Discover L-1 Benefits (L-1A and L-1B Visa) For Temporary Intracompany Transferee

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Unlock remarkable L-1 benefits, including family-friendly policies, streamlined business expansion, and long-term career prospects that open doors to international mobility, seamless travel, and a pathway to permanent residency.

For employers who wish to establish an office or already have an existing one in the United States, the L-1 benefits you a lot, as the visa help facilitate your expansion or growth in the U.S. market. 

Read on to learn more about the L-1 benefits, including its requirements, disadvantages, the application process, and more.

Understanding L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category that allows employers (petitioners) of multinational companies to petition to temporarily transfer their valued employees (beneficiaries) from an overseas branch to a related entity in the United States, thus allowing them to live and work in the United States for the duration of their visa. Note, however, that these employees must have been employed overseas for at least one year before the petition or transfer.

There are two categories under the L-1 visa, namely:

1. L-1A Visa

The L-1A visa is geared towards intracompany workers who hold executive or managerial positions at the employer’s overseas branch, who are being transferred to an existing U.S. office, or for the creation of one.

What does an executive or managerial position mean?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines an executive position as a high-level role within the company involving directing its management or a significant function or component of it. 

Executive roles have authority and decision-making powers over the company’s operations, including setting and implementing policies and regulations. They often devote their time to managerial-level duties instead of hands-on tasks, which they delegate to others.

On the other hand, a managerial position refers to a role that involves managing the company or a significant department or function within it. It generally involves the supervision and control of the work of other managerial, professional, or supervisory employees.

Managerial roles hold the authority to recruit, terminate, and manage personnel matters as a position with a level of responsibility and authority higher than that of the supervised employees.

2. L-1B Visa

The L-1B visa is for intracompany workers who hold positions requiring specialized knowledge at the employer’s overseas branch, who are being transferred to an existing U.S. office, or for the creation of one.

What does specialized knowledge mean?

The USCIS defines specialized knowledge as expertise or knowledge that is deeply specific to the company’s products, services, techniques, processes, or management. Thus, this level of expertise goes beyond the general skills or knowledge commonly found in the industry, making it imperative for the company to transfer the foreign employee to the U.S. office rather than hire a U.S. worker.

Simply put, this knowledge is critical and advanced and, therefore, not easily taught or widely known by U.S. workers. Employees with specialized knowledge often deeply understand the company’s operations. They play a vital role in ensuring the company maintains its competitive advantage with skills that are not easily transferable. In other words, they are essential to the company due to their mastery of its operations and offerings.

To learn more about the L-1 benefits, including its two categories (L-1A and L-1B), eligibility requirements, step-by-step visa processing, and common interview questions, read this L-1 guide.

Why was the L-1 Visa Created?

The U.S. Congress created the L-1 visa in 1970 to increase multinational companies’ investment in the United States. The USCIS states that the L-1 visa was designed to facilitate the global marketplace’s expansion, enabling multinational companies to contribute to the U.S. economy without fear of being cut off from their valued employees, thus bringing relief to the Eastern and Western Hemispheres businesses.  

L-1 Benefits

Employers and foreign employees will find L-1 benefits worth pursuing. Here are the advantages of L-1A and L-1B visas:

  • Business Expansion

The L-1 visa allows for business expansion by enabling qualifying multinational companies to expand their operations in the U.S.

Through the L-1A category, qualifying foreign companies can send a key managerial or executive employee to the U.S., enabling them to establish a new office or branch, expanding their business and market presence in the U.S., and allowing for the continuity of management and decision-making during expansion. In addition, it ensures consistency in the corporate culture, strategies, and operations to facilitate the company’s efficient scaling.

Likewise, through the L-1B category, qualifying foreign companies can transfer their employees with specialized knowledge, facilitating the expansion of the company’s capabilities in the U.S. market. It allows the company to efficiently and effectively introduce innovative technologies, products, or processes to their U.S. operations, enhancing their competitiveness and market relevance and resulting in the success and growth of the business. In addition, it promotes cross-cultural collaboration and knowledge exchange between the foreign and U.S. offices.

  • Duration of Stay

The two L-1 visa categories have different durations of stay in the United States.

L-1A beneficiaries have an initial stay of up to three years in the United States, providing an opportunity for managers and executives to work and contribute their talents to the U.S. entity, after which they are entitled to apply for extensions. Each extension is for increments of up to two years for a maximum total stay of seven years.

Seven years is ample time to consider changing status to a different immigrant visa applicable to L-1A-qualifying professionals, such as the EB-1C category that is available to qualifying multinational managers or executives, allowing them to transition from a non-immigrant to an immigrant visa, effectively obtaining permanent residence. Alternatively, they may reapply for the L-1A visa, provided they first work for at least one year outside the United States. This is called an L-1A timeout or a cooling-off period.

L-1B beneficiaries, on the other hand, have an initial stay of up to three years in the United States, providing them an opportunity to hone their expertise further to support their multinational company’s U.S. operations. After this initial three-year stay, L-1B beneficiaries can apply for extensions, extending their stay in increments of up to two years for a maximum total stay of five years.

Similar to the L-1A visa, L-1B beneficiaries may also consider changing their status to a different immigrant visa during their five-year stay in the U.S., such as the EB-2 or EB-3 categories, offering employment-based immigrant visas for qualifying professionals with significant expertise in their field, thus allowing them to obtain permanent residence. Alternatively, they may reapply for the L-1B visa after an L-1B timeout or cooling-off period, where they must work for at least one year outside the U.S. before reapplying.

