As part of the U.S work visas and U.S non-immigrant visas is also the L-1 visa. The visa L-1 is differently called the Intracompany Transfer Visa. This is because if you have this type of visa, you are allowed to transfer from a company in your foreign country into its U.S branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company. You will have to take an executive or managerial position which requires specialized knowledge to get the L-1 visa. Because you transfer from one country to the other within the same company, it is called the Intracompany Transfer Visa.
The L-1 visa is not specifically made for one type of company or specific countries. All companies, from huge corporations, medium sized companies, and small start-ups are eligible to transfer their employees to the U.S as long as they have a company related to them there. In addition, all foreign nationals are eligible for this type of visa as long as they fulfill the requirements. The Visa L-1 has no cap, therefore, it can be given to everyone who is eligible and goes through the application process.
The L-1 visa is given for employment in the U.S as a result of a work transfer or promotion. If the person wants to go to the U.S to attend meetings, conferences, or similar work, they should instead apply for the B-1 visa or business visa. They will not qualify for an L-1 visa for such activities.
What are the types of L-1 visas?
Since there can be many types of intracompany transfers to the U.S, the immigration officials have divided the L-1 visa into two appropriate categories:
- L-1A Visa (Managers and Executives) – which is for intracompany transfers who will go to the U.S to take on managerial or executive positions.
- L-1B Visa (Specialized Knowledge) – which is for intracompany transfers who will go the U.S because they have some sort of specialized knowledge which is beneficial to the company development.
What are the L-1 Visa Requirements?
To be eligible for the L-1 Visa, the person applying has to fulfill the following criteria:
- Have employment in another country that is not the U.S for at least one year in the past three years
- The company where the applicant works must have a subsidiary, branch, affiliate, or parent company in the U.S
- The applicant must have specialized knowledge, or have a managerial or executive position
- The applicant must have a transfer offer to a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge position in the U.S company
- The applicant must be registered as a full-time employee; however, the applicant can work part-time in the U.S and use the rest of the time to work in their home
How to apply for the L-1 visa
The L-1 visa process is quite different from the H-1B visa application process. Whereas H-1B visa applicants need to go through the U.S Labor Department, have prevailing wage certifications, and prove that no available U.S workers can fulfill the job position, L-1 visa applicants do not need these.
So to apply for the L-1 visa, you will need to go through the following steps:
Get a transfer offer
This is the obvious logical prerequisite. Your employer who has a branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company in the U.S, must give you an intracompany transfer offer in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge position. Then you can begin your application.
Filing Form I-129
There are two ways to go about filing this form:
The employer must file a petition to the U.S for the employee to transfer to the country. The individual petition ensures that one employee applies for the L-1 visa. This includes filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and the additional L Supplement to the form to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition must be approved by USCIS in order for the employee to start their application at the U.S Embassy. When the petition is approved, the employer will get Form I-797.
L-1 Blanket Petitions
The blanket petition has been created to enable large companies to get one approval from USCIS and transfer many employees on L-1 visas to the U.S. The employer files a Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on L-1 Blanket Petition to USCIS. After it is approved, the employer gets Form I-797, which all employees who will transfer will use in their applications.
The blanket petition is valid for 3 years, and can be extended as many times as the employer needs. However, if the petition expires, then the employer cannot file a new blanket petition for another 3 years, but is allowed to file individual petitions.
Besides these two differences in the application process, all other steps remain the same for all L-1 visa applicants, whether they have an individual or blanket petition.
Employer must pay the fees
To be eligible for an L-1 visa, your employer must pay certain fees to USCIS. These fees are as follows:
- Form I-129 filing fee – $460
- Employers with 25 or less full time employees in the U.S must pay the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) – $750
- Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee – $500
- Employers with 50 or more employees in the U.S on an H-1B or L-1 visa – $4,000
- Premium processing from USCIS – $1,225
File Form DS-160
Form DS-160 is required for most visa applications, including the L-1 visa. The form is found online and requires applicants to submit the necessary information about their intent to go to the U.S, their purpose, and other details that will help the U.S Embassy make a decision. After you have submitted the DS-160, you will get a confirmation page and number, which you need to keep for later on.
