What is an L1 Visa?
The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to foreign employees to facilitate their transfer to an affiliate, parent, branch or subsidiary of the same employer in the United States. The Visa is issued for a short time though it can be extended for up to seven years or up to five years.
The L1 Visa is not unique to any country or company. This implies that small and large corporations alike can transfer their employees, particularly those in managerial or executive capacity, from any country to the United States as long as they can prove their employment and eligibility.
L1 visa holders can renew the L-1 Visa when it expires until they attain the maximum permissible period, depending on their current position at the company.
For more information or assistance with the L1 visa, reach out to our expert immigration solicitors. Call 0333 305 9375 or contact us online.
Who is eligible for the L1 visa?
The L1 visa is available to employees who are managers, executives or have specialized knowledge. It is divided into L1A, and L1B classification, of which L1A is for managers and L1B is for specialized knowledge employees.
To be eligible for this visa, the beneficiary must:
- Be registered in the company as a full-time employee. However, the employee is eligible to work part-time in the US.
- Occupy or be transferred to an executive, managerial or special knowledge position in the US company.
- Have been working in the UK company for at least a year within three years before applying for admission into the US.
The company/employer must meet some requirements as well. The beneficiary must be going to work in the United States with:
- A parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch company of the UK-based company.
- An organisation that is doing business as a US-based employer and in the UK.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), doing business can be:
- The regular, systematic, and ongoing provisions of products or services
- Undertaken by a qualifying organisation that exists as an entity and not simply an agent or office in the US.
Types of L1 visa
As mentioned above, the L1 visa is categorised into the L1A visa and the L1B visa.
L1A visa (Executives and Managers)
The L-1A visa is a temporary visa issued to managers and executives in foreign entities to work in the parent branch or affiliate in the United States. This visa is only accredited when a relevant document signifying managerial or executive responsibilities is tendered.
However, if you have been granted an L-1A visa to come to the United States to establish a new office, you will be allowed to stay for one year. All other qualified L-1A visa holders will be allowed to stay for at least three years. After that time, you can request an extension of stay in increments of two years until you reach a maximum limit of up to seven years.
L1B Visa (Specialised knowledge workers)
The L1B visa is issued to employees with specialized knowledge capacity to work in a US-based branch, affiliate, parent, or subsidiary of the foreign company.
A specialized knowledge employee is an employee that has in-depth, advanced, or required knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, equipment, management, techniques, processes and procedures.
Like the L1A visa, L1B visa holders can get a maximum initial stay of one year if they are coming to establish a new office. Other employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of up to three years. They all can request an extension in increments of two years until they reach the maximum limit of five years.
How to apply for an L1 visa
The first step in the application process is to get a transfer offer from your employer who owns or heads a branch, affiliate, subsidiary or apparent company in the United States. Then, the employer will proceed to fill the Form l-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
Form l-129 can be filed in two ways: an individual petition and a blanket petition. The individual petitions ensure that only one employee is issued the L1 Visa, while L1 blanket petitions enable large companies to transition multiple employees to the United States via the L-1 Visa.
To get an approved blanket petition, the organization must meet some requirements. The requirements include that they must have annual sales of at least $25 million, obtained 10 L1 approvals in the past year, a business in the US for at least one year, at least 1000 employees, and three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates.
Regardless of how Form l-129 is filed, the employer is to pay the filing fees and provide all the required and supporting documentation. If the petition is approved, the USCIS will provide the employer with Form I-797.
After that, the beneficiary is to file Form DS-160. This form is easily obtained online and requires that all such foreign workers include necessary details like their purpose, intent for going to the United States and other information that will aid the application process.
When you submit the DS-160, you will get a confirmation page that you should save or print as you will need it later.
Then, you are to pay the visa application fee and any other additional cost. Also, you must schedule an interview with the US Embassy or consulates in the UK. However, a visa interview isn’t necessary if you are above 79 years of age.
At the visa interview, a consular officer will assess your eligibility and the genuineness of your application, the US company and UK parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch.
What are the required documents to apply for an L1 Visa?
When applying for the L1 Visa, there are several supporting documentation you need to submit. Check out the following criteria to ensure you meet all the requirements.
Documents required in general
- Evidence to prove the existence of the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign employer, such as:
- an annual report
- articles of incorporation
- financial statements
- copies of stock certificates
- Evidence that the employee worked in the UK for the qualifying organisation for up to one year, such as a letter from the UK employer with employment details
- Description of the job duties of the manager, executive, or specialised knowledge worker.
