U.S. and will be transferred to the U.S. affiliate, parent, or subsidiary.
Canadian citizens are able to present their L-1 paperwork at a port-of-entry to the U.S., and if properly filed, can obtain an L-1 visa the same day as they enter the U.S.
When admitting L-1 nonimmigrants, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) looks at several requirements. These requirements include:
- Determining that the applicant is a Canadian citizen and otherwise eligible for admission. (eligibility based on citizenship)
- Ensuring that the I-129 form, the petition for a nonimmigrant worker, is completed in duplicate and signed. (proper form submission)
- Verifying the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and Canadian entities. (proper relationship between entities in U.S. and abroad)
- Confirming that the applicant was employed abroad by the Canadian entity in a qualifying capacity for a period of at least one year during the three years immediately preceding the date of application for admission. (Relevant relationship of the applicant to employer abroad established through employment history)
- Examining the job offer from the U.S. entity to ensure that the applicant will be placed in a qualifying managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. (intended capacity).
When a citizen of Canada requests to be an L-1 with an application for admission, the applicant must present a letter or similar statement signed by the employer indicating the position, salary, employment location, and requested length of employment.
CBP will review the I-129 Petition submitted for an L-1 applicant to ensure the application is complete. Two copies of the I-129 with an original wet-ink signature on each copy will need to be provided. The applicant must: be coming to work for an entity in the U.S. that is the parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the entity in the foreign country, have an executive or managerial role, or possess specialized knowledge, and within the preceding three years has been employed abroad for one continuous year.
These requirements were previously published in the CBP Inspector’s Field Manual and made available to the public as the result of a successful FOIA request. See below for the relevant section dealing with L-1 visas.
Although requirements appear to be straightforward, there are many indicators that CBP looks at to determine eligibility. There are also requirements that are not listed in relevant regulations but have become customary in CBP probing for relevant information in each case.
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(1) Classification: L-1 Includes aliens entering to render services to a branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the company of previous employment outside the United States.
Documents required: Passport valid for 6 months at time of entry unless exempt. Nonimmigrant visa (L-l) unless exempt. Must have evidence of approved I-129 petition in the form of a notation on the nonimmigrant visa indicating the petition number and employer’s name, or a Notice of Action, Form I797, indicating approval, unless the applicant is a Canadian citizen. In that case, the alien may file the I-129 at a Canadian pre-flight station or Canadian land border port-of-entry at the time he or she applies for admission. If arriving at an airport without having been inspected preflight, a Canadian applicant must have evidence of petition approval, Form I-797.
Qualifications: Must be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity but may be transferred from any one of the capacities to another (e.g. from managerial to executive). All nonimmigrant grounds of inadmissibility apply. Must have worked for the company (branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate) outside the U.S. for at least 1 continuous year within the preceding 3 years [See
8 CFR 214.2(l) and 22 CFR 41.54.].
(A) Blanket Petition. Aliens may qualify for L visas after having worked for the company (branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate), outside the United States, for 6 months within the preceding 3 years if the company has filed a blanket L petition and has met the blanket petitions’ requirements.
(Revised IN 02-12)
Terms of admission: If the alien is otherwise admissible as an individual L-1, admit for validity of petition (up to 3 years initially). If the alien is otherwise admissible as a Blanket L-1, initially admit for 3 years, regardless of the expiration date of the petition, provided the petition is valid at the time of the initial admission. If the alien is seeking readmission as a Blanket L-1, the Blanket Petition is still valid,
and the alien is otherwise admissible, admit for an additional three years regardless of the balance of the time left on the original admission. (IN01-06)
Notations on I-94: Front: L-1, (date to which admitted). Reverse: Petition number and occupation from list in Adjudicator’s Field Manual Appendix 31-1.
(A) Dependents. Admit the spouse and children as L-2.
