What is an L-1 visa?
The L-1 visa is a type of non-immigrant visa available for foreign nationals who work for a company with offices in both their home country and the United States. This visa is designed to facilitate the transfer of employees from foreign offices to U.S. offices of the same company. The L-1 visa is beneficial for multinational companies that need to bring employees with specialized knowledge or managerial/executive roles to work in the U.S.
There are two main types of L-1 visas:
- L-1A Visa: This category is for intracompany transferees who are managers or executives. To qualify, the applicant must have been employed by the foreign company for at least one year in the three years preceding the visa application and be coming to the U.S. to work in a managerial or executive capacity.
- L-1B Visa: This category is for intracompany transferees with specialized knowledge. Specialized knowledge refers to knowledge that is unique or advanced and not readily available in the U.S. labor market. Similar to the L-1A visa, the applicant must have been employed by the foreign company for at least one year in the three years preceding the visa application.
Key points about the L-1 visa:
- The U.S. company and the foreign company must have a qualifying relationship, such as being a parent company, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch.
- The visa initially allows the holder to work in the U.S. for a specific period, typically up to three years. Extensions are possible, with a maximum stay of up to five years for L-1B visa holders and seven years for L-1A visa holders.
- L-1 visa holders can bring their spouse and unmarried children under 21 to the U.S. on L-2 dependent visas. L-2 spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization.
- L-1 visa holders can engage only in work for the specific U.S. employer that petitioned for their visa.
- Unlike some other employment-based visas, there is no requirement for the U.S. company to demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position.
It’s important to note that U.S. immigration policies and regulations can change over time, and eligibility criteria might be subject to updates. Therefore, for the most current and accurate information about the L-1 visa, it’s recommended to consult the official U.S. government websites or consult with immigration experts or attorneys.
How to apply for an L-1 visa?
Applying for an L-1 visa involves several steps and requires coordination between the U.S. employer (the petitioner) and the foreign employee (the beneficiary). Keep in mind that U.S. immigration procedures can change, so it’s important to refer to the official U.S. government websites or consult with immigration experts for the most up-to-date information. Here’s a general outline of the process:
- Petition by the U.S. Employer (Form I-129): The U.S. employer must file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. This petition should include supporting documents and evidence to demonstrate that the U.S. and foreign companies have a qualifying relationship and that the beneficiary meets the requirements for either the L-1A (manager or executive) or L-1B (specialized knowledge) category.
- Documentation and Evidence: The petition should include documents such as organizational charts, job descriptions, financial records, evidence of the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign companies, and evidence of the beneficiary’s qualifications and work history.
- Approval of the Petition: If the USCIS approves the I-129 petition, the U.S. employer will receive a Notice of Action (Form I-797) indicating the approval. This approval notice is necessary for the next steps.
- Visa Application by the Beneficiary: With the approved I-129 petition, the beneficiary can proceed to apply for the L-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. This involves completing the visa application form (typically DS-160), paying the visa application fee, and scheduling a visa interview appointment.
- Visa Interview: The beneficiary attends the visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. They should bring required documents, including the Form I-797 approval notice, passport, visa application fee receipt, passport-sized photos, and supporting documentation about their qualifications and the U.S. and foreign companies.
- Administrative Processing (if applicable): In some cases, additional administrative processing may be required, which could lead to delays in the visa issuance. This might involve security checks or further verification of information.
- Visa Issuance or Denial: After the visa interview and any necessary administrative processing, the embassy or consulate will make a decision on whether to issue the L-1 visa to the beneficiary. If approved, the visa will be stamped in the passport.
- Entry to the U.S.: Once the L-1 visa is issued, the beneficiary can travel to the U.S. and present the visa to the immigration officer at the port of entry. The immigration officer will determine the duration of stay and may admit the beneficiary for the duration mentioned in the approval notice.
Remember that immigration procedures can vary based on individual circumstances, and it’s crucial to follow the specific instructions provided by the U.S. embassy or consulate where you’re applying for the visa. Consulting with an immigration attorney or expert can also be helpful to ensure a smooth application process.
