L-1 Visa: a Complete Guide for Companies and Foreign Workers

The L-1 visa (Intracompany Transferee Visa) category allows multinational companies to transfer certain types of employees from a qualified foreign office to the U.S. to continue employment. This is extremely helpful for companies conducting business in both the United States and in foreign countries as it is necessary to transfer employees between offices in different countries at times.

L-1 visa attorney, Shilpa Malik, has successfully obtained an L-1 visa for professionals in several industries such as technology, trading, manufacturing etc. VisaNation Law Group L-1 visa lawyers specialize in working with start-up companies to receive an L-1 visa for foreign-based employees. In several instances, VisaNation Law Group L-1 visa attorneys have helped our business clients use an L-1 visa to transfer employees when H-1B visas were not available.

L-1 Visa Requirements

To receive either type of L-1 visa, the employee’s company must meet two requirements. First, there must be a recognized relationship between the business in a foreign country and a business in the United States. This can be a parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch relationship.

Secondly, the company must be doing business in the United States and at least one other country, or have plans to do so during the period of the L-1 visa. The employee must also have worked for the foreign business for at least one continuous year during the preceding three years.

Types of L-1 Visas

L-1 visas are available for two different types of employees. Executives and managers need to apply for and receive an L-1A visa. These are employees who have significant decision-making or supervisory functions.

Other foreign employees can apply for an L-1B visa, which is available for workers with specialized knowledge of the company’s products, processes, organization, equipment and more. Generally, it is only available if the specific employee is necessary for the business’ operation in the United States.

Requirements for L-1A Visa

To qualify for L-1A, Intracompany Transferee for Executives of Managers, the employee must be employed with the company for at least 1 year in the past 3 years. That 1 year of employment must be continuous and uninterrupted. The employee must either have executive capacity or managerial capacity. In other words, the employee must either have the ability to make company-wide decisions or/and supervise the work of others and control operations.

Requirements for L-1B Visa

To qualify for L-1B, Intra Company Transferee Specialized Knowledge, the employer must also be continuously employed with the company for at least 1 year in the past 3 years. The employee must possess specialized knowledge or expertise of advanced nature that is essential to the operations of the company.

L-1 Visa Benefits

Although there are several types of employment-based visas that foreign workers can receive, those who are eligible will probably want to apply for an L-1 visa as it has some key benefits.

  • The spouses and dependents of L-1 visa holders are eligible to receive an L-2 visa. Unlike the H-4 visa, the dependent visa for H-1B spouses, the L-2 visa allows the holder to work in the United States during their period of stay.
  • L-1 visa is not subject to any numeric limits. While the H-1B visa is only available in limited quantity every year.
  • Perhaps the biggest benefit to an L-1 visa is that companies can apply for blanket petitions for their employees to qualify for either an L-1A or L-1B visa.
  • An L-1 visa is also often renewable for a period of 5 to 7 years while a temporary business visa (B-2) is only issued for one year.
  • If you are an L-1A holder, you are a prime candidate for an E-B1C green card for managers and executives, which is a great option if lawful permanent residency is your goal.

List of L-1 Visa Benefits

Who is L-1 Visa For?

Without a doubt, there are numerous benefits to pursuing an L-1 visa. Below is a list of reasons why this visa might be for you.

Your intent is to get a green card in the future. L-1 is a dual-intent visa, meaning that L-1 holders can apply for lawful permanent residence when they qualify. This option makes the L-1 visa appealing to many foreign workers.

You don’t meet the requirements for other U.S. visas like O-1 or are ineligible for the TN visa. In those cases, the relatively easy-to-meet requirements of L-1 could be the deciding factor.

You don’t want to look for a new job, or you don’t want to work for a different company in the U.S. With the L-1 visa, you will work for the same company as in your home country but for its American counterpart. Thus, you are essentially transferring within the company and not actually starting a brand-new job at a new company.

You don’t have time to wait for priority dates. There are no annual limits for L-1 visa applicants, unlike for H-1B visas. This means that you will not have to endure the long wait and then the outcome of the lottery.

You want a long period of stay. With the L-1A, you can stay in the U.S. for up to 7 years and up to 5 years on L-1B, granted that your extension application is approved. Compared to other visas, the length of stay for L-1 is considerably longer.

Your spouse and children can work in the U.S. This is an option that is not available on some of the other U.S. visas. Your spouse and children can come to the U.S. on the L-2 visa and which makes them eligible for EAD.

What is the L-1 Visa Process?

The process for obtaining an L-1 visa is relatively simple compared to other visas:

  • The applicant must first file an I-129 form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service along with documentation proving the company and the employee’s eligibility for an L-1 visa.
  • If the USCIS approves the application, it will issue a notice of action. This will allow the applicant to either apply for a visa at a United States embassy or consulate in his or her home country if he or she is outside of the U.S. or apply for a change of status while inside the country.
  • If you are outside the U.S. and need to go through consular processing, then you will need to fill out a DS-160 online visa application and bring the confirmation to the consulate or embassy along with the filing fee. Then you will go through a personal interview with an immigration officer in order to determine your eligibility for the L-1 visa.
  • If you pass the interview, then you will be issued your L-1 visa and you will be able to start working for your employer in the U.S.

