What is the L1 Visa?
The L-1 Visa has been designed for individuals who are employees of a multinational business that has operations in new or existing U.S. parent company branches.
Also known as the intracompany transfer visa, the L-1 Visa is typically divided into the L-1A and the L-1B Visas.
L-1A Visas allow an employer to transfer an employee who holds an executive or managerial position in an overseas office. Visa holders may stay on this visa for up to seven years.
L-1B Visas are for individuals who have essential, specialized skills that are crucial to the functioning of the business. Specialized knowledge capacity visa holders may be referred to as “specialized knowledge employees.”
As a dual intent visa, this means that individuals may be able to apply for lawful permanent resident status after the qualifying period.
To qualify for this visa, applicants must demonstrate that there is a genuine need for them to undertake the role. This means that the application must be accompanied by a significant amount of relevant supporting evidence.
Both the employer and the employee must meet the L-1 Visa eligibility criteria. As well as this, the employer must file a petition for the worker which must be approved before the employee can submit their application.
If you need assistance with this or another non-immigrant visa, contact our immigration attorneys for immediate support and advice.
Who is eligible for the L1 Visa?
Eligibility for the L-1 Visa can be divided into employer and employee eligibility, as outlined below.
The employer of an L-1 Visa applicant must fulfil the following requirements:
- Have an appropriately qualifying relationship with its affiliated foreign offices (e.g., the parent organization, subsidiary, or affiliate, also known as ‘qualifying organizations’)
- The organization is currently ‘doing business’ as a U.S.-based employer and in at least one other country. The regulations state that the business must be viable (but there is no stipulation that it must be engaged in international trade)
USCIS defines ‘doing business’ in the following way:
- Regular, systematic and ongoing provision of goods and/or services
- Undertaken by a qualifying organization
- The organization exists as an entity and is not simply an agent or an office that exists in the United States and another country
If you are an employee who is applying for the L-1 Visa, you should fulfil the following requirements to be eligible for the visa:
- You have worked for the qualifying organization outside the U.S. for at least one continuous period of 12 months within the three years prior to applying for admission to the U.S.
- You intend to come to the U.S. to provide a service in an ‘executive or managerial capacity’ in a branch of your qualifying organization
According to USCIS, the term ‘executive capacity’ relates to the ability of the employee to make decisions without significant oversight.
‘Managerial capacity,’ however, refers to the employee’s ability to oversee and control the work of the organization’s employees, as well as managing the organization, a department, its function, or another component.
What is the difference between the L-1A and L-1B Visa?
The primary difference between the L-1A and L-1B Visas is the nature of the work that the visa holder is permitted to carry out. The differences are outlined below.
L-1A Visa classification (executive role)
Individuals may be classed under the L-1A Visa if their work meets the following:
- Charged with managing the organization or a major department/ function of the business
- Creates and implements policies and procedures within the organization
- Has ‘wide latitude’ in making key business decisions
- Is granted supervision or instruction from senior executives, the organization’s board or its shareholders
L-1A Visa classification (managerial role)
Workers who are not executives may qualify as managers under the following L-1A Visa criteria:
- In charge of managing the organization, a department, or other component of the business
- Oversees and supervises the work of a number of reports (who hold professional roles) or alternatively, is the manager of an essential function within the business
- Is trusted to hire new employees and make other personnel recommendations
- Has control over the daily operations of the business function they manage
L-1B Visa classification (specialized knowledge role)
The L-2B Visa may be the more appropriate option for an individual when the following criteria apply to their circumstances:
- The individual has specialist knowledge based on products, services, research and development activities, equipment, methods, intellectual property, etc., which is vital to the interests of the organization
- The applicant has advanced or unique knowledge of the organization’s processes and procedures
When considering if the L-1B Visa is appropriate, it is important to identify the nature of the employee’s skills and expertise.
For the purposes of this visa, specialized knowledge refers to individuals who are key employees, with extraordinary knowledge which is not easy or possible to transmit to another individual.
USCIS will seek to confirm that this individual has obtained this specialized knowledge based on years of service within the business and that if this employee were unable to come to the U.S. branch, the company would not be able to operate as effectively.
How to apply for the L-1 Visa
The L-1 Visa process is complex and requires the successful completion of a number of steps in the process before you can be approved.
