The L1 visa is an advantageous visa option for people that wish to live and work in the United States. We discuss in detail everything you need to know about the L1 visa in this guide.
The L1 visa is a non-immigrant type of visa available for employees of international companies. Additionally, such international companies must have offices in the United States and abroad to qualify. The foreign employees can relocate to the United States after working abroad for at least 1 continuous year in the past 3 years.
The L1 visa is valid from 3 months to five years depending on a reciprocity schedule. The United States law requires visa fees and validities based on the country’s treatment to United States Citizens. This means that the validity of your L1 visa depends on your country of origin’s reciprocity with the United States.
Seven years is the maximum stay for an L1A visa, while it is five years for an L1B If provided with extensions.
Yes! With an L1 visa, you can travel in and out of the United States for as long as your visa is valid. What this means is more freedom for you.
There are two types of visa categories under the L1 visa. The L1A visa is for executives and managers, while the L1-B visa is for workers with specialized knowledge. International companies can transfer their employees under these two categories of visas.
One option for the L1 visa that employers can consider is to designate workers into the Managerial or Executive category. This is more commonly known as L1A. With this type of L1 visa, the worker should have supervisory or managerial responsibilities. These functions include planning, organizing, leading and controlling. An L1A visa for a three year period is initially issued to personnel performing these responsibilities, Their stay is extendable every two years with up to a maximum of seven years total in extensions.
The second subcategory of the L1 visa is the L1B visa which is for workers with specialized knowledge. The L1B is for employees with knowledge of the company’s services, systems, techniques, and procedures. When applying for the visa, you should explain this in full detail for a higher chance of approval. This is because the definition of having special knowledge of the company can be quite vague at times. When issued an L1B visa, it is generally valid for three years and extendable up to a maximum of five years.
Employers of workers with an L1B status can file for a petition to change their worker’s L1B status to an L1A. Doing so allows the individual to move into a managerial or executive position. Additionally, in order for the worker with an L1B status to be eligible for the full 7 years typically provided to L1A workers, the petition must be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at least 6 months prior to the employee reaching their 5-year maximum allowed stay under the L1B status.
In addition to the categories of an L1 visa, there is the L2 type of visa which is closely related to the L1 visa.
Dependents of L1 visa holders are issued L2 visas. The spouse should be legally married to the L1 visa holder and children must be unmarried and not over the age of 21 in order to be approved of an L2 visa. In addition, the L2 visas are valid for as long as the L1 visa is valid.
After knowing about what the L1 visa is and its different types, the next step is petitioning for one.
A petition is how the USCIS determines that the employer and temporary work involved with an L1 visa applicant meets the basic qualification for a visa. You should file these in the U.S. and not in an embassy or consulate. Either the U.S. employer or the foreign employer may file the petition for an L1 visa to the USCIS.
Unless the circumstances of previous unsuccessful petitions have changed, it is necessary to mention the status of any previous petitions and certify that you will not file your present petition.
There are two types of petitions an employer can decide to utilize: individual petitions and blanket petitions.
Your L1 visa application begins with the filing of your petition.
There are cases where the company would opt to transfer only a single employee. In this case, it would make sense to file for an individual L1 petition. When filing for an individual petition, the employer can work with an immigration lawyer to submit either an individual L1A or L1B visa application for each candidate.
Another option the employer can consider is the blanket petition. This pertains to the petitioning of the transfer of multiple employees in one petition. An advantage of filing for a blanket petition is that it is less time consuming than an individual petition. With a blanket petition, companies no longer have to prove their employees' eligibility repeatedly.
Yes, you can. However, activities considered work after entry to the United States with a visitor visa such as the visa waiver scheme is not allowed. The exception to this rule is if you are coming to the United States with a visa such as the B1 in lieu of an H1B visa.
The L1 visa is a very documentation-heavy type of visa. Aside from having the right documentation, there are processes that you will have to know of beforehand. This is so you can be sure that your L1 visa is granted. However, there is no need to worry as we have collated all the information you will need to secure your L1 visa. Below is how to go about applying for your L1 visa:
Having the right documentation makes the rest of the process easier for you.
