The L-1 visa or the Intracompany Transfer Visa is a U.S non-immigrant visa which allows employees to transfer from one country to the U.S while they are employed by the same company. The company you work for must have a branch, affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company in the U.S. The conditions to transfer are many, but the most important one is that the employee must be transferring to work in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge position.
Within the L-1 Visa, because of those work positions that employees can take, there are two sub-categories of visas:
- L-1A Visa for managers and executives
- L-1B Visa for specialized knowledge job positions
This article will focus on the details of the L-1A visa, what it is, who qualified for it, its requirements and application process, as well as what it allows its holders to do for permanent stay in the U.S.
What is the L-1A Visa?
The L-1A visa is for intracompany transfer employees who will be going to the U.S to work for the same company in a position that is managerial or executive. To understand whether you qualify for this type of visa or not, you and the company you work for have to align the definitions of what an executive or managerial position is with that of the U.S government or immigration services.
The U.S immigration services state that it is not enough for someone to just be promoted and claim the title of the position of a manager or executive. Their job description must also change to reflect the employees’ new positions. This means that the company must submit job descriptions of the person’s position and duties to the relevant authorities when you apply for the visa. U.S immigration authorities will check the job description and duties and will decide whether you qualify to be called a manager or executive.
According to them, 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 L-1A visa for transferring to the U.S. An example of a manager could be the Head of the Marketing Department, or the Head of Operations of a company.
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.
What are the requirements of the L-1A visa?
There are few requirements when it comes to getting an L-1A visa. They can be stricter in various countries, but in general these are the ones that USCIS and the U.S Embassy will look at.
- You must be employed in another country other than the U.S for at least one year in the past three years.
- The company you work for must have a company affiliated to them in the U.S
- You as the applicant must be offered a position at the affiliate company in the U.S as a manager or executive
- You must commit to either working as full time or part time in the company
How to apply for the L-1A Visa?
The application process for the L-1A visa follows similar patterns to applying for other U.S work visas. These are the steps that employers and applicants need to take to get the L-1A visa.
Get a transfer offer
The employee must be eligible under the requirements of the L-1A visa and have an open offer to transfer to a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch of the company they are working in now. In addition, the employee must be offered a managerial or an executive position in the U.S.
Employer must file form I-129
Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker is required for all workers who want to start employment in the U.S. It must be filed by the employer to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Form I-129 cannot be filed by the employee.
For the L-1A visa, there are two ways that employers can file the form:
Individual petitions mean that the employer wants to transfer one employee from the company in a foreign country to the U.S affiliate. They must then file Form I-129 together with the L Supplement to USCIS and wait for approval. If the petition is approved, the employer will get Form I-797 from USCIS. Form I-797 is then used by the employee for application to the U.S Embassy.
L-1 Blanket Petitions
Since companies might want to transfer more than one employee to the U.S, USCIS has created L blanket petitions. The L-1A blanket petition allows companies to get approval for one petition with which they can transfer multiple employees. 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 U.S for one or more years
- The organization in the foreign country and their affiliates in the U.S must have obtained 10 L-1 approvals in the past 12 months
- The organization in the foreign country and the affiliates in the U.S must have combined annual sales of at least $25 million or have at least 1,000 employees in the U.S.
If the organization meets these requirements, then they can file Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on L-1 Blanket Petition to USCIS. Afterwards, the process is the same as with the individual petition. Once approved, the employer will get Form I-797.
The blanket petition, once approved is valid for 3 years and can be extended indefinite times. However, if the employer fails to fulfill the extension requirements, they will not be allowed to file a new blanket petition for another 3 years, but can instead only file individual petitions.
Whether the employer files the individual petition or the blanket petition, they must follow the other steps the same way.
The employer must pay applicable fees
The fees for the employer to get an L-1A petition are quite high. These fees must be paid to USCIS to qualify:
- 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
After the employers get the approval for the petition and pay the fees, the employee can start the application procedure. This starts by filing Form DS-160 online. The form asks for information on the purpose of the visit of the employee and whether they fulfill the requirements. When you file Form DS-160, you will get a confirmation page and code which you need to save for later to add to the documents.
Pay the application fee
The fee for the L-1A visa is $190. To be eligible for your application to be processed, you must pay the fee and get the receipt. Besides the application fee, you might be asked to pay other fees depending on the country you are from, such as reciprocity fees.
Schedule your interview
All applicants over 13 and under 79 years old must have a visa interview at the U.S Embassy that they are applying from. This rule holds for all other types of U.S visas and not just for the L-1A. So you need to schedule your interview and it is recommended that you do this as soon as possible, to avoid long waits due to high workloads at the Embassy.
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
When your document file is ready, you must attend your interview at its scheduled time. You will be interviewed by an official of the U.S Embassy where you have applied. 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 is the processing time for the L-1A Visa?
The L-1A visa processing time is not as long as with other visas. From the time of your application, you might have to wait an additional 3 to 4 months to get a response on whether you got the visa or not. Blanket petitions are also processed faster than individual ones.
In addition, employers have the option of obtaining premium processing for the additional fees, which will speed up the L-1A processing time and you’ll get a response within 1 to 3 weeks.
How long is the L-1A visa valid?
The validity period for the L-1A visa can be found on the dates of the Form I-129 and Form I-797, which your employer will get when their petition is approved. USCIS determines the length of time that employees can stay in the U.S with an L-1A visa, whether it is an individual or blanket petition.
The L-1A visa is usually initially granted for a period of 3 years. These first 3 years are critical, especially if you are thinking of staying in the U.S for longer. If your work performance is high, and you have not breached your contract or your visa regulation, your employer might want to extend your contract. If your employer wants to still keep you in the U.S after those 3 years, they can file for an extension with USCIS.
If the requirements for extensions are fulfilled, USCIS will grant the L-1A visa status for an additional 2 years. USCIS allows two extensions for L-1A visas, which means that you can extend your period of stay in the U.S for another 4 years. So based on this, the maximum amount of time you are allowed to stay in the U.S with an L-1A 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 U.S.
Can I apply for a Green Card with an L-1A visa?
The L-1 visa category is a dual intent visa. This means that all of its subcategories are also dual intent visas and allow the person to seek permanent residence in the U.S. So anyone who has the L-1A visa is allowed to apply to go from an L-1A visa to Green Card on the basis of employment.
During your application procedure, you as a potential L-1A visa holder do not need to prove that you have strong ties to your home country or that you intend to go back when your contract is completed. Even if you state that you intend to seek permanent residence into the U.S, your application will not be penalized and your chances of getting the L-1A visa will not be affected.
Can I bring dependents with an L-1A visa?
L-1A visa holders are allowed to bring dependents into the U.S. Dependents who qualify are the spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years old. The dependents would accompany the L-1A visa holder with an L-2 visa. The benefits of the L-2 dependent visa is that all those who hold it are allowed to study as well as work in the U.S. To be allowed to work in the U.S, dependents must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).