Under the L-1 visa, there are two separate classifications, the L-1A and the L-1B visa. This page focuses on the L-1B visa, which is designed for foreign workers with specialized knowledge. Below, you will learn all about the visa, requirements, processing times, documents, and everything else you will need to succeed.

What is an L-1B Visa?

L-1B visa allows a multinational company to relocate a professional employee possessing specialized knowledge relevant to the organization’s interests from an affiliated foreign office to one within the United States. This visa not only allows for the transfer of employees to existing U.S. offices but also enables foreign companies to send specialized workers to aid in establishing new offices in the United States.

L-1B Graphic Information

L-1B Requirements

Professional employees with specialized knowledge typically have expertise that is not readily available in the U.S.  job market, like proprietary technology, or an in-depth understanding of the foreign company’s products and services.

To qualify for an L-1B visa the U.S. based employer must:

  • Demonstrate that there is a qualifying relationship between the foreign and U.S. company
  • Currently/plan to be doing business in the U.S. with at least one other country
  • Demonstrate a plan to support the employee’s role
  • Have the financial ability to compensate the employee
  • Have a physical work setting for the employee in the U.S.

The employee must:

  • Have been employed by the foreign company for a minimum of one year (full-time) within the three years before filing the L-1B petition.
  • Have worked for the foreign company outside of the U.S.
  • Only work in the U.S. for the same company that is petitioning them
  • Be able to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity
  • Be willing to leave the U.S. once their visa status expires

Compared to other visa categories, an L-1B visa does not require a degree to qualify. Holders of this visa can also bring along their spouses and children who are unmarried and under 21 years old through the L-2 visa. Spouses are eligible to work if they qualify for an employment-authorized document or have an unexpired I-94 form with a notation indicating the L-2 nonimmigrant status.

What Qualifies as Specialized Knowledge for L-1B Visa Purposes?

Specialized knowledge in the context of an L-1B visa involves an individual having advanced knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests. This expertise must be demonstrated as highly specialized within the global context, making it of significant interest to the United States.

L-1B for New Offices and Established Offices: Rules

Offices can either be established or must already exist when an employee secures an L-1B visa.

An established office refers to a business that is already operating in the U.S., whereas a new office indicates the initial stages of the expansion. When seeking an L1B visa, the employee may be held responsible for setting up the new office in the U.S. They could be in charge of securing the office, hiring staff and starting operations.

The employee would initially be allowed for one year in the U.S. If the office already exists in the U.S., the employer needs to be able to show proof of the physical location of the business, as well as ongoing business operations in the U.S. Employers often show lease agreements, bills, payrolls and other documents to prove that the office exists and functions.

It is crucial for employers and visa applicants to understand these requirements applicable to their situation to ensure a successful visa application process.

L-1B Processing Time

The processing time for an L-1B vis ais between 2 – 3 months. The process of obtaining an L-1B visa involves filing an I-129 form, which is the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Along with the petition, applicants must provide supporting documentation to prove the employee’s specialized knowledge in the field, as well as the qualifying relationship between the foreign and U.S. entities.

Applicants undergoing consular processing must submit a DS-160 form and attend an interview at the consulate in their home country. However, applicants with an approved L-1B visa in the U.S. can apply for an adjustment of status to remain in status.

Documents for L-1B Visa

Below, you will find all the necessary supporting documents that are needed to apply for an L-1B visa:

  • Passport
  • Resume
  • Pay stubs
  • Detailed proposed job duties (With foreign employer and U.S. company)
  • Projects employee has worked on
  • Statements explaining the specialized knowledge of the employee
  • Company certificates, tax returns, organizational charts, etc.

L-1B Duration & Extension

The L-1B visa is valid for up to 5 years.

Initially, an employee will be allowed to stay for 3 years, with the ability to extend their stay for an additional 2 years. However, if an L-1B visa holder enters the U.S. to establish their U.S. office, their initial stay is limited to 1 year, but they have the ability to extend their stay for up to a total of 5years.

Extensions beyond the initial periods are based on meeting visa requirements and demonstrating the continued need for the employee’s presence in the U.S. This could involve ongoing business operations, meeting financial benchmarks, or other operational activities.

