The L1 visa is an intra-company transfer US visa. It allows a US company to transfer a key employee from one of its offices in another country into the United States.
It also allows companies to open a US operation for the transfer of its executives, managers and specialized employees.
There are two types of L1 visa:
L1-A is for managers and executives, who are either transferring to a US office, or coming into the US for the purposes of setting up a US office.
L1-B is for specialized employees, who have essential specialist skills or knowledge.
In either case, it is the employer (“petitioning employer”) that submits the visa application.
The L1-A visa grants a maximum stay of up to 7 years. L1-B grants up to 5 years. However, if the employee has previously worked in the US under an H visa, that time may be deducted from the allowed stay.
The petitioning company may be a corporation, charity (or other non-profit organization), or a religious organization. Other types of qualifying entities may also be permitted.
The petitioning employer (in the US) must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company. Types of qualifying relationships include: parent company, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate.
The employer must be doing business as an employer in the US and in at least one foreign country. This means they are actively and continually delivering goods or services, simply having an office does not qualify.
The employee must have completed a minimum of one year’s continuous employment for the company outside of the US within the three years immediately prior to the application. Any time spent working in the United States will not count towards the twelve months.
The employee must intend to leave the United States at the end of the visa term.
Transferring to the U.S. to legally work for a U.S. Company that employs the individual in their country of origin.
The ability to travel to and from the U.S. Remain in the U.S. continuously until the L1 visa expires.
Obtain visas for relatives
Possibility to obtain a green card through employment without requiring labor certification
Individuals can only remain employed by the U.S. company that acted as the sponsor.
The visa provides approval for . After this time, the individual may acquire two-year extensions until residing in the U.S., five years if they are a specialized employee or seven years if they are a managing executive.
In general, for a normal L1 visa, the processing time is six to eight months. This time frame can vary depending on the location of the USCIS service center.
Yes, by using a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services program called Premium Processing. By paying the USCIS an additional fee of $1,440 (as of August 2020), the agency completes the process within two weeks or notifies the petitioner if needing more information.
Dependent spouses having an L2 visa may obtain work authorization. The documentation must be obtained separately. Children having an L2 visa are not permitted to work.
L-1A Visas are reserved for employees that work in a managerial or executive capacity. The managerial and executive designations are not limited solely to people who supervise large enterprises or a large number of employees, and can include managers of independent contractors.
However this designation does not apply to first-line supervisors as these are not generally considered managers unless they supervise professional workers.
For example, a Production Supervisor who manages shifts of hourly employees in a factory would not be the best candidate for an L-1A visa, as USCIS may claim that these production workers are not professionals.
However, an Accounting Supervisor who manages a 2 person accounting team, would have a stronger case, even though the size of the team is small, since an Accountant is frequently considered a professional occupation.
Generally the “specialized knowledge” needed for an L-1B visa consists of knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests, and its application in international markets.
An advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company can also be viewed as specialized knowledge. This knowledge should help the employer remain competitive in the marketplace, and be distinct from the knowledge typically found in the industry – though this knowledge does not need to be proprietary or unique.
Specialized knowledge of a company product must be “noteworthy” or “uncommon.” If the specialized knowledge is of a company’s process and procedures it must be advanced, but it does not necessarily need to be narrowly held. A key determinant of specialized knowledge is the idea that it would be difficult to impart the knowledge to another party without substantial economic hardship for the United States or foreign firm.
An employee with specialized knowledge is not just a skilled worker. Her/his knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other crucial aspects of the business is not easily found in the United States labor market.
Upon approval, the first L-1 visa is valid for one (if it’s a new business) or two years during which an individual in L-1 status can legally work for the sponsoring employer.
After that, L-1 extensions are available in two (2) year increments. An L-1B visa can be extended once, for a total of five years of eligibility. An L-1A Visa can be extended twice, in two year increments, for a total of seven years of eligibility.
Additionally employees who enter in L-1B status and are promoted to managerial or executive roles can change into L-1A status and stay in the United States for the full 7 years. In this instance, the change of status petition must be approved by USCIS at least 6 months before the expiration of the beneficiary’s 5 years of L-1B status.
While the L-1 Visa is not intended for individuals who are self-employed, sole proprietors, owners, and/or majority stock holders can still obtain L-1 Visas to open a new branch or affiliate in the United States. Under these circumstances, the initial L-1 Visa will only be valid for one year.
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