You will need the following documentation for your L1 Visa petition:
We have divided the visa application process into two main steps for easier understanding.
Filing of a petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-129 + supporting documentation showing that both US company and foreign parent/ subsidiary/ affiliate/ branch qualify according to law and regulations.
Notice of approval of Form I-129 given by USCIS on a Notice of Action (Form I-797). The employee may apply for visa issuance at a consulate/embassy of the US in the country with jurisdiction over their residence.
Qualifying for an L1 visa requires you to have worked for at least 1 continuous year in the past 3 years for your employer. Your employer must either be a subsidiary company, parent company or affiliate or branch office of the United States company outside of the US.
There are other requirements for employees applying for the L1A visa. Firstly, the employee must have been in a managerial or executive position. Secondly, they must be travelling to the US for the purpose of providing services in a managerial or executive capacity for their organization.
When applying for the L1B visa, employees will have to work with the company to provide specialized services.
Yes! If you are already in the United States then you can apply for a change of status. Most importantly, you should do this while you are still in status in the time of filing Form I-129.
You can have an approved L1 visa when the consular officer finds that you qualify and that both the US company and foreign company are legitimate.
Usually, it takes around two to four months to process a normal L1 visa petition. However, if you opt for premium processing instead, the processing time can be significantly reduced. Moreover, if it is a blanket petition the processing time is a mere one to three weeks.
Fees for the L1 visa generally cost around $4,300 with premium processing, including the filing fee of $325, detection and fraud prevention fee of $500. You may also pay an additional fee of $1,440 in case you require premium processing. Moreover, an additional fee of $2,250 may be applicable based on circumstances.
Preparation is key to ensure a smooth interview.
A consular officer will interview you in person before issuing your L1 visa. To prepare for this, you should follow these interview tips:
Premium Processing is a program of the USCIS wherein if you pay an extra $1,440, they can guarantee that they will settle the petition in 15 days including weekends and holidays. Otherwise, the USCIS will notify you if they will need more evidence. You can refer to this as an RFE or a Request for Further Evidence
According to a report since the year 2000 released by the USCIS, they issue more than 100,000 visas annually. Moreover, there have been reports of around 165,178 L-category visas issued in the year 2016 alone.
There are no limits as to the number of L1 visas available in a given year. However, it is important to note that petitioning for an L1 visa, especially an individual L1 visa, can be very document-heavy and complicated. Therefore, even if there is no L1 visa quota, the number of petitions you would be able to submit in a year may be limited.
Visa denial may occur under the following circumstances:
1 The consular officer determines that the U.S. company that filed the L1 petition may not qualify or does not intend to continue in business after the L1 visa issuance.
2 USCIS approved the petition based on fraud committed by the company or visa applicant
3 The applicant is ineligible under section 212(a) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act
4 Consular officer requests for reconsideration of the petition by the USCIS.
The L1 visa is full of advantages for you, your employer, and your family.
There are two subcategories for L1 visas: the L1A visa for managers and executives, and the L1-B visa for employees with specialized knowledge. Both have their own requirements and duration of stay which you must take note of whether you’re an employee or employer of a multinational company. What is common, however, is that these subcategories of L1 visas possess certain benefits that other work visa classifications do not have depending on your immigration situation.
For employees, the L1 visa possesses numerous benefits that put it to an advantage compared to other work visas.
Firstly, the L1 visa has relatively low requirements and only requires that you be a manager, executive, or specialized employee in a multinational company for qualification. This opens up opportunities for people that otherwise would not receive work visas. For instance, the O-1 visa requires applicants to show exemplary ability based on international awards or substantial salaries; on the other hand, only Canadian and Mexican citizens can get the TN visa; and lastly, the E2 visa requires substantial business investment in the US.
Secondly, as a qualified L1 visa applicant, you are already employed under a U.S. company that will sponsor you. This lies in stark contrast to visa types such as the H-1B, J-1, or TN visa which all require you to find a sponsor employer company beforehand, which may prove to be difficult for many applicants.
