What is the L-1 Visa
The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant or temporary visa. It is an intra-company transfer visa available to persons coming to work in the US for an employer that is related to a company the applicant worked for prior to entering the US. There are 2 main categories of L-1 visas that will be further discussed: L-1A and L-1B.
Advantages of an L-1 Visa
While there are a number of important requirements to qualify in this category, the category offers a number of advantages that make it worth considering over other types of visas including:
- there is no annual limit on the number issued,
- the L-1 visa holder can apply for permanent residency while on an L-1 visa
L-1A’s can file in an employment based category (EB-1) which does not require a labor certification and is much quicker than other employment based categories.
What are the Requirements for an L-1
The first requirement for the L-1 is for the applicant to have been employed abroad for one year of the last three for a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of a US employer. Any time spent working in the US will not count toward the one year of required employment, though time spent in the US will not be considered to have disrupted the time of employment abroad.
Second, the foreign firm and the US firm must have a “qualifying relationship.” The US and the foreign firm must have common majority ownership, or, where there is less than majority ownership, common control by the same person or entity.
Lastly, the applicant must be coming as a manager, executive or specialized knowledge employee.
The L-1A category applies if the applicant is coming as a manager or executive. An “executive” is one who directs the management of the company or a major part or function of the organization. Typical executive positions are presidents, vice-presidents and controllers. An executive is expected to have a supervisory role in the company and would not include people who are primarily performing the specific tasks of production or providing service to customers. A “manager” directs the organization, a department, or a function of the organization. Like executives, a qualifying manager will not be overseeing the primary performance of a task.
The L-1B category applies if the applicant is not an executive or manager but has "specialized knowledge". Specialized knowledge refers to employees with
- a special knowledge of the company's products and their applications in world markets;
- an advanced or proprietary knowledge of the company's processes or procedures.
How long is an L valid for?
Executives and managers may stay in L-1 status for up to seven years. Specialized knowledge employees may stay in L-1B status in the US for up to five years. The visas will be granted with an expiration of up to three years. Whether the visas are multiple entry or not depends on the applicant’s country of origin.
Persons coming to open up a new office in the US will only be granted a one-year stay in the US. There are specific requirements for this situation and an attorney should be consulted.
There are special procedures that make it easier for companies sending over large numbers of applicants to get L-1 visas for their employees. Companies that qualify can receive a “blanket approval” for all of their workers rather than having to apply to INS individually for each employee. To qualify for a blanket L petition, the company must meet the following tests:
- The US and foreign offices must be engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The employer's US office must have been in business for at least a year;
- The employer must have at least three domestic or foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates;
The Employer must show one of the following: a) at least ten L-1 visas were approved in the last year; b) the company had US sales of at least $1 million, or c) the US work force numbers over 1,000 workers.
In 2005, a USCIS memo was released regarding changes that were made law in December of 2004. These changes prevent outsourcing of applicants on an L-1B visa to other U.S. companies. Also, the requirement of at least one year of employment in the past 3 years now applies to all L-1 workers. Previously, workers under a blanket L petition only needed to be employed for 6 months in the past 3 years.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant as specific advice regarding a person’s individual case. An attorney should be consulted. This article does not create an Attorney-Client relationship.