The L1 Visa is a US temporary work visa that allows you to transfer from a company in your foreign country into its US branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company. You will have to take an executive or managerial position which requires specialized knowledge to get the L1 visa. It is also known as the Intra Company Transferee visa.
The L1 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 US as long as they have a company related to them there.
Do I qualify for the L1 Visa?
To be eligible for the L1 Visa, the person applying has to fulfill the following criteria:
- Have employment in another country that is not the US for at least one year in the past three years.
- Have specialized knowledge, or have a managerial or executive position.
- Have a transfer offer to a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge position in the US company.
- Be registered as a full-time employee; however, the applicant can work part-time in the US and use the rest of the time to work in their home.
- The company where the applicant works must have a subsidiary, branch, affiliate, or parent company in the US.
The Intra Company Transferee visa has no cap, therefore, it can be given to everyone who is eligible and goes through the application process. In addition, all foreign nationals are eligible for this type of visa as long as they fulfill the requirements.
What are the Types of L1 visas?
There are two types of L1 Visas:
- L1A Visa – L1 visa for Managers and Executives.
- L1B Visa – L1 visa for Specialized Knowledge staff.
Who Can Obtain the L1A Visa?
What should be the duties of a Manager to qualify for a L1 Visa?
A manager must perform the following duties to claim that title:
- Has the authority to hire and fire employees accordingly if there is no other supervisor of that function. If there is a human resource supervisor, the manager has the authority to recommend people for hiring or for firing them.
- Is in charge of the whole company or a division of it.
- Has control over the supervisors and lower level employees of the organization or the division which the manager heads.
A supervisor who sees day to day operations and has another supervisor to whom he or she reports to, cannot state that they are a manager. This person would be considered as staff of the company, since they have no decision making power and must ask for approval from their superior.
Managers must have e certain degree of control and power over the company and its decisions to be able to qualify for an L1A visa for transferring to the US. An example of a manager could be the Head of the Marketing Department, or the Head of Operations of a company.
Who is considered an Executive?
As for an executive, these duties fall under that job position:
- Is supervised only by stakeholders or a board of directors and no others
- Makes policy rules and regulations for the company
- Has the ultimate decision making power regarding the company, besides the stakeholders and the board of directors
If the person must report and is supervised directly by another person, with the exception of stakeholders and the board of directors, then they do not meet the criteria of being an executive. An executive must be monitored at a very low degree. An example of an executive is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a company.
Who Can Obtain the L-1B Visa?
The L-1B visa is directed towards those individuals who have specialized knowledge within a company.
Specialized knowledge professionals are those who are key employees within a company. They possess extraordinary and inimitable knowledge over the company’s products or services. This knowledge is difficult to transfer to another person and would take time as well as resources. The person with the specialized knowledge has gained this knowledge through years of experience within the company and so without them, the company’s products or services would not be of the same quality.
There are many industries that can claim specialized knowledge personnel to be eligible for L-1B visa transfers, such as:
- Surgeons and physicians in hospitals.
The L-1B visa is thus given to people whose company can prove that they are indispensable to company functions.
How to Apply for the L1 Visa?
The L1 visa process is quite different from the H-1B visa application process. Whereas H-1B visa applicants need to go through the US Labor Department, have prevailing wage certifications, and prove that no available US workers can fulfill the job position, L1 visa applicants do not need these. Read more on the differences between L1 and H1b visas.
So to apply for the L1 visa, you will need to go through the following steps:
- Get a transfer offer.
- Filing Form I-129.
- Employer must pay the fees.
- File Form DS-160.
- Pay the L1 visa application fee.
- Schedule your L1 visa interview.
- Submit your L1 visa documents.
- Attend your interview.
Get a transfer offer
This is the obvious logical prerequisite. Your employer who has a branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company in the US, 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 US for the employee to transfer to the country. The individual petition ensures that one employee applies for the L1 visa. This includes filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and the additional L Supplement to the form to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition must be approved by USCIS in order for the employee to start their application at the US Embassy. When the petition is approved, the employer will get Form I-797.