Thirdly, L1 visas have no annual limits on the number of petitions accepted in the US per year. This is beneficial compared to other visas such as the H-1B visa which, though similar, have strict annual limits to the number of petitions approved, and also go through random selection for approving visas making it very difficult and up to chance whether you receive such a visa amongst numerous other applicants in a large pool.
Fourthly, L1 visa holders, particularly L1A visa holders, have longer periods of stays than certain types of work visas. The L1A visa allows holders to receive an initial three years of stay in the U.S., which you can extend to a maximum of seven years, surpassing the maximum of six years on the H-1B work visa, and the five years maximum of the J-1 visa. However, your stay may only extend up to five years which is a disadvantage in comparison to other work visas if you're an L1-B visa holder.
Fifthly, one of the most notable benefits of L1 visas is that you do not need to have a college degree to qualify. This is particularly advantageous in comparison to the H-1B visa and others which require a certain level of education that may prevent you from receiving the opportunity to work in the US, based on your particular circumstances.
Sixthly, you may opt to bring your spouse and children with you. Your spouse is also allowed to work under a dependent L-2 visa after qualifying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which can be very beneficial as it allows your family to make additional income if needed.
Finally, the USCIS considers the L1 visa to be “dual intent,” meaning that you may opt to pursue permanent lawful residence during your stay in the US. This likes in sharp contrast to work visas such as the J-1 and TN visas which consider the pursuing of a green card as a violation which involves consequences with the USCIS.
There are additional benefits too for multinational employers who opt for their employees to pursue this type of visa to be able to work in the U.S.
Firstly, employers can utilize the blanket visa option which enables them to file only a single petition for many employees, vastly reducing the amount of paperwork required for each employee. It is available if the companies have either a combined revenue of at least $25 million or a minimum of 1,000 employees in the U.S. This option is highly beneficial for large companies that require the presence of numerous employees in the U.S within short notice.
Secondly, multinational employers who do not have an office or branch in the U.S. may opt to send an employee under an L1 visa to establish one. There are a few limitations to the process, but upon successfully establishing an office, the U.S. employer may then send multiple L1 holders to work there.
Lastly, the L1 visa does not require that an employer obtains a Labor Condition Application certification before petitioning for the transfer of an employee. Though the process itself isn’t difficult or costly on its own, sending an increasing number of employees will add up the costs in time and capital, which L1 visa holders do not have to go through.
Disadvantages might work for your advantage.
Though the L1 visa has numerous advantages, it is not free from limitations. To make your decision, you need to know the full picture. Therefore, we have listed below some of the L1 visa's disadvantages. Depending on your circumstance, these disadvantages might just work for your advantage.
Firstly, there is the fact that the L1 visa requires you to already be employed under a multinational company that is large enough to have a branch or an office in the US. Additionally, you must have worked in this company for at least one full year in the past three years prior to your entry to the US. This may be particularly difficult for employees who are new to a particular company. However skilled they may be, this restriction prevents them from entering the US.
Secondly, the L1 visa differs from other work visas in the strict limitation to the maximum period of stay. For example, the L1-A visa allows holders to work up to seven years, but you cannot exceed this for any reason. This contrasts from visas such as the H-1B or J-1 which allows extensions past the maximum. Some visas even allow unlimited extensions such as the O-1 and E2 visas -- however, L1 visa holders must deal with the limit that they are only granted one extension after their first three years of stay. Past this extension, they must then either change their visa status or apply for another L1 visa.
Thirdly, only multinational sponsor companies that have, or plan to have a branch, subsidiary, or office in the US can get the L1 visa. This stands in contrast to visas such as the H-1B visa which allows any United States employer to employ you. This rule, however, excludes businesses too small to have international branches, and small business owners. As such, it may be beneficial to consult an immigration attorney in order to determine whether your company qualifies or not.