L-1B Visa Cost

The cost of filing an L-1B visa ranges from $2,390 to $7,190. The employer must file the I-129 Form, which is the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Here is a complete breakdown of the government fees:

  • DS-160: $205
  • I-129 Form: $695 (<25 employees) or $1,385
  • Fraud Prevention Fee: $300 (<25 employees) or $600
  • Public Law Fee: $4,500 (>50 U.S. employers)
  • *Optional: Premium Processing $2,805
  • Legal Fee: Depends on your attorney

If you opt for premium processing, you will have a decision on your L-1B visa within 15 calendar days.

L-1B Visa to Green Card

To change from L-1B to a green card, you can file for one of the EB green cards. One of the advantages of the L-1B visa is that it allows dual intent. This means that holders of L-1B visas can pursue their green cards without jeopardizing their visa status. The available green card options for L-1B visa holders are:

  • EB-2: For individuals who hold an exceptional ability in their field with an advanced degree.
  • EB-3: For professionals, skilled workers and unskilled workers.
  • EB-5: For investors investing remarkable capital in the U.S.

The L-1B visa holder can have their employer file the PERM process, including completing a labor certification. This certification must essentially prove that the immigrant is not displacing U.S. workers and that there is a genuine need for their specialized knowledge in the U.S.

Why Choose an L-1B Over an H-1B visa?

Both the L-1B and H-1B visas cater to foreign workers with specialized knowledge, yet they serve distinct purposes within the realm of U.S. immigration policies. The L-1B visa primarily facilitates the intra-company transfer of employees from a foreign branch to a U.S. branch of the same multinational company. On the other hand, the H-1B visa is utilized by U.S. companies to hire foreign workers directly for specialized positions within their organizations. Find out more about L-1 visa vs H-1B visa comparison.

Example: A software development company based in India wishes to relocate one of its experienced developers to its U.S. subsidiary. In this case, the L-1B visa would be the appropriate choice to facilitate the transfer of this employee to the U.S. office. Conversely, if a pharmaceutical company in Canada intends to hire a research scientist for a specialized project in its U.S. research facility, the H-1B visa would be more suitable for sponsoring this individual directly from Canada to work in the U.S.

Education Requirements

An important distinction between the two visas is their eligibility criteria and limitations. The H-1B visa mandates that applicants hold at least a bachelor’s degree or possess equivalent specialized knowledge in their respective fields. This educational requirement ensures that H-1B visa holders have the necessary qualifications to fill specialized positions within U.S. companies.

On the other hand, individuals applying for an L-1B visa do not necessarily need a degree, as the emphasis is placed on their specialized knowledge and experience within the company.

Annual Cap

The H-1B visa program imposes an annual cap or limit on the number of visas issued each fiscal year, subject to a lottery system due to high demand.

In contrast, the L-1B visa program does not have an annual limit, offering greater flexibility for multinational companies to transfer their employees as needed without facing visa quota constraints.

Prevailing Wage

Employers sponsoring H-1B visa holders are required to pay a prevailing wage, ensuring that foreign employees receive compensation comparable to their U.S. counterparts in similar positions.

However, employers have more flexibility in adjusting wages for employees on L-1B visas, as they are not bound by prevailing wage requirements.

Duration of Stay

It’s worth noting that individuals holding L-1B visas can also concurrently apply for an H-1B visa if they meet the eligibility criteria for both programs. However, holders of H-1B visas have a longer maximum stay duration in the U.S., up to 6 years, compared to L-1B visa holders who can stay for up to 5 years initially.

Switching Employers

Another key difference is related to switching employers. L-1B visa holders are tied to their sponsoring employer and cannot change employers while maintaining their L-1B status. In contrast, individuals on H-1B status have the flexibility to apply for an H-1B transfer, allowing them to switch jobs within the U.S. job market without jeopardizing their visa status.

In summary, both the L-1B and H-1B visas offer dual intent, allowing employees to work temporarily in the U.S. based on their specialized knowledge and qualifications. The choice between these visas depends on the circumstances of the employee and the sponsoring company, considering factors such as intra-company transfers, educational qualifications, visa availability, duration of stay, and employment mobility.

How We Help Specialized Workers Obtain an L-1B Visa

Our attorneys specialize in getting L-1B visas for specialized workers seeking employment opportunities in the United States. Our team assists multinational companies in transferring their skilled employees with specialized knowledge from foreign offices to their U.S. branches.

We guide both employers and employees through the intricate process of demonstrating the qualifying relationship between the companies, meeting the eligibility criteria for L-1B visas, and ensuring compliance with all necessary documentation. Our goal is to streamline the visa application process, maximize approval chances, and enable specialized workers to contribute their expertise to U.S. operations seamlessly.

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