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How intra-company transfers can lead to a career abroad

How intra-company transfers can lead to a career abroad

Dreaming of working overseas, but finding the process of getting a job (plus work permit) daunting?

An intra-company transfer might just be the answer. This pathway allows employees to work in a different branch of their existing company in another country, leveraging special visa programs designed to smoothly facilitate such moves.

In the following article, we’ll explain precisely:

  • what intra-company transfers are
  • how they can simplify your journey to an international career
  • the typical job types eligible for these permits
  • how it works in two top destination countries
  • our top tips to make yourself a prime candidate for these opportunities

Intra-company transfer 101

Firstly, the basics.

An intra-company transfer (ICT) is when a company relocates an employee to one of its offices in another country.

This type of transfer is especially advantageous for multinational companies, because it allows them to leverage existing talent across different regions, ensuring familiarity, consistency, and expertise.

For employees, it’s an amazing chance to gain international experience without changing employers.

You still need a work permit. But transferring with your existing company makes this a whole lot smoother (yay!). That’s because in many countries, there’s a specific category of work permit for this particular job move (double yay!).

Not only that, these are usually more straightforward to obtain than general work permits. Top destinations that attract transferring employees include the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany.

The process is similar in most cases, although the conditions may vary. We’ll take a look at two examples in a few moments.

The great news is, your employer typically handles much of the paperwork and bureaucracy involved in the transfer (which is a huge advantage). This support can significantly reduce the complexity and stress of the relocation process.

Plus, since you’re transferring within the same company, you have a level of job security and stability that might be harder to achieve if starting anew with a different company abroad.

How do intra-company transfer visas work in the USA and UK?

Let’s take a look at two examples.

As mentioned, the UK and USA are two of the top intra-company transfer visa destinations. As they are global hubs for multinational corporations, this means they attract top talent seeking amazing career progression opportunities abroad.

In most cases, it can take a few months before a final decision is made (some countries offer a premium service which speeds this up). But you can speed this up somewhat by understanding that country’s requirements and ensuring you have as much paperwork as possible prepared in advance.


In the US, the L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies to transfer employees in managerial positions or those with specialized knowledge to their US offices. There are two types of L-1 visa: the L-1A for managers and executives, and the L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge. Some jobs that may qualify for these visas include Operations Manager, Financial Analyst, Marketing Manager, IT Specialist, C-Suite, Software Engineer, and Project Manager.

To be eligible, you must have worked for your company for at least 1 year within the past 3 years and be coming to the US to continue working in a managerial or specialized knowledge capacity.

To apply, your employer files Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker) on your behalf. It can be done online. Supporting documents include (amongst others) a supporting letter from the employer, proof of relationship between the company’s offices, evidence of your employment at home (e.g. pay stubs), and proof of qualifications.

Once approved, you apply for the L-1 visa through a US embassy or consulate in your home country.


In the UK, it’s called a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa. This is for employees of multinational companies who are being transferred to the UK branch of their organization. The main subcategories are Long-Term Staff, which is for transfers lasting more than 12 months, and Graduate Trainee (unlike the US L-1 visa), for those in graduate programs.

To be eligible, you must have worked for your employer outside the UK for at least 12 months, unless you’re a high earner or a graduate trainee. Your employer must hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.

The Tier 2 ICT visa can be applied for online. You’ll need to provide supporting documents such as your Certificate of Sponsorship reference number, proof of employment, and financial documents.

How to find out about intra-company transfer opportunities

Your company’s internal careers portal is often the first step to identifying current opportunities (or to start gauging the typical hires your destination office/s are looking for).

Depending upon the careers portal set up, you may be able to see all internal hires globally. If not, then you may have to head to the careers page on that country’s external website.

Next, check if that job type is eligible for an intra-company transfer visa by reviewing the current conditions for that country (there is usually a dedicated website for immigration-related matters).

Then, confidentially approach the hiring manger in your target office to enquire about the possibility of being sponsored for an intra-company transfer visa. Send them a copy of your resume plus a link to their government’s immigration portal where the ICT visa conditions are outlined (it’s helpful to do this at the beginning, as not all hiring mangers are aware of this type of visa).

If they indicate interest, the next step is to approach your current line manager. When both sides tentatively agree to proceed, HR will take over the process from there.

Tips to enhance your chances for an intra-company transfer

If the idea of an intra-company transfer appeals to you, great! Now, the next step is to put yourself in a position (pun intended) where your skills and expertise place you head-and-heels above external hires.

#1 Focus on gaining specialized skills or managerial experience that are valued by your employer and are essential for the roles typically transferred internationally

#2 Build strong networking relationships within your company, especially with key decision-makers who can support your transfer request

#3 Make your career goals known to your supervisors and HR department. Expressing your interest in an international assignment early can put you on the radar for future opportunities (and you won’t surprise them with the announcement later)

#4 Being flexible about potential destinations and roles can increase your chances of selection for a transfer

#5 Be patient and prepare thoroughly. Find out in advance what documentation you might need for the process (e.g. copies of your qualifications), and gather anything possible in advance to help HR navigate the visa application process smoothly


There’s no doubt about it: intra-company transfers offer a viable and often simpler route to gaining international work experience in virtually any location that your company is located.

These opportunities are also important to bear in mind when applying for a job locally: if your ambition is to work abroad, then joining a company with offices in your dream destination is a very smart move.

By understanding the visa options, eligible job types, processes, and potential challenges, you can better prepare yourself for such opportunities when they appear.

Key Takeaways

  • Intra-company transfers simplify the opportunity to work abroad by offering a streamlined visa process, employer support, and job security
  • Common visas include the L-1 in the US and Tier 2 ICT in the UK
  • Typical job types for these types of visas include managerial roles, specialized knowledge positions, and graduate trainee programs
  • Enhance your skills, network within your company, and prepare thoroughly in advance to increase your chances of a successful transfer
  • By leveraging these opportunities, you can expand your horizons and gain valuable global experience while continuing your career with your current employer

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