Lastly, as an L1 visa holder, you cannot start your own business while on L1 status. In order to maintain your status, you must work only for your sponsor employer, excluding possibilities for part-time work with other employers simultaneously. This is unlike the H-1B visa which allows for entrepreneurship and part-time employment.
In addition to the aforementioned limitations, the L1 visa is becoming increasingly challenging to obtain for ordinary companies. For example, blanket filing of requirements for many employees, for example, are only available to large multinational companies due to the costs required.
According to the USCIS data, the number of approved L1 visa intracompany transfer applications had been decreasing in the 2019 financial year. Analysts attributed the decline in L1A and L1B visas to incorrect documentation submitted by applicants, but it is unclear whether this is exactly the case in reality.
There is no need to worry about being separated by oceans.
Your family can come with you.
Upon application at the consulate/embassy, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may receive dependent L2 visas. L2 is the visa status given to dependents of L1 visa holders. Simply put, this means that you can bring your family with you to the United States.
Your spouse has a right to work in the US for any employer. But in order for your spouse to work without restriction in the US, they must receive a dependent L-2 visa upon being granted an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with the USCIS.
Your spouse may then apply for a Social Security Number directly to Social Security in the US. The documents required for an L-2 Social Security Number application are the same as an L1 visa holder with the addition of either the EAD or an original marriage certificate.
Children of L1 visa holders under a dependent L-2 visa can attend school but unfortunately cannot accept paid employment due to being ineligible for EAD application.
Business-centric FAQs for both employers and employees.
The company does not need to have a US office before transferring. It is possible to transfer a manager or executive to the US in order to set up a new office, after which more employees can be sent there later.
The L1 visa allows you to enter the US to work on starting a new office or branch where none exists for your parent company if you are in a managerial position. However, you cannot form an entirely new corporation.
If you intend to start the new office, you are granted only one initial year to start the new office under the L1 visa. The specific subcategory of the L1 visa which allows you to start a new office for the parent company is the L1-A visa for executives and managers.
The first step to opening this new office is to rent or purchase property for the business. Though there are businesses that operate exclusively online, the USCIS requires a physical location in the US for the new office to qualify. As such, we recommended having the property rented out for a minimum of six months.
Next, you may consider formulating an L1 visa business plan for the new office. Though it is not officially mandated by the USCIS, it is almost always necessary in securing approval for the new office. As such, it would be best that your business plan details the proposed structure of your new branch and its projected growth trajectory over the next few years.
Lastly, you should form your new office into a taxable entity. The usual route for most employers is to have the office arranged into a corporation or a limited liability company. The process for doing so involves filing information articles with the Department of State in the state you wish to locate your branch.
Note however that as the L1 visa only allows one initial year for those who are opening new offices, it may be necessary to hire more workers within the first few months in order to successfully apply for an extension for the visa. You must also be careful to not send too many foreign employees under the parent company under L1 status as the US offers non-immigrant visas to stimulate the local economy and provide more jobs to US workers, and doing so may lessen your chance of receiving a visa extension.
There is no requirement to pay L1 workers the prevailing wage, but paying them significantly below it and the wages of your US resident staff may result in the USCIS or Department of Labor investigating your business and viewing your petition unfavorably.
You are allowed to move L1 employees to different sites so long as they remain under your management and control as their employer.
You can start a business via investment so long as that company does not employ you and that you only work under the specified L1 visa employer.
You will need to know these information to avoid the hassle later.
A manager under the L1A visa is an individual who manages people a function of an organization. A manager must do the following: manage the organization itself or a department, function, or component of the organization; supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees; manage an essential function within the organization; have the authority to fire, hire or recommend either of the two regarding employees; oversee day-to-day operations of said activity or function of the organization; and lastly, they must not be a first-line supervisor unless the employees are professional.
Meanwhile, USCIS defines an L1A manager as an individual who performs the following roles: directs the management of the organization or a major component of it; establishes goals and policies; exercises wide capability in decision making; and receives little supervision from higher-level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders.
There is no specified minimum educational requirement for an executive or manager to receive an L1A visa, however they must have worked for a company affiliated with the US employer as an executive or high-level manager, or managed an essential function of the business for at least one continuous year in the past three years before entry to the US.
