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L-1 Visa

An L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa available to employees of an international company with offices both abroad and in the United States. This visa allows these employees to come to the U.S. to work in the company’s U.S. office temporarily. The L-1 visa allows the foreign worker to relocate to the U.S. after working for the company abroad for at least one full year within the previous three years before coming to the U.S.


What are the Differences Between L-1A and L-1B Visas?

The L-1A visa is approved for intra-company managers or executives. Managers or executives must supervise a staff and hold a key position for the employer. An executive must have the ability to make a wide range of decisions without much oversight. A manager must have the ability to supervise and control the work of other employees and to manage the organization or a department of it.

The L-1B visa is approved for employees with “specialized knowledge.”  This visa does not have any degree requirements, but the employee must hold a key position in the company, such as an engineer, programmer, or accountant. Specialized knowledge can mean either of the following:

  • Special knowledge of the employer’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, etc. and its application in international markets

  • Advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the employer’s processes and procedures


What Documentation is Required to Prove the Relationship of the Foreign and U.S. Companies?

The relationship of the foreign company to the U.S. company must be validated by relevant evidence. Some examples of proof of the relationship include:

  • Documents relating to the company ownership, such as articles of incorporation or shareholder agreements

  • Licenses or permits issued by a local government

  • Office or warehouse lease payments, ownership deeds, and other ongoing business expenses

  • Financial documents, including bank statements, profit and loss statements, tax returns, and inventory lists

  • Sales figures, advertising expenses, company brochures, and letterhead

  • List of employees and employment agreements

What is a Blanket L Visa Petition?

The blanket L visa petition speeds up the process of transferring employees from the company abroad to work in the company’s branch in the United States by eliminating the requirement of filing separate petitions for each employee. With the blanket L petition, the company gets “pre-qualified” to transfer its L-1 employees to the U.S. To obtain a blanket L visa petition, the company must meet additional requirements, such as having a verifiable record of sales and number of employees over time. Some of the requirements that the company must meet in order to receive a blanket L petition include:

  • Be engaged in commercial trade or services

  • Have an office in the U.S. that has been doing business for one or more years

  • Have three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates

  • Meet one of the following criteria:

    • Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-months

    • Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of $25 million or more

    • Have a U.S. work force of 1,000 employees or more

Is it Possible to Switch to an H-1B Visa Once in the U.S. on an L-1 Visa?

It is possible to change your status from an L-1 visa holder to an H-1B visa holder while in the U.S. if you have not maxed out your seven-year allowable stay. Any time spent in the U.S. on an L-1 visa will count toward the H-1B visa status limit of six years. You would also still be subject to the H-1B visa cap; therefore, there must be an available visa before you can switch your visa status.


What is the Length of Stay Allowed on an L-1 Visa?

The L-1 visa allows intra-company employees to come work in the U.S. for different amounts of times, depending on the country from which the employees is coming. An employee may be allowed to stay anywhere from three months to five years on an L-1B visa and seven years on an L-1A visa. Extensions are sometimes granted in increments of two years, with a maximum allowed stay of five or seven years depending on the type of L visa you hold.

Can Your Spouse and Children Accompany You to the U.S.?

It is possible for your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to come with you to the U.S. while you are on your L-1 visa status. They will need to apply for an L-2 visa. While on an L-2 visa, your dependents are eligible to work in the U.S. and attend school. Their L-2 visa status will terminate when your L-1 visa status ends.


L-1 Visa Issues

You have the burden of proof to show that your position qualifies for an L-1 visa. You aren’t allowed to work part-time while in the U.S. You will also need to apply for a different visa status if you switch employers. Many times, USCIS will respond to your petition with a Request for Evidence (RFE), requiring you to explain parts of your petition in more detail or provide additional documentation. These requests must be adequately responded to in a timely manner or your petition will be denied.

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