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L-1 Visa Overview
The L-1 is an intracompany non-immigrant visa option for multinational companies (petitioners) looking to transfer their valuable employees to their U.S. offices or to establish a new one. It allows qualified employees (beneficiaries or applicants) to temporarily work in the U.S.
Notably, the L-1 visa allows for dual intent, wherein applicants can simultaneously have the intention to temporarily stay in the U.S. for the purpose of their transfer to their multinational employer’s U.S. office and have the intention to eventually pursue permanent residency through a change of status or application to a different immigrant visa, if eligible.
There are two subcategories under the L-1 visa:
L-1A: For intracompany transferees in managerial or executive positions.
L-1B: For intracompany transferees with specialized knowledge.
Click here to read our comprehensive guide on the L-1 visa, including its two subcategories.
L-1 Visa Application Process
Before diving into the processing time, let us briefly discuss the L-1 visa application process. It involves several steps:
Qualification: The beneficiary or applicant must first meet the L-1 visa’s eligibility criteria, such as having worked for their multinational company employer or petitioner abroad for at least a year in the last three years preceding the L-1 visa application in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity. Click here for our comprehensive eligibility guide.
Petition: The U.S. employer or petitioner files Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Other than the form I-129, this petition will include supporting documents and evidence of the applicant’s qualifications and the relationship between the multinational company and the U.S. entity.
Approval: Once the USCIS approves the petition, the applicant or beneficiary can proceed with their visa application. This typically involves scheduling an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate, submitting additional documents or evidence, and a scheduled interview.
L-1 Visa Processing Time
The L-1 visa processing time varies depending on several factors. It is crucial to note that processing times fluctuate and vary depending on each case’s complexity.
There are two primary stages affecting the L-1 visa’s processing time:
- USCIS Processing
The initial processing of the L-1 visa happens at the USCIS, where the USCIS reviews the applicant’s Form I-129 and supporting documents or evidence. This stage can take from several weeks to a few months, depending on factors such as:
The USCIS’s workload – High volumes of applications or petitions can result in longer processing times.
The applicant’s submitted documents – If the applicant’s submitted documents or evidence are lacking or inaccurate, it can lead to longer processing times or possible rejection. To ensure this does not happen, it is best to ensure a complete and accurate submission of all documents to expedite the process. Proper organization and professional translation of non-English documents are crucial too.
The USCIS’s backlog volume – If the USCIS is experiencing a backlog of pending petitions or if there are other administrative challenges, it can result in a delay or longer processing time.
2. Consular Processing
After the USCIS approves the petition, applicants outside the U.S. must apply for the L-1 visa at their home country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. Consular processing times also vary in different embassies or consulates worldwide. Some of the factors affecting this stage’s processing time include:
Individual circumstances – Since every case is different and some applications are more complicated than others, it may be the case that some applicant’s cases require further processing, additional documentation, or heavier scrutiny. This can lead to a longer visa processing time.
Security clearances – In certain cases, additional security clearances or background checks may be required. This can lead to longer processing times.
The U.S. Consular’s workload – Similar to the USCIS, each U.S. embassy or consular has its own volume of applications. The number of visa applications received by consulates or embassies varies, thus affecting processing times.
While there is no set guideline or guaranteed processing time for the L-1 visa due to the factors mentioned, it is prudent to expect it to take anywhere from two to six months.
Depending on individual circumstances, applicants may benefit from premium processing, which expedites the process, guaranteeing a decision on the first stage of the application process (the Form I-129 petition) in only fifteen days. However, this costs an additional $2,500, along with the submission of Form I-907 and Form I-129.
It is best to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to ensure a smooth L-1 visa application. Increase your chances of approval and message us; our team of experts can offer tailored advice and guide you through the process.