The L-1 Visa application process is generally as follows:
- An eligible employee in a qualifying organization is offered the opportunity to transfer to a qualifying branch of the business
- The employer files Form I-129 on behalf of the employee
- The employer pays the filing fee
- The applicant files Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa application
- The applicant pays the L-1 Visa application fee
- The individual schedules their L-1 Visa interview
- They submit their supporting documents as part of the application
- The applicant attends their interview with their documents
- Applicant waits for a decision on their visa
Receive an offer to transfer
The employee must be offered the opportunity to transfer to a branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent organization. This business must meet the criteria of a “qualifying organization.”
Employer files Form I-129 and pays the application fee
The employer petitions USCIS on behalf of the employee. If the petition is approved, the employer will receive Form I-797. The cost of filing I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker is $460.
Applicant submits Form DS-160 and pays the application fee
The applicant provides the US embassy with their basic information and purpose for traveling to the United States. The cost of the fee for the L-1 Visa is $190.
Applicant schedules visa interview
A crucial step of the L-1 Visa application process is the visa interview, where an immigration official will interview the applicant to identify whether they fulfil the visa criteria.
Attend the visa interview
The embassy or consulate in your country will likely be the place where you are interviewed. The purpose of the interview is to persuade the official that you are travelling for the exact purposes outlined in your application and that you intend to abide by all conditions of your visa.
It is advised to prepare in advance for this interview to maximize your chances of a successful application.
What documents do you need?
Some of the documents required for the visa application include the following:
- Valid passport or travel document in date until at least 6 months after the expiry of your visa
- Photograph that aligns with visa photograph requirements
- A copy of the DS-160 application confirmation page
- Proof of having paid the visa fees
- Evidence of your scheduled visa interview date
- Copies of Form I-129 and Form I-797
- In the case of blanket (multiple) petitions, Form I-129S (2x copies) and Form I-797 (3x copies)
- Letter from the employer outlining the nature of the qualifying organization, the transfer offer, and a detailed job description of the employee
- Evidence that you have been employed by a branch of the foreign company for at least one year in the last three years
- Letters from past employers with their information included
- Contact details of two colleagues from current and past roles
- Internal and external photographs of your workplace
- A detailed CV
How much does the L1 Visa cost?
There are different costs involved in applying for the L-1 Visa. These include:
- Filing fee for Form 1-129: $460
- Anti-fraud fee: $500
- Where the organization has over 50 workers in the US with half the staff on the L-1 visa: $4,500
- American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) training fee: $750 (businesses with 25 or fewer employees) or $1,500 (businesses with 26 or more employees)
- Online Form DS-160: $190
There may be an option to pay an additional premium processing fee of $2,500 for an expedited decision.
Can you extend the L-1 Visa?
As a nonimmigrant visa, the L-1 Visa is a temporary visa granted for an initial three years but it may be possible to extend the L-1 Visa, depending on how the circumstances.
The individual is required to submit a new petition if they wish to extend the visa. As well as this, the L-1A and L-1B Visas are issued for different time periods.
The L-1A Visa is issued for a maximum of seven years, while the L-1B is for a maximum of five years.
As a dual intent visa, this means it is possible to come to the United States on a time-limited visa, while allowing the applicant the opportunity to apply for a green card (lawful permanent residency) when they become eligible.
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The L-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa, which means that it is issued on a temporary basis for a time-limited period. It allows a U.S.-based business to transfer one of its foreign employees to its U.S. office to fulfil a particular purpose.
What are the L-1A Visa extension requirements?
To extend the L-1A Visa, the applicant will have been issued with the initial grant for three years. The visa can be extended in increments of two years up to a maximum of seven years.
The extension requirements include:
- Proof that the employee is still employed by the organization and living in the U.S.
- The employee is using their degree or qualifications relevant to their role
- Confirmation from the employer outlining the employee’s start date, responsibilities, schedule, employment contract, and salary
- Evidence that the employer continues to ‘do business’ according to the USCIS definition
- Proof of payment of USCIS filing fee and application fees
- Evidence of any time spent outside the United States
- Completed Petition I-129 for a Nonimmigrant Worker
You must also provide proof that you meet the eligibility requirements of the L-1A Visa
To be granted an L-1 Visa, the processing time can be between 6 months to one year. However, the extensions can be much quicker. According to USCIS, an extension application takes between five to six months (on average).
There may be an option for a premium processing service so that the decision can be issued within fifteen days.