L-1 visa duration
The duration of an L-1 visa depends on the specific circumstances of the visa holder and the type of L-1 visa they are granted. Here are the general guidelines for the maximum durations of stay for both L-1A and L-1B visa holders:
- L-1A Visa Duration: L-1A visa holders, who are managers or executives, can be admitted to the United States for an initial period of up to three years. After this initial period, they can apply for extensions in increments of up to two years each, with a maximum stay of up to seven years.
- L-1B Visa Duration: L-1B visa holders, who have specialized knowledge, can also be admitted for an initial period of up to three years. Like L-1A visa holders, they can apply for extensions in increments of up to two years each, but the maximum stay is up to five years.
It’s important to note that the initial period of stay and any extensions are subject to the terms mentioned in the approved Form I-129 petition. The maximum allowable stay is based on the individual’s eligibility and the nature of their position within the U.S. company.
In certain cases, there might be exceptions to these maximum durations. For instance, if an L-1 visa holder leaves the U.S. for an extended period of time, they might be eligible for a “reset” of their maximum stay upon reentering.
Additionally, if an L-1 visa holder wishes to transition to a different non-immigrant visa category (such as H-1B) or pursue permanent residency (a green card), the rules and restrictions related to their stay may change.
As immigration policies and regulations can change, and individual circumstances vary, it’s recommended to consult the most up-to-date information on the official U.S. government websites or to seek guidance from immigration experts or attorneys for accurate and personalized advice regarding L-1 visa durations.
L-1 visa checklist
Preparing a comprehensive checklist is crucial when applying for an L-1 visa to ensure that you have all the required documents and information. Remember that specific requirements might vary based on individual circumstances and the U.S. embassy or consulate where you’re applying. Here’s a general checklist to get you started:
Form I-129 Petition Approval Notice (Form I-797):
- Copy of the approved Form I-129 petition filed by your U.S. employer.
- Original or photocopy of the Form I-797 Approval Notice.
- Valid passport with a validity period of at least six months beyond your intended entry into the U.S.
- Visa Application Confirmation:
- Confirmation of the DS-160 visa application form submission (typically, you’ll receive a confirmation page with a barcode).
Visa Application Fee Receipt:
- Receipt showing payment of the visa application fee (MRV fee).
Visa Appointment Confirmation:
- Confirmation of your visa interview appointment.
- Recent passport-sized color photos that meet the U.S. visa photo requirements.
L-1 Visa Application Forms:
- Form DS-160 (confirmation page).
- Any additional forms or questionnaires required by the specific U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Documents demonstrating your employment history with the foreign company, including job descriptions, employment contracts, and proof of qualifications.
- Evidence of the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign companies, such as corporate documents, organizational charts, and financial records.
- Documents supporting your role and responsibilities in the U.S. company (for L-1A) or specialized knowledge (for L-1B).
- Letters from both the foreign and U.S. employers detailing the purpose of your transfer, your position, and responsibilities.
- Any applicable diplomas, degrees, certifications, or training documents.
- Proof of Ties to Home Country:
- Documentation indicating your intention to return to your home country after your authorized stay in the U.S. This could include property ownership, family ties, employment prospects, etc.
- Detailed resume or CV showcasing your qualifications, work history, and expertise.
- Details of your intended travel plans, including arrival and departure dates, flight information, and accommodations.
Medical Examination Results:
- Results of any required medical examinations conducted by an approved panel physician.
L-2 Dependent Documentation (if applicable):
- If you’re bringing family members (spouse and/or children) on L-2 dependent visas, you might need additional documentation for their visa applications, such as marriage certificates and birth certificates.
Administrative Processing Documents (if applicable):
- If you were subjected to additional administrative processing during your visa interview, any additional documents requested by the U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Any additional documents required by the specific U.S. embassy or consulate where you’re applying.
It’s highly recommended to refer to the official website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be applying for the most accurate and up-to-date information on the required documents and procedures. Additionally, consulting with an immigration attorney or expert can help ensure that you’re fully prepared for your L-1 visa application process.