L1 Blanket Petitions
The blanket petition has been created to enable large companies to get one approval from USCIS and transfer many employees on L1 visas to the US.
To do this, they must fulfill the following requirements:
- The organization must be in the commercial trade or service business.
- The organization must have an office in the US for one or more years.
- The organization in the foreign country and their affiliates in the US must have obtained 10 L1 approvals in the past 12 months.
- The organization in the foreign country and the affiliates in the US must have combined annual sales of at least $25 million or have at least 1,000 employees in the US.
The employer files a Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on L1 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 L1 visa applicants, whether they have an individual or blanket petition.
File Form DS-160
Form DS-160 is required for most visa applications, including the L1 visa. The form is found online and requires applicants to submit the necessary information about their intent to go to the US, their purpose, and other details that will help the US 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 L1 visa application fee
The application fee for the L1 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 US. Nevertheless, after you pay all fees, get the receipts which you will attach to your documents.
Schedule your L1 visa interview
To get the L1 visa, you must conduct an interview with the officials of the US 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 L1 visa documents
You must have a file with the above-mentioned documents to submit for your application to be considered.
To apply for an L1 Visa, you must submit the following documents:
- 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 L1 visa fees.
- The L1 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 US Embassy you applied to. The official will try to gauge your intentions for travelling to the US, and wants you to prove that your transfer is true and that you will be working in the US. If your interview goes well, your visa will be processed and you can go and get your passport stamped.
What Kind of Questions Will there be on the L-1A visa Interview?
The L-1A visa interview questions will revolve around trying to see whether you meet the requirements for this visa and whether your job position falls under the managerial and executive ones. If you pass
the interview successfully, you will wait for the processing time and get the visa stamped on your passport.
What Questions Will I Answer on the L-1B Visa Interview?
The official conducting it will ask you L-1B visa interview questions regarding your place of work, your specialized knowledge, and why your knowledge is so important to the company. It is best to answer questions as fully as possible to avoid any incomplete information. After the interview, you will have to wait for the processing time and if you are approved, send your passport in for stamping.
What is the L1 Visa Processing Time?
The L1 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 L1 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 L1 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 US. That time is also specified on your Form I-94 that you will receive upon entry to the US.
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 US for longer.
There is however a maximum duration of time that you can stay in the US on an L1 visa. This depends on the type of L1 visa that you have. If you have an L1A visa, you are allowed to work in the US for a maximum of 7 years, while with an L1B 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 US.
Can I Extend my L1A Visa?
If the requirements for extensions are fulfilled, USCIS will grant the L1A visa status for an additional 2 years. USCIS allows two extensions for L1A visas, which means that you can extend your period of stay in the US for another 4 years. Based on this, the maximum amount of time you can to stay in the US with an L1A visa is 7 years. After that, you will either have to go back to your home country or seek other permanent solutions to staying in the US.
Can My L-1B Visa be Extended?
In case you show professionalism and do not breach your work contract or visa rules, your employer might want to extend your L-1B visa. The employer can file for an extension only once, and the period of validity will go on for another 2 years for your L-1B visa. This means that in total, the maximum validity period for this visa is 5 years. After that, you will want to look into more permanent residence options if you decide you want to stay in the U.S.
L1 Visa to Green Card
Luckily, similar to the H-1B visa, the L1 visa is also of dual intent. This means that L1 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 L1 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 L1 visa applicant states that they have immigration intent to the US, it will not affect or penalize their application.
L1 Visa Dependents
L1 visa holders are allowed to have their dependents accompany them to the US where they are working. Dependents include the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old. These dependents must get an L2 visa to be allowed to into the US to join the person with the L1 visa.
The L2 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).
How Many L-1B Visa Employees Can there be in a Company?
It is not specified how many people can be such key employees within a company. The company itself must be able to distinguish between employees who are vital to the company function and those who serve to only produce the products or services. Therefore, the company can claim many employees are key to the company and ask for transfers to the U.S; however, they must prove that the knowledge that the person has cannot be found in other employees or outside workers.