The L1 visa allows foreign businesses to transfer certain employees to a US branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate company in the U.S. The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign companies to transfer a manager, executive, or person with specialized knowledge to a US company. The US company must be a branch office, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company.
How does the L-1 Visa work?
The employee that is transferred must work for the US company as a manager, executive, or person with specialized knowledge.
Two Types of L-1 Visas
If the employee will work as a manager or an executive, the visa is specifically called an L1A visa. If the employee will work as a person with specialized knowledge, the visa is specifically called an L1B visa.
The L1 Visa allows holders to live and work in the United States for:
- 7 years if the employee holds an L1A Visa
- 5 years if the employee holds an L1B Visa
The L-1 Visa is also a dual intent visa.
What is dual intent?
A dual-intent visa means that you may have the intent to temporarily remain in the United States and also have the intent to possibly immigrate to the United States and become a lawful permanent resident in the future.
How can I apply for the L-1 Visa?
The L1 visa is not eligible for self-petition. The US company must file the petition on the employee’s behalf. Therefore, the US company is considered the petitioner, and the L1 visa recipient is considered the beneficiary.
Therefore, to apply, the Employer must submit Form I-129. Once I-129 is approved, you are eligible to apply for an L1 visa at the embassy/consulate in your home country or via a change of status.
If you are a citizen of Canada, you may apply for your L1 directly at a US port of entry.
What are the requirements of the L-1 Visa?
- There must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company.
- The employee coming to work in the US must have been continuously employed full-time by the foreign company for at least 1 year within the last 3 years before filing the L1 petition.
- The employment with the foreign company must have been in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
- The employee’s work for the US company must be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
A qualifying relationship MUST exist between the foreign company and the US company, meaning it must be a:
- Branch Office
There must also be a qualifying relationship between the US company and a foreign company throughout the duration of the L1 beneficiary’s stay in the US.
Requirement to Demonstrate Support of Managerial or Executive Position
You must also show that the US company will support a managerial or executive position within 1 year of approval of the beneficiary’s L1 petition.
Unlike with existing offices, USCIS acknowledges that as a manager or executive for a new office, you are more likely to engage in the day-to-day operations of the business.
Rather than requiring that you primarily engage in managerial/executive tasks immediately, USCIS gives a period of 1 year for the beneficiary to show that the US company will support a managerial position.
You can demonstrate the US company will support a managerial position through various forms of evidence including a business plan that will discuss the projections of the new office; information regarding the nature of the office describing the scope of the business, its organizational structure, ad its financial goals; the size of the investment in the US business and the financial ability of the foreign company to pay for your services and to begin operations in the US; and the organizational structure of the foreign company.
Can the L-1 Visa be extended?
- The L1A for managers and executives is initially issued for a period of 3 years.
- The L1A is eligible to be extended 2 separate times for a period of 2 years on each extension.
- You can stay in the US for a total of 7 years through L1A
- The L1B for specialized knowledge workers is initially issued for a period of 2 years.
- The L1B is eligible to be extended 2 separate times for a period of 1 year on each extension.
- You can stay in the US for a total of 5 years through L1B
New Offices for L1 Visa & Extensions
- Unlike with existing offices, the initial status granted for a new office L1 is 1 year.
- Before the expiration of the first year, to remain in valid L1 status, you are required to file an extension. For your extension to get approved, you must demonstrate that the US company now supports a managerial position. The foreign company that you worked for much continue to operate and must maintain a qualifying relationship with the US company.
L-1 Blanket Visa
The L1 blanket visa certification is for employers who frequently rely on the L1 visa to transfer foreign workers. By getting an L1 blanket visa approval, L1 employees are eligible to apply for their L1 visa directly at the consulate without having to get their I-129 approved first.
Who is eligible for an L-1 Blanket Visa?
In order to qualify for L1 blanket certification:
- The US company and all parents, subsidiaries, and other qualifying organizations must be engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The US company must have an office in the US that has been doing business for one year or more;
- The US company must have 3 or more domestic and foreign branch, subsidiaries, or affiliates; And the US company and all other qualifying organizations must: 1. have obtained approval of petitions for at least 10 L1 workers within the last year; or 2. must have US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or 3. have a US work force of at least 1,000 employees. [Code of Federal Regulations Section 214.2(l)]
What are the Advantages of the L-1 Visa?
No Wage Requirement
For employers, an advantage of the L-1 Visa is that there is no set wage requirement. Unlike the E-3 or H-1B visas that require you pay your employee a wage that is commensurate with their position, job title and location, the L-1 Visa does not have this requirement. However, please note that as a US employer you still need to remain compliant with state and federal minimum wage laws.
An approved L1 visa beneficiary can bring their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old to the United States under L2 dependent status. The spouse can obtain employment authorization to work in the U.S. and the children can attend school.
The L1 visa is eligible for premium processing. USCIS will expedite the processing of your L1 petition for an additional fee of $2,500. If you select premium processing, USCIS will issue a response within 15 business days.
No cap on L-1 Visas
Unlike other visas, such as the H-1B visa, there is no annual limit to the number of L-1 visas issued.
Please note: The L1 visa is highly complex. In recent years, USCIS has become much more strict and critical over L1 petitions, based on widespread abuse. In order to give yourself the best chance of getting your L1 visa approved, you should consult with an immigration lawyer as early as possible. Your immigration lawyer will assist you from start to finish and will help you implement the best course of action.