Documents required from the company when the beneficiary is coming to establish a new office
The documents listed above are required along with:
- Proof of new physical office
- Proof that the visa applicant has been employed for one continuous year as a manager or an executive.
- Proof that the proposed employment in the US involves executive or managerial authority
- Evidence that the US operation will support an executive or managerial position within one year of approval.
- Description of the scope of the entity, its organisational structure and financial goals
- The size of the US investment and the UK-based company’s financial ability to remunerate the beneficiary and to commence doing business in the US
- The organisational structure of the UK-based business
Documents required to be provided by the transferees
During the visa application process, the L1 visa holder is to provide some documents as well. They include:
- A valid passport
- A photograph that meets the requirements of the US visa photograph requirements
- Evidence of the scheduled visa interview date
- Copies of the Form I-129 filed by the Employer and Form I-797
- The receipts showing the L1 Visa fees
- Letters from previous employers and supervisors
- Evidence that the company has employed you for at least one year
- A copy of the beneficiary’s resume/CV
- Appointment documents validating your transfer to the United States
- Any required document that shows the capacity of the beneficiary to conduct executive, managerial or specialised knowledge capacity.
- Photographs of your workplace
- The DS-160 confirmation page
If the employer’s petition is a blanket petition, the visa applicant must submit two copies of Form I-129S and three copies of Form I-797 with the application.
Cost and Processing Time of the L1 visa?
Form l-129 attracts a base fee of $460, which the employer must pay when filing the form. When the beneficiary is filing Form DS-160, there are visa application fees. The fee for the L-1 visa application is $190.
Also, there may be additional fees for biometrics and other steps depending on the embassy. Premium processing is available with this visa for $2,500.
With premium processing, the visa is processed within 15 days. Without premium processing, it takes an average of 3-6 months for the USCIS to process an L1 Visa.
As a beneficiary of the L1 Visa, you can bring your family members to the United States as dependents. Eligible dependents are your spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. To come to the United States with you, L1 spouse and children may apply for the L-2 visa.
L1 dependents can study and enjoy other benefits in the United States during their period of stay.
Also, your spouse can apply for employment authorization to work in the United States by filing a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. If approved, L2 spouses may work with any US employer.
Since the L1 visas are available only to certain employees, applicants may wonder if it’s the right choice for their circumstances. It’s recommended that you request advice from qualified immigration lawyers with expertise in US immigration law before you apply for any visa.
The immigration lawyers at Total Law have expert knowledge in US immigration law and systems and have experience assisting UK citizens with immigrating to the US. Our immigration attorneys provide immigration services that cover the L-1 visa to:
- Provide advice on the best visa or immigration route.
- Assess the company and beneficiary’s eligibility
- Ensure the company can sponsor your application.
- Liaise with both the United States-based and the UK-based company for the application
- Submit a petition on your employer’s behalf.
- File your visa application on your behalf
- Liaise with the immigration authorities on your behalf throughout the visa application process.
For more information on how we can help you, get in touch today. Call us on 0333 305 9375 or use our contact form.
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If all the requirements are met, the USCIS will issue an L1 visa to the beneficiary. The visa may be valid for up to one or three years, depending on if the foreign workers were transferred to the US to establish or work in a new or existing US office.
You can extend the L1 visa with increments of two years until you reach the five year limit for the L1B visa or the limit of seven years for the L1A visa.
Unlike the L1 Visa, H1B has more rigid requirements and is time-consuming. However, both visas serve different purposes. The H1B visa is for speciality occupations and fashion models, while the L1 visa is for intra-company transfer of employees who may be managers, executives, or specialised knowledge workers in overseas companies.
L1 spouses can work in the United States if they are authorised to work. To get that authorisation, they must first be in the US under the L2 visa category and then apply for work authorisation by filling the Form I-765. Once the employment authorization is granted, the spouse will not face any restrictions working in the United States.
The L1 visa on its own is not an immigrant visa so you cannot get lawful permanent resident status (green card) with this visa.
However, L1 visa holders can change their status from an L1A visa to an EB1C visa or from L1B to an EB2 visa to get a green card. Those are immigrant visas that provide permanent residency. Both the EB1C and EB2 visas have specific eligibility requirements that you must meet.