  • No Quota

Unlike other visa categories like the H-1B visa, the L-1 visa does not have a statutory cap on the number of visas the USCIS can issue annually. This alleviates concerns related to timing and helps facilitate efficient processing, allowing employers to blanket petitions without worries about going over the limit. However, the absence of a yearly quota does not necessarily guarantee automatic approval of L-1 petitions. Each petition is still carefully reviewed and evaluated based on several factors, such as the details of the proposed work in the U.S., the relationship between the U.S. entity and the foreign entity, and the eligibility and qualifications of the beneficiaries themselves.

  • Blanket Petition

Like previously mentioned, there is no annual limit to how many L-1 visas can be approved by the USCIS. This excellent advantage allows employers to streamline the process of transferring their employees to their U.S. offices. Blanket petitioning enables qualifying multinational companies to file a single petition with the USCIS, covering multiple employees who meet the eligibility criteria of the L-1A and L-1B visa, thus saving valuable time and effort and simplifying the process, especially for multinational companies seeking to transfer a significant volume of eligible employees.

  • No Educational Requirements

The L-1 visa does not have strict educational requirements, unlike other employment-based visas like the EB-2 or the H1-B. Since there is no minimum degree or educational attainment requirement for L-1, it allows individuals with extensive managerial or executive experience within a qualifying multinational company to qualify for the L-1A visa, regardless of their educational background.

Rather, it focuses on the applicant’s work experience and qualifications, such as their demonstrated managerial skills, knowledge gained through practical work experience, and leadership abilities instead of formal education.

Likewise, the same is true for L-1B applicants. While a bachelor’s degree or equivalent may be helpful, it is not strictly required. Rather, the focus is on the applicant’s expertise, unique competencies, and the specialized knowledge they have that is essential for the multinational company’s operations.

The L-1B visa recognizes the value of the applicant’s practical experience and expertise gained through working for the multinational company petitioning on their behalf, allowing individuals with specialized knowledge of the company’s processes, products/services, and procedures to qualify regardless of their formal education.

This is a vital advantage to the L-1 visa since educational qualifications often require an equivalent to U.S. degrees, which can be complicated for foreign nationals since, for instance, a foreign three-year bachelor’s degree is not necessarily equivalent to a U.S. four-year bachelor’s degree. It removes the need for credential evaluations, among other complexities.

  • No Job Offer Required

A qualified L-1 applicant already has a sponsoring employer with a U.S. office seeking to transfer them to the United States. This is a great advantage since finding a U.S. entity willing to sponsor an employee for an employment-based visa is often one of the most difficult and time-consuming hurdles for most foreign professionals seeking employment to move to the United States.

  • Dual Intent

L-1 visa holders are allowed to have dual intent. If the applicant’s employer, or some other employer, wishes to sponsor the applicant for a U.S. green card, the law permits the applicant to pursue it. Applying for an immigrant visa while on the L-1 visa will not raise questions about the applicant’s truthfulness in previously claiming only temporarily to remain in the U.S. on the L-1 visa. This enables L-1 visa holders to transition to permanent residency without raising questions regarding their intent to remain in the U.S.

  • Green Card Eligibility

Like previously mentioned, the L-1 visa allows for dual intent, permitting L-1 visa holders to seek permanent residency or obtain a green card.

L-1A visa holders who meet certain criteria may fast-track the process to obtain a green card through the EB-1C immigrant visa category, designed for multinational managers or executives. Other employment-based visa categories typically require a labor certification, but the EB-1C is considered a priority worker category, making qualifying applicants eligible for permanent residency without needing a labor certification.

Another benefit to it is expedited processing. The EB-1C is typically given priority in the green card application process, thus resulting in faster processing times compared to other categories. Thus, L-1A visa holders can fast-track their status change to EB-1C and easily obtain their green card, saving them considerable time and effort compared to other employment-based visas.

On the other hand, L-1B visa holders do not have a direct path to a green card. However, the L-1’s advantage of having dual intent allows them to pursue permanent residency with ease through other employment-based visa categories, such as the EB-2 or EB-3 categories, provided they qualify. Note that unlike EB-1C, both EB-2 and EB-3 categories require a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor to verify that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position the applicant is seeking.

The sponsoring employer must demonstrate this with sufficient evidence, including actively searching for qualifying workers in the U.S. market beforehand. In addition, the sponsoring employer must agree to pay the prevailing wage for the position, ensuring that the applicant is not adversely affecting the wages of U.S. workers.

  • Family or Dependents

The primary L-1 visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 can apply for L-2 visas, allowing them to accompany the L-1 visa holder in the United States. In addition to obtaining L-2 visas, L-2 dependents are permitted to enroll in academic programs in the U.S., allowing them to study part-time or full-time at educational institutions, from primary schools to universities, without the need to apply for a separate student visa.

  • Spouse Employment

L-1 primary visa holder’s spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization in the U.S. through Form I-765 or the Application for Employment Authorization. If approved, the spouse will obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). They are then free to work for any employer in the U.S.

  • Travel Flexibility

L-1 visa holders can freely travel between their home country and the U.S. for business or personal travel. They can seamlessly enter and exit the U.S. multiple times during their visa’s validity period. The same applies to dependents.

To learn more about L-1 benefits and eligibility, consult for free here.


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