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L1 Visa Eligibility and Process for International Transferees

The L1 visa is a wonderful option for multinational companies who wish to transfer employees from abroad to the United States. For example, this could be especially beneficial for a company that wants to bring experienced managers or executives to a new U.S. office. The information below will help explain the L1 visa process. Should you need any further guidance, an experienced L1 visa lawyer can be a great resource.

L1 Visa Eligibility

To be eligible to petition for its employees, a business must be a “qualifying organization” as defined by U.S. immigration law. This means the petitioning business must be a corporation, firm, or otherwise exist in the form of a business enterprise legal entity. The law further requires that the entity is actually doing business as a U.S. employer and minimum one other country. Additionally, an employer-employee relationship must exist for the petitioner and the petitioned. In other words, the U.S. business is required to be the boss of the individual petitioned from abroad.

L1 visa employees are also required to have been employed by the foreign business for a minimum of one year within the past three years preceding the filing of the visa petition. It is not necessary for the L1 visa employee to work in the exact same capacity within the U.S. as she or he worked for the foreign entity but the employee must come to work in an executive or managerial position or possess specialized knowledge that is not available to the U.S. business from a U.S. worker. Once L1 visa applications are approved, they remain valid for five years for specialized knowledge type individuals and seven years for managers and executives.

Family of L1 Workers

An employee transferring to the U.S. on an L1 visa may also bring his or her spouse as well as any children under the age of 21. These family members must apply for L-2 nonimmigrant classification. Once approved, they will be eligible to remain in the U.S. for the same amount of time as the L1 employee. Spouses who wish to work in the U.S. during their stay may also apply for work authorization by filing an Application for Employment Authorization.

What is the difference between the L1A and L1B visa categories?

The L1A visa classification involves an employee who serves the business in a “managerial capacity,” which means that this person primarily manages the whole business or a department, subdivision, function or other significant component of the organization. This person must have the authority to hire and fire or recommend those decisions and the authority to exercise discretion over the day-to-day operations of the business unit he or she manages. An executive directs the management of the business or a major component or function of the enterprise.

The L1B employee is one who possesses “specialized knowledge” about the businesses’ product, service, research, equipment, techniques, or management or holds an advanced level of expertise in the industry itself. A petition for an L1B employee must demonstrate to the immigration service that this individual holds knowledge not commonly held amongst individuals working in that industry.

What procedures must an L visa applicant follow?

It is important to note that as recent as 2015 several updated protocols and standards were announced by the immigration authorities that must be carefully followed in order to reduce the likelihood of a denial of the L1 visa petition. Because of this, the use of an experienced L1 visa lawyer has become even more valuable.

The first step in obtaining L1 visa application approval is for the U.S. employer to file Form I-129 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and pay the $325 filing fee and a $500 fraud prevention and detection fee. An additional $1,225 can be paid for “premium processing,” which allows for a decision within 15 calendar days from USCIS. Once the I-129 has been approved, the worker will file the DS-160 with their local consulate or embassy and will receive the L1 visa and can then travel to the U.S. where they will obtain employment authorization.

What is a “new office” L1 petition?

When a foreign entity is developing a new office location that has been doing business for less than one year as “an organization that has been doing business in the U.S. through a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary,” it may obtain this L1 visa for employees who are owners or major stockholders. These L1 visa applications are approved for one year and may be extended after a showing that the new office has grown into an established business.

What is an L1 visa “blanket petition”?

Companies that process numerous employee transfers can file for blanket approval which will allow them to do so with one immigration petition and thereby avoid numerous distinct applications. In order to be eligible as a blanket petition employer, the petitioner must meet the following requirements:

  • The foreign and U.S. entities are engaged in commercial trade or services.;
  • The U.S. entity has been doing business in the U.S. for one year or more.;
  • The U.S. business has three or more U.S. and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates.; and
  • These entities have obtained approval of a minimum of ten L1 visa petitions within the previous 12 months or have sales or $25 million or a U.S. workforce of minimum 1,000 employees.

An L1 visa lawyer can be a vital resource while navigating through the L1 visa process. For additional information and first-class guidance, contact us today for a free consultation.

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