L Visas: Bringing Your Foreign Employees to the U.S.
L-1 visas allow international companies to efficiently transfer their qualifying foreign national employees to the United States for period of up to 7 years. The L-1 visa specifically permits relocation for international executives, managers, and other employees with specialized knowledge so long as the international company satisfies certain requirements for its relationship with its U.S. counterpart.
In order to qualify to receive an L-1 visa, an employee must:
- Have been working for the qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the 3 years; and
- That employment must have been either in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity; and
- The planned U.S. employment in the U.S. must also be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
More specifically, there are two types of L-1 visas that may be issued to foreign employees:
L-1A: This visa pertains to intra-company transfers for executives and managers.
This visa is initially granted for 3 years, so long as the qualifying U.S. company has been in existence for more than one year (see below for information on new companies) and can be extended in two year increments resulting in a total stay of seven years or less.
“USCIS defines an executive as a person acting with the ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight. On the other hand, a manager is an employee with the ability to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.”
L-1B: This visa allows employees with specialized knowledge to enter the U.S. as intra-company transferees.
This visa is also initially granted for 3 years, so long as the qualifying U.S. company has been in existence for more than one year and can be extended one time for two years resulting in a total stay of only five years or less.
In contrast to the L1-A visas which are intended for higher-ranking employees, USCIS has determined that the L-1B visa focuses on the employees interaction with the company’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. Due to the intricacies of proving specialized knowledge, L-1B petitions are typically scrutinized more heavily by USCIS than L-1A.
For L-1A and L-1B visas, the petitioning U.S. company must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, or other entity demonstrating common ownership or control; and
- Be doing business in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through an organization with the required qualifying relationship for the duration of the employee’s stay in the United States as an L-1.
Note: L-1 employers are not limited to for-profit corporations. Non-profits, charitable organizations, and religious organization are also eligible.
A qualifying U.S. company petitions for its employee to receive an L-1 visa by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker with the L Supplement to USCIS. This petition must be accompanied by sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the employee and the employer meet the requirements detailed above. This evidence must include detailed information concerning the employee’s past background, past employment, role in the company, and general eligibility for U.S. non-immigrant status. In addition, the company must submit substantial evidence concerning its business in the U.S. and abroad. If evidence is not submitted properly, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence to give the employer a chance to supplement the petition.
Note: Premium Processing, i.e. 15 day rush processing, is available for L-1 visas.
Once the petition is approved, employees already in the U.S. may be eligible to apply for a change of status with USCIS if they hold an eligible non-immigrant visa. However, for most employees in the U.S. and abroad, they employee will have to go through consular processing to receive his or her L-1 visa and enter the U.S. For consular processing, USCIS will submit the approved petition to the National Visa Center and an interview will be scheduled for the employee at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The employee must submit form DS-160 and bring other documents to the interview and pay the required visa fees. If the applicant is approved, he or she will receive and L-1 visa and be able to enter the U.S. to begin work.
Blanket L-1 Visas:
Certain large companies may petition USCIS for “blanket” L-1 visas to allow it to easily transfer employees into the U.S. For more information please visit our page.
Special Considerations for New U.S. Businesses:
Foreign companies looking to expand business into the U.S. for the first time require additional considerations to receive approval from USCIS for L-1 visas. For more information please visit our page.
Extensions and Green Cards of L-1 Employees:
As discussed above, both L-1A and L-1B visas allow extensions to be filed in two-year increments. To file for an extension, an employer will submit a new Form I-129 to USCIS.
L-1 visas are also considered “dual intent” visas, which allow L-1 visa holder to later be sponsored by the employer for a U.S. green card to become a lawful permanent resident. While L-1s are not a prerequisite for filing for a green card, it is often a simpler process that allows the employee to begin work quicker in the U.S.
L-1A visa holder may qualify as “first preference” and gain EB-1C status as a permanent resident without having to undergo the labor certification (PERM) process. L-1B visa holders may also apply for a green card as skilled workers but they employer will likely have to undergo labor certification. For more information on the PERM processand other immigrant employment visas.
Spouses of L-1 visa holders and any unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany the L-1 visa holder to the U.S. using an L-2 visa. L-2 spouses may seek employment in the U.S. by filing for employment authorization (EAD) after arrival. L-2 children may not be employed but both spouses and children are permitted to study while in the U.S. L-2 visas are also considered dual intent and L-2 holders may apply for green cards at the same time as the L-1 visa holder. For more information about bringing dependents to the U.S. on non-immigrant visas please visit.
Due to the strict requirements for L-1 visa employers and employees, it is very important for petitioning employers to understand what the business relationship between the U.S. and foreign entities and to evaluate employee qualifications. The experienced business immigration attorneys at Ilex Law can help you in getting hassle free approval on L visas. Check our Fees for L-1 Visa petitions.