Yes, it is most likely that you will qualify for the L1A visa if you have worked as a manager in a key position for the company in your country.
There is no particular minimum salary for L1 visa holders, however, paying L1 holders significantly below the prevailing wage can result in the USCIS or Department of Labor investigating your business.
In the event that your employer fires you, you immediately will go out of status. There is no grace period and you will need to quickly find a job from an employer who is willing to sponsor an H1B visa. Transferring from an L1 to an H1B visa is subject to an annual cap, so there could a chance that your employer may not be able to file the petition in time. In the event that this should happen, you will then have to return to your home country. However, you can avert this if you can change to another nonimmigrant status such as B1 or a B2 in time.
As long as the new employer files for a new work visa petition such as the H-1B visa, it is possible for you to work for other companies that did not sponsor your L1 visa.
Unfortunately, L1 employees are not permitted to be self-employed nor to work for other employers in full-time or part-time jobs that aren’t under an affiliate company.
Yes! You can buy a property in the United States even if your visa is a nonimmigrant type. Additionally, you can also apply for a mortgage. Just because you are not (or not yet) a citizen of the United States does not mean you can’t apply for a mortgage. When you have the correct documentation and when you follow procedures correctly, it should be fairly easy for you to get a mortgage loan.
Yes! Under an L1 visa status, you can study in the United States as long as you maintain your L1 status and work for the employer who sponsored your visa.
The L1 visa can be your
stepping stone towards a green card.
You can use the L1 visa as a stepping stone to a green card under the doctrine of dual intent.
Yes! L1 visa applicants and holders can have dual intent. Additionally, USCIS will not deny your L1 visa if there is evidence to believe that you have intentions to permanently move to the United States. This means that you can be an “intending immigrant” to the United States under the L1 visa.
The L1 visa is a dual intent visa, and so USCIS allows holders to seek permanent resident status as a nonimmigrant. In order to do this, your employer must first file an I-140 petition to the USCIS. Afterwards, you must wait until te date when the USCIS received your petition is found in the final action dates posted by the Department of State in their monthly visa bulletin
From here, L1A visas have a great advantage as they easily transition to the qualifications necessary for an EB-1C green card which has current priority dates due to being in the first preference category, significantly reducing the time required for processing for other green card types.
Meanwhile, if you are an L1B visa holder, your potential green card preference level would probably fall into either the second or third preference levels which encounter much longer wait times for processing.
Upon the approval of your I-140 petition, your priority date will become current, and you will be eligible to submit an I-485 form in order to adjust your status from nonimmigrant L1 status, to lawful permanent residency under a green card.
Another path you may take in order to further shorten your processing time is utilizing the premium processing service for I-140 petitions, shortening the typical six-month processing time to a mere 15 calendar days. However, you cannot shorten the processing time of I-1485 from its usual length of between six to eight months.
When you finally receive your green card, it does not mean that you are completely done with the immigration process regarding United States permanent residency. Criminal issues and long absences from the country can threaten your green card status. Additionally and perhaps the biggest concern is that your green card does not last forever. In fact, green cards have expiration dates.
Your green card’s expiration date would depend on your type of permanent residence. For instance, a regular permanent resident’s green card is valid for 10 years.
There is another type of permanent resident called the conditional permanent resident. This typically happens when you acquire your green card through marriage and if that marriage is less than two years old. The green card given to the conditional permanent resident typically lasts for only two years.
If your green card is nearing its expiration and you are a regular permanent resident, you may renew your green card for a fresh 10-year period. However, if you are a conditional permanent resident, you are ineligible for renewal. You can, however, go through a process of requesting to have the conditions of your residency removed. If they grant your request, you can become a regular permanent resident and have your green card renewed.
The United States government issues more than a million green cards every year. Most of the green cards issued are for family members of United States citizens and current green card holders. A big portion of the green cards are also issued to workers from other countries seeking employment in the United States.
