If you are an employer who has an active office in the U.S. or wants to establish one, the L-1 visa may have the benefits you need to send experienced high-level employees to the U.S. to grow your business. However, like with many other temporary work visas, it has its advantages and disadvantages that may help or hinder your case. Read on to learn the L1a and L1b visa requirements as well as how the benefits apply to your business.
L-1 Visa Benefits for Foreign Workers
The L-1 visa is broken down into two subcategories: the L-1A for managers and executives, and the L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge. Each has its own requirements and duration of stay. See the section below comparing the difference between L1a and L1b.
When comparing these L-1 visas with many of the other work visa classifications, you will find that, depending on your immigration situation, it has many benefits that the others do not.
Relatively Low Requirements
There are many work visas available to foreign professionals who wish to be employed in the U.S. Many of them have very steep requirements that are difficult to fulfill.
For example, the O-1 visa requires applicants to show their extraordinary ability through international awards or a substantial salary. The TN visa is only available to Canadians and Mexicans. The E-2 visa requires a substantial investment in a U.S. enterprise.
The L-1 visa, however, only requires you to be a manager, executive, or specialized employee in a multinational company in order to be qualified. This opens up the door for many people that are otherwise ineligible for other work visas.
No Job Offer Required
One of the most difficult aspects of acquiring an H-1B, J-1, or TN visa is finding an entity that is willing to sponsor you for the visa. If you are a qualified L-1 applicant, then you are already employed with a U.S. company that will sponsor you.
No Annual Limits
Typically, the L-1 visa is compared to the H-1B on account of their similarities. However, they differ largely here as there is a strict annual cap on how many H-1B petitions are approved. Each year, a small number of petitions are randomly selected from the pool of submitted petitions, making it very difficult to obtain an H-1B if you are subject to this lottery.
On the other hand, there are no limits to how many L-1 visas are approved each year. This means that your petition will not be rejected due to the fact that there are no more available visas.
Period of Stay/ L1B Visa Duration
For the L-1A visa, holders will be granted an initial three years of stay in the U.S. They can then extend their stay to a maximum of seven years, this surpasses the H-1B’s maximum of six years and the J-1’s maximum of five years.
However, the L-1B visa can only be extended to a maximum of five years, making its period of stay a disadvantage when compared to other work visas.
One of the greatest L-1 visa benefits is the fact that you do not need a degree to qualify. This is a large advantage over the H-1B, though there are some other visas that do not necessarily require an education. These include the O-1, E-2, TN, and J-1 visa classifications.
Spouses and Dependents Can Work
If you are in the U.S. on L-1 status, you will be able to bring your spouse and children along with you through the L2 visa and the validity period will be the same as that of the L-1 visa holder. Also, if they qualify for Employment Authorization Documents, they will be able to work in the U.S. as well. This is a great L-1 benefit because it allows your spouse and dependents to make supplementary income to help support the family if necessary. Parents of L1 visa holders are not eligible for the L2 visa, unfortunately.
Check out this guide on the L-2 Visa Process for Dependents.
Like several other nonimmigrant visas, the L-1 is considered by the USCIS to be “dual intent”, meaning that L-1 holders are able to pursue lawful permanent resident status during their stay. This is in contrast to work visas such as the J-1 and TN visa classifications through which pursuing a green card would violate your status and possibly incur consequences with the USCIS.
Here’s a recap of what you can apply for as an L visa holder while physically in the U.S.:
- Labor Certification Application
- Immigrant visa application
- Adjustment of status application
- Application for H-1B visa or L visa extension
It really is a tremendous benefit to be able to apply for permanent residency (while in the U.S. on L1) without facing negative repercussions. Moreover, one advantage over the H-1B is that employers don’t need to prove that the wage meets the prevailing wage of similar domestic workers.
How the L-1 Visa Benefits Employers
Applicants are not the only ones who can take advantage of the L-1 visa benefits. Employers have much to gain from choosing to use this visa over others.
The first and perhaps the greatest L-1 benefit that employers can enjoy is the fact that the L-1 has a blanket visa option for companies that have combined U.S. revenue of at least $25 million or have a minimum of 1,000 employees working in the U.S.
An L-1 blanket petition allows employers to file a single petition for multiple employees, meaning that you will not be required to file and pay for a petition for each employee. For large companies that need to get many employees over to the U.S. with short notice, the blanket petition is an invaluable advantage.
