What is the L1 visa?
The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa intended to facilitate the temporary relocation of foreign workers to the U.S. offices of the company they work for. L1 visas are available to employees of international companies that have subsidiaries both abroad and in the United States.
The L1 visa also allows foreign companies that do not yet have an office in the United States to send an executive or manager to the United States to open one.
There are two types of L1 visa:
- L-1A Visa – intended for executive managers
- L-1B Visa – intended for workers with specialized knowledge.
- To be eligible for the visa, employees must have worked for the company for at least one continuous year in the three years preceding their intended admission to the United States.
Which employees are eligible for the L1 visa?
As an employee, to be eligible for the L1 visa you must meet the following requirements:
- You have worked for the company for at least one year in the last three years
- You have specialized knowledge of how the company operates and what products it offers
- Your company has agreed to be a sponsor of your application
- You are actively working with your employer both in the United States and in your home country
- You are a full-time employee.
- Additionally, the L1 visa is only available to people who hold executive or managerial roles within their companies.
Executive capacity means that an employee has the right to make decisions without much supervision. Managerial ability, on the other hand, means that an employee can supervise the work of other employees and manage some aspects of the management of the company or its department.
How can employers qualify for the L1 visa?
In order to send their employers to the United States on the L1 visa, an employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company. This includes subsidiaries, branches or affiliates
- They must currently do business in the United States and at least one other country
- Must be able to maintain business operations in the United States and abroad for the duration of the employee’s stay in the United States.
- Additionally, if an employer seeks to send an employee to the United States for the purpose of opening a new office, you must be able to demonstrate that:
They have secured a physical location in the United States for the new office
The employee they intend to send to the United States has been employed as an executive or manager for at least one continuous year in the three years preceding the application for the L1 visa
Once established, the US office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of L1 visa approval.
Who is eligible for the L-1A Visa?
Apply for the L-1A Visa if you are an executive or management. You need to fulfill the requirements listed below in order to be eligible:
- The foreign firm you work for in your home country has a commercial connection with the US corporation that submits the petition on your behalf.
- Your present status as a manager or executive won’t alter once you’ve been moved.
- You’ve had a job with a foreign firm for at least one of the three years prior to applying for a visa.
- The L-1A visa is initially given for three years, but it has a seven-year maximum extension duration.
Who is eligible for the L-1B visa?
The L-1B visa is intended for employees who have in-depth knowledge of the company’s products, services, and operations. To qualify for the L-1B visa, they must be able to demonstrate that their knowledge is not readily available in the United States.
They must also demonstrate that they have specialist knowledge of:
- Products and services that the company offers
- The role and positioning of the company in international markets
- Procedures that regulate company activity.
- The L-1A visa is granted for an initial period of three years but can be extended up to a maximum of five years.
What is the cost of the L1 visa?
L1 visa processing fees may vary depending on your country of origin and its relationship to the United States. However, some of the expenses you will incur include:
- $460 for filing Form I-129
- £500 fraud prevention and detection fee
- $190 for filing Form DS-160.
- Additionally, if your application requires urgent processing, you would have to pay $1,440.
You may also need to pay a fee for the immigration lawyer to assist you with your application.
How to apply for the L1 visa?
The L1 visa application process begins with the employer’s submission of Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers. The petition must be submitted at least 45 days and no more than 6 months before the employee’s intended admission to the United States.
The following paperwork has to be included with the application:
- Proof that the employee has worked for one of the company’s foreign offices for at least one year
- Proof that the employee held an executive or managerial role during a year
- Evidence that the employee will occupy an executive or managerial position after arriving in the United States
- An explanation of the job responsibilities in detail
- Description of employee qualifications
- Evidence that the employer must demonstrate that he will be able to pay the foreign employee’s salary.
- After Form I-129 is approved, the employee may continue the application by electronically submitting Form DS-160. After completing it, the employee should keep the confirmation receipt as it will be needed during the visa interview.
The next step is to schedule and then attend the interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the employee’s home country. Typically, the applicant will receive the decision shortly after the visa interview is concluded.
What is the processing time for L1 visa?
Most L1 visa applications are processed within six months. However, waiting times can be longer if the immigration office has many applications to process. Likewise, if there are errors in your application or you fail to include some of the necessary documentation, your L1 visa may be delayed.
If you need to know the outcome of your claim before six months have passed, you can file a Form I-907, Request for Premium Service. If your request is successful, your request will be processed within 15 calendar days. Premium L1 visa processing is not cheap as the I-907 filing fee is $1,440.
How long is the L1 visa valid?
The length of stay in the United States on the L1 visa varies depending on the purpose of the trip.
If you are coming to the United States to open a new office for your company, your L1 visa will initially be valid for up to 1 year.
If you come as an executive or manager to work for an existing branch of your US-based company, you will be able to stay in the US for the initial period of 3 years.
The validity of your initial visa will be the same if you come to the United States as an employee with specialized knowledge.
In all these cases, it may be possible to submit an application to extend your L1 visa.
For L-1A employees, extensions may be granted in increments of an additional 2 years, capped at 7 years.
For L-1B dependents, the maximum stay after visa extension is 5 years.
Can I bring my dependents to the United States on an L1 visa?
If your L1 visa application is approved, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may come with you to the United States. In order to join you, they must apply for an L2 visa. This is a non-immigrant permit intended for dependents of L1 visa holders.
People coming to the United States on the L2 visa can seek employment in the United States as long as they apply for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Once received, they will be issued a Social Security number and will be able to apply for part-time and full-time jobs in any field.
Your dependents’ L2 visa will be valid for the duration of your L1 visa. Depending on your circumstances, they may also be able to switch to a different US visa such as the F1 student visa or the H1B visa.