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L-1 VISA

An L-1 work visa, also known as an intracompany transferee visa, is a temporary work visa available to international companies needing to bring their foreign employees to the US to continue employment at its US sister entity or establish a new US office.

Requirements

One of the general L-1 work visa requirements is that the foreign national employee cannot self-petition. The company must petition for the L-1 worker. However, this requirement does not preclude business owners to apply for an L-1 work visa so long as they meet all other L-1 visa regulations.

The following are seven key L-1 work visa requirements.

  1. The foreign employee applying for the L-1 nonimmigrant work visa must have worked at the foreign sister company for one year full-time in the last three years before the application.
  2. The applicant must be coming to the US as an employee of a US company.
  3. While the L-1 visa does not necessarily depend upon the amount or existence of salary, the source of the salary should be the US company. The L1 employment must be controlled by the US entity and not a foreign company.
  4. The foreign company must be related to the US company in a specific manner. For example, the company abroad for which the employee worked must be the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate of the US company. Examples include branch office, parent-subsidiary relationship, joint ventures, and partnership.
  5. Both the US and foreign companies must stay active and continue to do business – regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods or services.
  6. The foreign worker must be coming to the US in the capacity of a manager or executive (L-1A) or a specialized knowledge employee (L-1B). This also means that the foreign employee must have been employed in the managerial or executive capacity or have worked in a specialized knowledge capacity abroad.

L-1A Managerial capacity:

  1. Manages the organization, department, subdivision, function, or component;
  2. Supervises and controls the work of other professionals or managers; manages an essential function within the organization or department;
  3. Authority to fire or hire; recommend personnel action; function at a senior level; and
  4. Exercise discretion over day-to-day operations.

L-1A Executive capacity:

  1. Directs the management of the organization or major component or function;
  2. Establishes goals and policies;
  3. Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision making; and
  4. Receives only general supervision or direction from higher-level executives, board of directors, or stockholders.

L-1B Specialized knowledge employee:

L-1B specialized knowledge employee has a unique knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.

  1. Nature/Size of company:

The foreign and US companies do not have to be in the same business or be the same size. Furthermore, there are no specific L1 visa requirements for the company’s size. However, the smaller the companies, especially the US entity, the harder it may be to prove a need for an L-1A or L-1B work visa employee.

L-1 Work Visa for New Offices

Special rules apply when a foreign manager or top executive needs to come to the US to manage a new US office. To successfully apply for an L-1 work visa for a new office, you must show that the new office will be able to sustain a manager or executive within one year of the L-1 visa approval.

For a strong L-1 visa application, the employer will typically need to submit statements showing:

  • Proposed nature of the office, scope of the entity, organizational structure, its financial goals
  • The size of the US investment and the financial ability of the foreign entity to pay the beneficiary and commence business in the US
  • The organizational structure of the foreign entity
  • It will be important to show that the US entity will support a manager or executive position in 1 year. This means that even if the L-1 visa holder first does everything themselves and the operation stays small, the L-1 visa holder will eventually oversee subordinates who will be managers performing administrative and day-to-day tasks. In contrast, the L-1 visa holder will resume his or her executive/managerial duties.

L1 status

The term “visa” refers to the visa stamp you receive in your passport, while “status” refers to your formal immigration classification in the U.S. The status is indicated on the visa holder’s I-94 record.

Therefore, an L1 work visa is a document used to enter the United States for the purpose of working in L1 status.

L1 work visa is a nonimmigrant visa and is valid for a specified time. While the L1 work visa is a document that allows you to enter the U.S., the L1 status is the length of time you are allowed to remain in the United States.

Except for a new office scenario, which allows a maximum L1 stay of one year, qualified L1 employees are allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. After that, requests for extensions may be granted in up to two-year increments. L-1A work visas allow a maximum stay of 7 years. L-1B work visas allow a maximum stay of 5 years.

Application process

There are four components to the L-1 application process. Please note that the L-1 application process differs for Canadian citizens who can submit their L-1 applications at the ports of entry or preclearance airports under NAFTA.

The four components of the L-1 application will include USCIS forms, a company letter, supporting documentation, and filing fees.

The USCIS forms will typically include application Form I-129 and L Supplement, Form G-28 (notice of Attorney appearance), and Form I-907 (if requesting premium processing).