Pay the application fee
The application fee for the L-1 visa is $190. You must pay this fee in order for your application to be processed further. Besides this, you might be required to pay additional fees based on your home country or reciprocity measures with the U.S. Nevertheless, after you pay all fees, get the receipts which you will attach to your documents.
Schedule your interview
To get the L-1 visa, you must conduct an interview with the officials of the U.S Embassy that you are applying from. If you are over 13 and under 79 years old, you must schedule an interview. Try to do this as soon as possible, since the Embassies are busy and it might take a while for them to get to your turn. When you schedule your interview, you will get a visa interview appointment letter.
Submit your documents
You must have a file with the following documents to submit for your application to be considered:
- A valid passport for an additional 6 months after your visa ends
- A photograph meeting the US visa Photography Requirements
- The DS-160 confirmation page and code
- The receipts that you have paid all fees
- The visa interview appointment letter
- For individual petitions:
- Form I-129 and one copy
- Form I-797
- For blanket petitions
- Form I-129S and two copies
- Three copies of Form I-797
- Letter from employer confirming your transfer and your job description
- Proof that you have worked with the employer for at least 1 year in the past 3 years
- Letters from previous employers and contact information for your supervisors
- Contact information from 2 coworkers from your current and previous job positions
- Photographs of the inside and outside of your place of work
- Your CV or resume
Attend your interview
Your interview in an integral part of your application. You will be interviewed by an official from the U.S Embassy you applied to. The official will try to gauge your intentions for travelling to the U.S, and wants you to prove that your transfer is true and that you will be working in the U.S. If your interview goes well, your visa will be processed and you can go and get your passport stamped.
What is the L-1 Visa Processing Time?
The L-1 visa does not take too long to process. Individual petitions however, take a bit longer than blanket petitions, but the reduction in time is very small. In general, an L-1 visa is processed for around 3 to 4 months from the time the application was submitted.
Since there is an option for premium processing, employers who pay it can get the answer to whether their petition is approved or denied in 1 to 3 weeks.
How long is the L-1 visa valid?
When your employer files the Form I-129, they also determine the length of the contract. When your visa is approved, that is the length of time you will be allowed to work in the U.S. That time is also specified on your Form I-94 that you will receive upon entry to the U.S.
When this period of time is close to expiration, your employer can file for an extension. If the extension is approved, you will be able to stay in the U.S for longer.
There is however a maximum duration of time that you can stay in the U.S on an L-1 visa. This depends on the type of L-1 visa that you have. If you have an L-1A visa, you are allowed to work in the U.S for a maximum of 7 years, while with an L-1B visa, you can stay up to 5 years. When your maximum time is up, you can explore other options, which can also lead to a permanent stay in the U.S.
L-1 Visa to Green Card
Luckily, similar to the H-1B visa, the L-1 visa is also of dual intent. This means that L-1 visa applicants do not necessarily have to prove that they will return to their home country once their contracts end. They don’t have to prove any ties to home, and they are allowed to apply for a Green Card.
Applications for a Green Card can be done by filing Form I-40, adjustment of status, through employment, family unions, or other methods. Since some L-1 visa holders have specialized knowledge, they could also apply as priority workers for the Green Card, and could end up obtaining it within 1 year. So, in other words, if a L-1 visa applicant states that they have immigration intent to the U.S, it will not affect or penalize their application.
L-1 Visa Dependents
L-1 visa holders are allowed to have their dependents accompany them to the U.S where they are working. Dependents include the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old. These dependents must get an L-2 visa to be allowed to into the U.S to join the person with the L-1 visa.
The L-2 visa allows dependents to get a driver’s license, open a bank account, as well as engage in activities such as enrolling in a university to get a degree, as well as get employment by obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).