(B) Petition limitations. Petition may be approved for up to 3 years, except start-up companies which are limited initially to 1 year. Expiration date of visa will usually be the same as the validity of the petition. The maximum stay in the U.S. for an L-1 specialized knowledge employee is 5 years. The maximum stay in the U.S. for an L-1, executive or manager is 7 years.
(C) Blanket petitions. Some L aliens may be admitted on blanket petitions, which are petitions approved for large companies where corporate requirements are not readjudicated with each individual L alien. A blanket L-1 alien may apply for admission or readmission to the United States as long as the blanket petition is valid at the time of admission. A blanket L-1 should
be admitted for 3 years, unless that period of time will exceed the statutory limitations on the L-1 alien’s stay in the United States. An L-1 alien who has spent either seven years in the United States in a managerial or executive capacity or five years in a specialized knowledge capacity may not be readmitted to the United States as an L-1 unless the alien has resided and been physically present outside the United States for the immediate previous year.
Blanket petition applicants will have Form I-129S, Certificate of Eligibility for Intracompany Transferee Under a Blanket Petition, in their possession.
Aliens may qualify for L visas after having worked for the company (branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate), outside the United States, for 6 months within the preceding 3 years if the company has filed a blanket L petition and has met the blanket petitions’ requirements. (Prior to Pub. L. 107-125 of January 16, 2002, the law required that a beneficiary of a Blanket L petition, within three years preceding the time of his application for admission into the United
States, had to have been employed abroad continuously for one-year by the petitioning company.)
(Revised IN 02-12)
(D) NAFTA L aliens. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a Canadian citizen may file an I-129 for an L-1 classification in conjunction with his/her application for admission at certain land border ports-of-entry and preflight inspection stations. Because of this, officers must be completely familiar with the adjudication process of an I-129 petition for L-1 benefits. The following procedure may serve as a guideline:
(1) Determine applicant to be a Canadian citizen and otherwise eligible for admission;
(2) Be sure the I-129 is completed in duplicate and signed;
(3) Determine qualifying relationship between the U.S. and Canadian entities. Very often a great volume of material is not necessary;
(4) Verify that the applicant was employed abroad by the Canadian entity in a qualifying capacity for a period of 1 year during the prior 3 years immediately preceding the date of application for admission;
(5) The job offer by the U.S. entity must place the applicant in a qualifying managerial, executive or specialized knowledge capacity. Examine supporting documentation.
Instructions for Filing I-129 Petition for Intracompany Transferee, is a good source of information concerning acceptable supporting documentation;
(6) Collect fee, place fee stamp, approval stamp, and officer signature in proper places on the
(7) Prepare I-94 multiple entry for 1 year if the alien is coming to a new office, (i.e. in business
for less than 1 year) 3 years if other than new office;
(8) Make sure alien receives the I-94, a receipt for the fee paid, Form I-9 and M-279 for initial
admission. Advise the alien that he or she will receive an I-797, Notice of Action, from the
service center; and
(9) Attach arrival copy of I-94 to “record of proceedings,” (original I-129 with supporting
documents) and forward to the Service Center that has jurisdiction over your port-of-entry.
(2) Classification: L-2 Includes spouse and children of L-1.
Documents required: Passport valid for 6 months at time of entry unless exempt. Nonimmigrant visa
(L-2) unless exempt.
Qualifications: Must have the required family relationship with the principal alien. Must be
accompanying or following to join the principal L-1. All nonimmigrant grounds of inadmissibility apply.
Terms of admission: Admit L-2, same period as principal.
Notations on I-94: Front: L-2, (date to which admitted). Reverse: Annotate the remarks section of the
CBP Inspector’s Field Manual
dependent’s I-94 with the dependent’s specific relationship to the principal and the principal’s name
(e.g., “Spouse of John Jones” or “Child of John Jones”).
(A) Employment authorization: Spouse and children may attend school without changing
status. The spouse may apply for and be issued an employment authorization document, but
the child(ren) may not work as L-2.
(B) NAFTA L dependents. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, only the
principal applicant need be a Canadian/Mexican citizen.
CBP Inspector’s Field Manual – 2008