L-1 Visa

The United States L-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows companies operating both in the U.S. and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee from its foreign operations to its U.S. operations for up to seven years. The L-1 Visa is open to international organizations with offices in the U.S. who transfer employees to the U.S office for temporary periods of time. This visa is sometimes referred to as the ‘intra-company transferee’ visa.

Two types of L-1 Visa

  1. L-1A – Issued for employees working as an executive or manager for their company.
  2. L-1B – Persons with specialized knowledge.

There are two types of L-1 procedures:

  1. Regular L-1 Visas – Applied for and approved for each individual by the USCIS.
  2. Blanket L-1 Visas – Available to employers who hire large numbers of Intra-Company Transferees every year.

L-1 Visa Requirements

  1. You must be able to prove that you have worked for the non-U.S. company for at least one full year within the last three years.
  2. You must have worked for a “qualifying organization” outside the United States as an executive, manager or in a field of “specialized knowledge.”
  3. You are transferred to United States to work for a new or existing U.S. business that is a subsidiary, branch or affiliated company.

Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are allowed to join you in the U.S., under L-2 status. The L-2 spouse is allowed to work provided that s/he first obtains employment authorization from the USCIS. L-2 spouses as well as L-2 children can attend school or college. Servants may be eligible for a B-1 visa with work authorization.

L-1 Visa Green Card

L-1 employees may apply for permanent residency without having to go through the process of labor certification. Dependents of L-1 can apply for the green card together with the principal employee but dependents must go through the labor certification process.

Steps

The employer must file a petition with the USCIS Regional Service Center with jurisdiction over the location of the position. These documents should be photocopies of the originals. The L-1 petition can be premium processed which means that if an additional fee is paid on top of the filing fee and the fraud prevention and detection fee, the petition will be adjudicated within 15 days of being filed with the USCIS. Click on this link for the most up to date U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services filing fees.

The USCIS may request additional documents prior to either approving or denying the case. If it is a premium processing case, the request for additional documents or information must come within the 15 days. You will then have 12 weeks to respond.

Once approved, the USCIS will forward the petition to the U.S. Consulate nearest your place of residence for review. If you are not in the U.S. when your petition is approved, you must get your visa stamped at the U.S. Consulate before being allowed to enter the U.S. Your employer will receive Form I-797, the notice of approval. After receipt of the I-797, you must then file Form DS-160 at the Consulate.

If approved, your visa will be valid for 3 years.

Blanket Petition: A blanket petition eases the process of getting the L-1 visa. If a company has been defined as a blanket petition entity by USCIS, the company can directly authorize L-1 visas to eligible employees.

Documents

To apply for an L-1 Visa, you must supply the following documents:

  • A filled-in visa application Form DS-160.
  • The employee copy of Form I-797, The Notice of Action. This petition is filed in to the USCIS by your employer.
  • Copy of USCIS Form I-129, and the L Supplement.

Your petition should show that both the U.S. and foreign-based companies meet USCIS requirements for L-1 status. The U.S. entity should be a branch office, subsidiary or affiliate of the foreign enterprise, and both companies should be actively engaged in business.

The following documents may also be required:

  • A letter from your prospective U.S. employer on company letterhead detailing your position and the U.S. operation’s status.
  • Letters proving that the U.S. and foreign entities are engaged in business. These can be from attorneys, bankers or accountants.
  • Proof of the size and status of the U.S. and foreign entities.
  • Documents that detail the value of the applicant’s skills in regards to the U.S. entity.

You, the employee, should provide the following documents:

  • A resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Copies of passports for family members joining you.
  • Proof of education: degrees, transcripts, etc.
  • Reference letters from former employers.
  • Professional licenses, if applicable.

If you are coming to the U.S. to start a new office, you should also provide the following documents:

  • Proof of a building or location for the new office. A lease will work for this.
  • Proof of your relationship with the foreign entity.
  • Proof of financial resoluteness. You must show that you can pay your U.S. employees and handle any other business costs.