Government filling fees will consist of the $460 fee for the I-129 petition (required), $500 anti-fraud fee (if applicable), and $4,500 Pub. L. No. 114-113 fee (if applicable). If your employer requested premium processing, then the additional premium processing fee of $2,500 must also be included.

All forms, documents, and filing fees must be submitted to the correct USCIS processing center.

After obtaining an L-1 approval notice from USCIS, the employee can obtain an L-1 visa to enter the United States.

Processing time

The processing time of the L1 petition can vary between 1 to 7 months, depending on the USCIS processing center’s backlog handling the petition.

According to the April 2022 USCIS instructions, L-1A, L-1B, and Blanket L-1 petitions are accepted at the California and Texas Service Centers. You must refer to the USCIS chart to determine which center is appropriate.

You also have the choice of requesting premium processing of the L-1 petition for an additional government filing fee of $2,500. With premium processing, the adjudication of the L-1 petition takes 15 days.

NOTE: Canadian citizens may present the completed Form I-129 and supporting documentation to a U.S. CBP officer at certain ports of entry on the U.S.-Canada land border or at the U.S. pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station in Canada in connection with an application for admission to the United States in L-1 status.

L1 blanket petition

The government has provided special procedures for frequent L-1 user companies or large multinational organizations – L1 blanket petitions. The result of these special procedures is that the company needs only receive one L1 approval from USCIS for all managerial and executive transfers and transfers involving professionals who have specialized knowledge during an initial three-year period. That period can be converted into approval of indefinite duration upon making an extension request at the end of the first three years.

*Important distinction for transfer under the L1 blanket petition program applies to L-1B applicants. Only professional-level L-1B workers are eligible for this program. Specialized knowledge employees who are not professionals cannot be transferred under the L1 blanket petition program.

For the company to qualify for the L1 blanket petition program, it must meet the following qualifications:

  • all qualifying organizations within the international structure of the petitioner must be engaged in commercial trade or service
  • the petitioner must have an office in the U.S. that has been doing business for at least one year (no new office situations)
  • the petitioner must have at least three domestic or foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates
  • among all of the qualifying organizations within the petitioner’s organization, one of the following must be present:
    • at least 10 L-1 approvals in the past year for executives, managers, or professionals with specialized knowledge, or
    • U.S. sales of at least $25 Million, or
    • U.S. workforce of at least 1,000 employees

Extension

L-1 intracompany transferees can usually remain in the U.S. or travel in and out of the U.S. for an initial period of three years.

The initial permissible period of stay for L-1 visa holders coming to the U.S. to open a new office is one year. Extensions are possible after the first year if the U.S. business has commenced operations and the company continues to do business in the U.S. and abroad.

Extensions of stay up to a total of stay of 7 years can be obtained for L-1A executives and managers, while extensions of stay for specialized knowledge personnel are limited to 5 years.

Extensions can be granted in two-year increments.

Important considerations affecting L-1 renewals and extensions

Changing L-1B to L-1A:

Important considerations apply to L-1B personnel that began performing executive or managerial duties (properly documented with USCIS), in which case the L-1B employee may be able to extend their status to 7 years with a properly filed amended L-1 petition.

Combining H-1B and L-1 period of stay:

Furthermore, USCIS will combine periods of stay in the H and L categories in determining whether the 5/7 year limitation has been reached. For example, an individual was present in the U.S. for 2 years immediately before changing their status L-1B status. Once the individual reaches the 3-year L-1 stay, he or she will be unable to extend their L-1B status for another 2 years because their combined H and L stay in the U.S. is 5 years.

Recapture of unused L-1 periods:

Recapture of unused L-1 periods is another way to extend the maximum L1 stay. L-1 workers (and their spouses and minor children) are eligible to recapture days spent outside of the U.S. and extend their L-1 status by the same amount of time.

Residing abroad and commuting to the U.S. for part-time L-1 employment:

Individuals may not be subject to the 5/7-year limitation on approval of L-1 petitions if they do not reside in the U.S. continually but instead engage in U.S. employment on a seasonal or intermittent basis for less than six months per year. Or if the L-1 employee resides abroad and commutes to the U.S. to engage in part-time employment.

Visa for spouse

Family members of the L-1 nonimmigrant are entitled to receive an L-2 visa. The spouse of the principal L1 visa holder and minor children under 21 are eligible for the L-2 visa.

Spouses are allowed to study and work while in the L-2 status. On the other hand, children are allowed study but not allowed to work.