Yes! You can travel abroad while waiting for your Green Card. However, before you leave the country, there is an application and interview process that you will need to complete. You will also need to secure an Advance Parole to re-enter the United States after your travel.
While in the process of adjusting your status to "permanent US resident", you may face severe consequences if you travel outside the country without the advance parole. Similarly, you may be unable to return to the United States and your applications may be denied.
To remedy this, it is best to obtain advance parole. To do so, you must complete your Form I-131, otherwise known as the Application for Travel Document. You can fill out the application online and special instructions are on the website. You will have to pay a filing fee of $305, but if you meet certain criteria they will waive the fee.
It is best to always
weigh your options.
Another type of visa that is worth taking note of is the H1B visa. This type of visa has some similarities to the L1 visa but can be different in a lot of ways. Depending on your own unique circumstances, it might be worth considering to study also the H1B visa. We have collated for you some of the differences between an L1 and an H1B visa. We discuss them in detail below so that you can decide which visa works best for your case.
There are various key differences between the H1B visa and the L1 visa. Some of those key differences relate to your educational requirements, duration of stay, annual visa limitations, and your employer’s eligibility. All of these, we discuss in detail below to help you decide if the L1 visa is the right visa for you.
The first key difference between an H1B visa and an L1 visa that is worth taking note of is their difference when it comes to their educational requirements.
With an H1B visa, you should have at the minimum a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Additionally, your degree or work experience must be relevant to your work according to the H1B visa. This is unlike the L1 visa which does not require a specific level of educational attainment. Additionally, with an L1 visa, you can be given the L1A or L1B category so long as you meet the other requirements.
The difference of the H1B visa compared to the L1 visa in the maximum duration of stay may be of note for you.
With an L1A visa, the allowed maximum number of years you can stay in the United States is 7 years. Meanwhile, for an L1B visa, it is 5 years. On the other hand, with an H1B visa, you can stay in the United States for a total of six years. After that, you can file for a three-year extension.
One of the advantages of the L1 visa is that there is no limit to the number of petitions approved every year. As such, the USCIS cannot deny you on the basis of a cap being reached. This is advantageous compared to the H1B visa that has a regular cap of 65,000 with an extra 20,000 reserved for master’s exemption.
United States-based companies will have to petition for your H1B visa. You can compare this to the L1 visa which requires companies to be multinational. Furthermore, an intra-company transferee must file for the L1 visa. As such, you must be employed for an entire year within the past three years before filing the L1 petition.
There are a number of advantages you can get if you choose to apply for an L1 visa compared to the E2 visa. However, how you will maximize these depend on your own unique circumstances. We have listed below some of the advantages of an L1 visa. We have also included some of the advantages to the E2 visa to help you discern which best suits your circumstances.
For the L1 visa, you are initially allowed to say for up to three years. Afterward, you can apply for an extension, which they grant in increments of up to an additional two years. The maximum period of stay for an L1A visa is seven years. Meanwhile, the maximum period of stay for an L1B visa is five years.
In contrast, an E2 visa allows you an initial two years of stay. Afterward, you can apply for an additional two more years. The E2 visa, however, has the advantage of unlimited applications for extensions.
If granted an L1 status, your spouse and children may enter the US under an L2 status. Under the L2 status, they can enjoy the same period of stay you enjoy. Note however that your children must be below 21 years old to qualify.
The same case applies to an E2 visa, as long as your dependents are of your nationality.
The best way to go about with your petition is to ask help from experts. The petition for an L1 visa is very documentation-heavy. Furthermore, the L1 visa has other difficult factors to consider. Particularly, the time and money it will cost you may be significant. To avoid delays and ensure a smooth path to your visa, we encourage you to consult with us.
You can trust immigrationbusinessplan.com with your visa concerns. Our team in immigrationbusinessplan.com has been helping clients with their visa requirements and needs for over 15 years. We also offer end to end solutions to secure your visa approval all while experiencing minimal to no delays. Feel free to set up a free consultation with us for your L1 visa business plan now... and we will do our best to help you avoid the hassle later.
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