Another equally important L-1 benefit is the fact that, if a multinational employer does not currently have an office or branch in the U.S., an L-1 holder can be sent in order to establish a new one.
While there are different limitations attached to this process, it is extremely advantageous to be able to establish a new office in the U.S. Employer will be able to send L-1 holders to the new office once it has been established.
Labor Condition Application Requirement
Even though it is not a necessarily arduous or expensive process, obtaining a Labor Condition Application (LCA) for each H-1B or E3 employee can add up in both time and money. Fortunately, the L-1 does not require that you obtain this certification when petitioning for an employee transfer.
Wondering what your L1 status is? Give us a call to schedule a consultation!
L1B vs L1A – Visa Requirements
The L-1A visa is designed for intracompany transferees who work in managerial or executive positions (company outside the U.S.) while the L-1B is for intracompany transferees who work in positions requiring specialized knowledge.
L1A Visa Requirements
In order to meet the L1a requirements you must:
- Have been working for a qualifying company overseas for one continuous year within the past three years immediately before your admission to the U.S.
- Have an interest in coming to the U.S. to provide your skills in a managerial or executive capacity for a branch of the same employer or a qualifying organization
L1B Visa Requirements
In order to qualify for an L-1b classification you must:
- Have been working for a qualifying organization overseas for one continuous year within the past three years immediately before your admission to the U.S.
- Have an interest in entering the U.S. to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations
Have questions about the L1b or L1a visa requirements? Have your case handled by experienced immigration professionals!
What defines specialized knowledge?
“Specialized knowledge either means knowledge you have about the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. (See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D).)”
L-1 Visa Restrictions and Disadvantages
Unfortunately, all of these L-1 benefits do not come without some drawbacks. Even though the L-1 can be relatively easy to obtain, those same advantages can be considered disadvantages if you are not already employed.
Must Already Be Employed
While this was counted as an advantage earlier, it could easily be a disadvantage depending on your situation. If you are not currently employed with a multinational company that is large enough to have or plant an office in the U.S., then this could be a very difficult hurdle to surpass. This is especially true since you must work at that company for one full year in the three years that precede your entry into the U.S.
No Extension Past the Maximum Period of Stay
This is one of the biggest L-1 visa restrictions. Even though the L-1A allows for holders to work for up to seven years, this limit cannot be exceeded for any reason. For other visas, such as the H-1B or J-1, an extension can be acquired past the usual maximum. There are even some visas like the O-1 and E-2 that allow for unlimited extensions. However, unfortunately, L-1 holders are only granted one extension after their initial three years. After that, they must either transfer their status or apply for a new L-1 visa.
Limited Types of Companies
While other visas such as the H-1B allow you to be employed with any U.S. employer, the company sponsoring you for an L-1 visa must be a multinational company that either has or is planning to have a branch, subsidiary, or office in the U.S.
This rule usually excludes businesses that are too small to have international branches as well as small business owners. Make sure to speak with your immigration attorney to determine if your business qualifies for this visa.
Another L-1 visa restriction is the fact that visa holders are not permitted to start their own businesses while on L-1 status. In order to maintain your status, you must only work for your sponsoring employer and no one else, meaning that you also cannot work part-time for another employer simultaneously. This is in contrast to the H-1B visa, which allows both entrepreneurship and part-time employment.
Procedure to File
In order to get the process started, your employer should:
- Review and complete Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
- Pay applicable filing fees
- Submit the required evidence and supporting documentation (this includes a duplicate copy of Form I-129 and all supporting documentation (even if they are filing the Form I-129 to seek a change of status (COS) or extension of stay (EOS) on your behalf).
After USCIS receives your Form I-129 and they process it, you will receive a receipt notice confirming they received it, a biometric service notice, notice to appear for an interview (if necessary) and finally a notice of their decision. You can check the status of your case using the USCIS online account.
How We Can Help
Now that you are aware of the L1a and L1b visa requirements as well as all the advantages and disadvantages that the L-1 visa has compared to other work visas, you may still be wondering if it is the right choice for your case. Retaining the help of a qualified immigration attorney can help you decide how you want to proceed.
VisaNation Law Group’s L-1 attorneys are experts in helping employers petition as well as helping beneficiaries go through the L-1 process. We will guide you through each step and make sure that your petition has the best chance for approval by making sure that all issues and errors are addressed.
To get in touch, you can complete this simple contact form and schedule a consultation today.