L-1 visas are available only to employees of companies outside the U. S. that have related u. s. branches, subsidiaries, affiliates, or joint venture partners. There is also a special category for international accounting firms. For visa purposes, these terms have specific definitions.
Branches are simply different operating locations of the same company. The clearest example of this is a single international corporation that has branch offices in many countries.
In a subsidiary relationship, one company must own a controlling percentage of the other company, that is, 50% or more. For L-1 purposes, when two companies are in the same corporate or limited form, and at least 50% of the stock of a company in the U. S. is owned by a non-U. S. company, or vice versa, this is a classic subsidiary relationship.
Affiliate business relationships are more difficult to demonstrate than those of
branches or subsidiaries because there is no direct ownership between the two companies. Instead, they share the fact that both are controlled by a common third entity, either a company, group of companies, individual, or group of people.
There are two methods of ownership that will support an L-1 visa based on an affiliate relationship. The first is for one common person or business entity to own at least 50% of the non-u. s. company and 50% of the u. s. company. If no single entity owns at least 50% of both companies, the second possibility is for each owner of the non-u. s. company to also own the u. s. company, and in the same percentages. For example, if five different people each own 20% of the stock of the non-u. s. company, then the same five people must each own 20% of the u. s. company for an affiliate relationship to exist.
A joint venture exists when there is no common ownership between the two companies, but they have jointly undertaken a common business operation or project. To qualify for L-1 purposes, each company must have veto power over decisions, take an equal share of the profits, and bear the losses on an equal basis.
In a situation where both the u. s. and non-u. s. companies are in the corporate or limited form and the majority of the stock of both is publicly held, unless they are simply branches of the same company that wish to transfer employees between them, the joint venture relationship is the only one that is practical for L-1 qualifying purposes. The ownership of a publicly held company is too vast and diverse to prove any of the other types of qualifying business relationships.
L-1 visas are available to employees and partners of international accounting firms. In the case of big accounting firms, the interests between one country and another are not usually close enough to qualify as affiliates under normal L-1 visa rules. Nevertheless, the law considers the managers of such companies qualified to support L-1 visa petitions for their employees. The firm must be part of an international accounting organization with an internationally recognized name. ultimately, this option applies to a only limited number of very large and prominent firms.