In the past, to obtain employment authorization, L2 spouses were required to apply for an employment authorization document separately. However, USCIS recently updated its guidance to address the documentation L2 spouses may use as evidence of employment authorization. As a result, as of January 30, 2022, USCIS and CBP began issuing Forms I-94 with “L-2S” codes reflecting acceptable evidence of employment authorization.

If you are an L spouse age 21 or over who has an unexpired Form I-94 that USCIS issued before January 30, 2022, USCIS will mail you a notice beginning on or about April 1, 2022. This notice, along with an unexpired Form I-94 reflecting L-2 nonimmigrant status, will prove employment authorization. If you are an L spouse and under 21, or if you have not received your notice by April 30, email [email protected] to request a notice.

Attorney’s fees

L-1 visa attorney’s fee will depend on the services attorney is providing to you and the level of their expertise. The attorney’s fee may also depend on whether this is a brand new L1 petition, L1 extension, or an L1 application for a new US office.

Business plan

An L-1 visa business plan is one of the supporting documents for an L-1 work visa application. A business plan is also necessary for a foreign enterprise that is opening a new U.S. office and needs to transfer one of its foreign employees to work at the new U.S. company.

A solid L1 business plan should be concise but clearly explain the nature of the business, provide a parent company description, industry and market analysis, personnel plan, and financial projections.

Interview questions

L-1 interview questions will typically focus on your personal background information from form DS-160 and work-related questions.

The work-related questions can focus on your current and proposed U.S. employment.

Questions regarding current employment can include:

  • what is the address of your current job?
  • how long have you been working with your current company?
  • what is your specific role with your current employer?
  • what are your job duties and responsibilities?
  • how much total experience do you have?
  • what training did you undergo for your current job?

Questions regarding proposed employment can include:

  • what does the U.S. company do?
  • who are the company’s clients, and what do they do?
  • what type of work will you be performing in the U.S.?
  • what will your duties be?
  • what will your job obligations be?
  • who is going to manage/supervise your job?
  • is your manager/supervisor stationed in the U.S.?
  • why do you need to travel to the U.S.?
  • can you not perform your duties abroad? why not?
  • how will the company and/or its clients benefit from your presence in the U.S.?

The L-1 visa interview questions can also focus on the specific L-1A or L-1B qualifications. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the petition and supporting documents submitted to USCIS.

L-1 visa to green card

If you currently hold an L-1 work visa but are looking to remain in the United States permanently, you may be able to transition from the L-1 visa to a Green Card based on your employment. In addition, of course, family-based immigration may be a viable immigration option as well.

The availability of the L-1 visa to green card prospects will depend on whether you are in an L-1A or L-1B status.

L-1A visa to Green Card:

L-1A visa holders may qualify for an EB-1C employment-based green card for multinational executives and managers. EB-1C requirements are somewhat similar to the L-1A requirements.

To qualify for EB-1C green card:

  1. The applicant has been employed abroad for one year in the previous three years before entry into the United States by the parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the U.S. employer;
  2. The employment abroad was in a managerial or executive role;
  3. The qualifying foreign entity must continue to do business and have the requisite qualifying relationship with the U.S. employer at the time the I-140 immigrant petition is filed;
  4. The intended position with the U.S. employer must be in a managerial or executive capacity; and
  5. The U.S. employer must have been doing business for at least one year and have the ability to pay the applicant’s salary.

Please note that being in L-1A status is not a prerequisite, so long as you independently meet the EB-1C green card requirements. However, L-1A visa holders often qualify for EB1C green cards.

L-1A visa holders may also qualify for other employment-based green cards. For a more thorough review of those options, please refer to our blog.

L-1B visa to Green Card:

Normally, EB-1C is not a green card L-1B employees can qualify for. However, L1B applicants may have other green card options. Applicants with L-1B status will have to go through the EB-2 or EB-3 PERM Labor Certification process unless they are eligible to apply under EB-1A Extraordinary Ability, EB-1B Outstanding Researchers and Professors, or EB-2 National Interest Waiver.

Lawyer

Every L-1 case has its own set of facts and circumstances. Our L-1 visa lawyer can help you to determine your L-1 visa eligibility, discuss the necessary documents, prepare the entire L-1 application, and submit it to the proper agencies. Contact our office to schedule your consultation with our L-1 visa lawyer today.

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