L-1 Visa Required Documents

There are numerous documents that must be submitted for an L-1 visa application. Since this is an employment-based visa, the employer and the employee must show relevant documentation during the process.

Your employer will most likely have to submit the following documents for the U.S.-based company as well as for the foreign company:

  • Financial statements;
  • Corporate by-laws;
  • Articles of incorporation;
  • Description of business activities;
  • Tax filings;
  • Audited accounts; and
  • Many other documents.

Now, the employee will have to submit a different set of documents that will be considered by the USCIS in the L-1 visa application process. These documents include:

  • Education diplomas or certificates;
  • Income tax records;
  • Valid passport with at least six months left before the expiry date;
  • 2 passport photos;
  • Letter of reference from a supervisor;
  • A letter from the employer requesting L-1 visa;
  • Employment verification letter; and
  • Up-to-date resume.

Although you are very likely to have to submit the above documents, depending on your background and the nature of your employment, you might have to submit additional documents. It is crucial to consult an experienced immigration attorney about the required documents for the L-1 visa application.

How Long Is the Overall L-1 Visa Processing Time?

Because each USCIS service center that processes petitions has a different workload, the processing time for your I-129 may vary widely. However, there is a general average of six months that many attorneys account for when considering the processing time.

Due to the fact that the L-1A and L-1B both need the I-129 petition, there is no difference in the processing times between the two petitions.

Premium Processing

All visas that use the I-129 or I-140 petition forms are eligible for premium processing. This feature can shorten your L-1 processing time from upwards of six months to just 15 calendar days. If the USCIS fails to process your petition in the allotted time, then your employer will have their fee refunded.

While premium processing does not ensure that your petition will be approved, it may be a convenient tool to use if you need to enter the U.S. as soon as possible. Speak with your L-1 visa lawyer to learn if this service would work with your case.

L-1 Visa Fees

Here is a breakdown of the necessary fees associated with obtaining your L-1 visa:

  • I-129 basic filing fee: $460
  • Anti-Fraud Fee: $500
  • Public Law 113-114 Fee: $4,500. This fee is only applicable if your employer has more than 50 employees with over half under L-1A, L-1B, or H-1B status.
  • ACWIA Training and Education Fee: $750 for employers with a workforce of 25 or fewer. $1,500 for employers with a workforce of 26 or more.
  • DS-160 application fee (for consular processing only): $160

It is important to note that all of the above fees are your employer’s responsibility, not yours. Also, the ACWIA and Public Law fees are only one-time fees that do not apply to L-1 transfers or extensions.

Some other optional fees that you may encounter are the fees for an immigration attorney (see our fees here) and the premium processing fee of $1,440, which can be paid either by you, the beneficiary, or your employer.

L-1 Blanket Petition

L-1 blanket petitions allow qualified employees to skip the I-129 form and proceed directly to an embassy or consulate for visa processing. To be eligible to receive blanket permission, companies must meet the L-1 general requirements and have at least three or more branches, affiliates or subsidiaries.

Companies must also either have successfully applied for 10 or more L-1 visas in the previous 12 months, have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million, or employ at least 1,000 people in the United States.

L-1 Visa Requests for Evidence

If the USCIS finds a discrepancy or inconsistency in your petition, then they may issue you a Request for Evidence (RFE) rather than deny your petition outright. This RFE will include the issues that the USCIS has concerning the petition whether it be incomplete or insufficient information, a lack of qualifications, or suspicions raised about the company.

If you are issued an RFE, bring it to your immigration attorney immediately. There is a relatively short window for delivering a response. If a timely response is not given, then you may risk having your L-1 visa petition denied.

How to Apply for an L-1 Visa Extension

If you would like to get an L-1 visa extension or renewal, the process shares many steps with the process associated with the original visa. Your employer will need to file a new petition for you prior to the expiration of the I-94 departure date.

Along with the petition, you will need several documents including letters of support and details from your employer concerning your position over the past three years of your stay under L-1 status.

Fortunately, if you have spent any time abroad during your stay, you may be able to recapture that time and use it to extend your L-1 visa even further. To do this, you will need to present physical documents as evidence that you left the country (e.g. boarding passes, plane tickets, etc.)

How VisaNation Law Group L-1 Visa Attorneys Can Help

Like with all situations involving the complexities of immigration law, it pays to have an expert on your side. This will help you avoid delays or obstacles that could easily cost you both time and money. In order to make sure that your L-1 visa petition was filed correctly the first time, it’s best to retain an immigration attorney.

At VisaNation we can help develop a corporate strategy to request and receive blanket L-1 visa petitions. VisaNation Law Group lawyers can also assist with an L-1 visa to H1B visa change of status.

The VisaNation Law Group L-1 attorneys have extensive experience in applying for EB-1 green cards for L-1A visa holders. Our attorneys can ensure that your extension requests are filed and processed on time and without errors.

We also offer expert reviews of all L-1 visa documentation so there are no unnecessary delays in processing. Through an optimized application process, we can help you get on the fast track to working in the U.S. If you would like to get in contact with a VisaNation Law Group L-1 visa lawyer, complete this simple form to schedule a consultation today.