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L-1 Visa

Table of Contents

Are you looking for options on how to live and work in the USA though your current employer or business? The L-1 visa is among the immigration options you can consider. Here’s a quick guide on what it is and how you can get one.

1. What Is the L-1 Visa?

The L-1 visa or Intracompany Transferee Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign businesses to transfer specific types of executives, managers or employees to the U.S. to work in their U.S. office or to open a new U.S. office. This is most useful for companies engaging or desiring to engage in business both in foreign countries and the U.S. It’s also a good option for start-up companies with a foreign-based business.

2. Types of L-1 Visa

There are two types of L-1 visa:

2A. L-1A for Managers and Executives

This is for employees who have supervisory functions and decision-making powers. They must have a key role in the company to be eligible. If approved, they can have a maximum duration of 7 years in L-1 visa status.

2B. L-1B for Staff with Specialized Knowledge

Employees who have specialized knowledge may be granted the L-1B visa. They must possess particular skills essential to the company like product development, equipment handling, and other business processes. They can be granted an L-1 visa with a maximum duration of 5 years.

3. Benefits of an L-1 Visa

3A. No Annual Quota

Unlike with H-1B, there’s no limit to the number of L-1 visas that can be issued annually.

3B. Immigration Benefits for Family

Spouses and dependents of an L-1 holder are eligible for an L-2 visa, which allows them to work in the U.S. during their stay upon filing for an Employment Authorization Document from USCIS.

3C. No Set Salary Requirements

While U.S. employers have to comply with minimum wage laws, they’re not required to pay foreign employees a certain wage. They also don’t have to process an LCA to get an L-1 visa.

3D. Longer Stay

Compared to a B-1 temporary business visa which only permits a 6 month stay in the U.S., an L-1 visa permits a longer stay in the U.S. The initial 3-year stay granted to visa holders is often renewable for a maximum stay of 5 to 7 years.

3E. Prime Candidacy for Green Card

L-1A visa holders are prime candidates for an EB-1C green card. This makes it a great non-immigrant visa option for those who eventually want to gain permanent residency in the U.S.

3F. Dual Intent

The L-1 visa is considered a dual intent visa. This means you intend to temporarily work in the U.S. while also having the intent to permanently immigrate to the country as a lawful resident in the future.

4. L-1 Visa Requirements

4A. Employer Requirements

  • S. company must be a parent/subsidiary, branch, or affiliate of a foreign business

  • Company must be engaged in business in the U.S. and at least one foreign country, or have plans to do business in the U.S. during the period of the visa

4B. Employee Requirements

  • Must have worked for the foreign business for at least 1 whole year during the last 3 years before the petition

  • Must have been in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity in the foreign business

  • Must work in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity in the U.S. company

5. L-1 Visa Application Process

A foreign employee can’t apply for an L-1 visa on their own. A qualified U.S. company must file the petition on their behalf. During the application process, the U.S. company is the petitioner, and the L-1 visa recipient or applicant is the beneficiary.

5A. Application Process

  1. Filing of I-129. The petitioner files an I-129 form with the USCIS. All documentation proving the eligibility of both the company and the employee are submitted along with the form.

  2. Approval Notice. Once the application’s approved, the USCIS issues an Approval Notice. The applicant can then apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. Applicants already in the U.S. may be granted a change of status to L-1 in their approval.

  3. Filing of DS-160. Applicants outside the U.S. may need to go through consular processing. They must fill out the DS-160 online visa application before proceeding to the consulate or embassy.

  4. Personal Interview. Once at the consulate, applicants will need to show confirmation for the DS-160 filing and pay the filing fees. Then, an immigration officer interviews them to determine their eligibility.

  5. Issuance of L-1 Visa. Applicants who pass the interview will be granted an L-1 visa and can start working in the U.S.

5B. L-1 Visa Processing Times

On average, the standard USCIS processing time for I-129 applications takes about six to nine months or so, unless premium processing service is used.

Apply for premium processing if you need to work in the U.S. as soon as possible. Premium processing takes only 15 calendar days but requires an additional processing fee of $2500. Take note that this expedites the process but doesn’t ensure petition approval, which is based on the merits and strength of the case.

5C. Filing Fees

The USCIS fee for filing an I-129 is $460. The DS-160 application is $190.

There may be other fees that a U.S. employer must pay, including an anti-fraud fee ($500), public law fee ($4,500). Consult an L-1 visa lawyer to know which particular fees you’re required to pay. Public Law 113-114 Fee: $4,500. This fee is only applicable if your employer has more than 50 employees with over half under L-1A, L-1B, or H-1B status.

6. What Is an L-1 Blanket Petition?

An L-1 blanket visa certification is given to employers who frequently apply for an L-1 visa to transfer foreign employees to their U.S. company. It allows them to skip the filing of the I-129 form. Their qualified employees can proceed directly to the consulate or embassy for L-1 visa processing.

To be eligible, a company must:

  • Meet all L-1 general requirements

  • The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;

  • The petitioner has an office in the United States that has been doing business for one year or more;

  • The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and

  • The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations meet one of the following criteria:

    • Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;  

    • Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or

    • Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

7. L-1 Visa Requests for Evidence

The USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) when they find petition inconsistencies or discrepancies. If you receive an RFE, respond to it immediately by addressing the issues specified. Furnish the necessary documents that support your petition and clarify the issues. It may be wise to consult your immigration attorney as soon as possible to avoid getting your petition denied, as L-1 RFEs can be complex.

8. L-1 Denial

Some common reasons for which an L-1 petition can be denied are as follows:

  • Failure to demonstrate the eligibility of employer or employee

  • Failure to demonstrate specialized knowledge invaluable to the company

  • Proposed wages don’t meet salary standards

  • Documents filed incorrectly or missing supporting evidence

  • Inflated business growth projections

If your L-1 visa is denied, you can file an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office or through a U.S. District Court. You can also consider other immigration options, including applying for an H-1B visa.

9. FAQs

  • Q: Is L-1 visa better than H-1B?
    • A: Both have their merits. What makes L-1 more appealing is that spouses and dependents can seek U.S. employment while the L-1 visa is valid. L-1 applicants also don’t have to worry about meeting the cap, unlike with H-1B. However, the L-1 is limited only to multinational companies, and those employees who have worked for qualifying foreign entity for at least 1 out of the past 3 years prior to applying for the L-1.
  •  Q: Can L-1 holders apply for green card?
    • A: Yes. Generally, L-1 holders can apply for an EB-1C, EB-2, or EB-3, depending on their situation.
  •  Q: Can an L-1 visa be used for an employee who will establish a new U.S. office?
    • A: Yes. An executive or manager may be granted an L-1A visa to establish a new U.S. office. The requirements are as follows:
      • The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office in the U.S.;
      • The employee has been employed as an executive or manager for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition; and
      • The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.

Ensuring complete documentation, proper filing, and payment fees can be daunting. To be approved for an L-1 visa, you must make sure that all required documents are filled out properly and filed on time. There are also new regulations that might be confusing for those not familiar with immigration law. So it’s always best to work with an immigration attorney who can assess your situation and ensure that your petition is filed properly.

Consult with an  L-1 visa lawyer who has extensive knowledge of immigration laws, particularly in business and employment immigration. At Ramchand & Raval, our immgration lawyers have the expertise guide you through the L-1 process.

Get professional advice. Schedule a consultation with an L-1 visa lawyer now.

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