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L-1A / L-1B visas

L-1A is the transfer of executives or managers within the same company
L-1B is the transfer of professionals with specialized knowledge or experts within the same company

What is an L-1 visa?

The L-1 visa is a type of work visa that is given to executives or directors of a foreign company who want to come to the United States to manage their company’s branch, office, or subsidiary.

It is also possible to apply for an L-1 visa for companies that have not yet been officially established, but in this case, you will need to show evidence that the process of setting up the company is in an advanced stage and that a location has already been secured for its operations.

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Main requirements of the L-1 visa

  • Executive experience: The applicant must have a managerial or executive position in the company or a type of specialized knowledge.
  • Relationship with the company: The applicant must have an employment relationship with the foreign company, either as an executive, manager or with specialized knowledge. Additionally, the foreign company must have a subsidiary, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary in the United States.
  • Functions in the US company: The applicant must be transferred to the United States to perform executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge functions in the US subsidiary.
  • Minimum work time: The applicant must have worked for the foreign company for at least one year within the three years before the application submission.
  • Eligible companies: Both for-profit and non-profit organizations can apply for the L-1 Visa.
  • Duration of stay: Initially, the L-1 Visa is granted for a period of up to three years, with the possibility of extension up to a maximum of seven years for executives or managers (L-1A) and five years for employees with specialized knowledge (L-1B).

There are two categories for the L1 Visa

For executives and Directors.

L-1A visa

Applicants for executive and director positions in the United States are not required to currently hold a managerial role, but they must have the job title of manager when they start working.

They should have the ability to make significant decisions independently, including implementing plans and actions without constant supervision (executive capacity).

Additionally, they must be capable of supervising and managing the work of other professional employees with at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, and be able to oversee either the entire organization or a specific department (managerial capacity).

For Professionals

L-1B Visa

In order to be eligible for an L-1B visa, applicants must show that they have a specialized skill that is highly sought after in the United States. This skill involves having in-depth knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, or other areas of interest, and being able to apply this knowledge in international markets.

Specialized ability can also refer to having advanced knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.

Occupations such as researchers, engineers, accountants, and doctors are examples of roles that are considered to require specialized skills.

L-1 Visa Duration

In the case of workers in emerging companies, the initial validity of the L-1 visa is 1 year. Conversely, employees of companies with over 1 year of operation in the United States are granted an initial validity period of 3 years. Subsequently, in both scenarios, the L-1 visa can be extended for up to 5 or 7 years based on the expertise and roles of the applicants.

L-1 Visa For Startups

When someone uses the L-1 visa to start a business, it is known as a “new office L-1” visa. After being in the U.S. for one year, the person must show that the business has expanded to the point where a managerial or executive role is needed, or they have specialized knowledge necessary for the job.

How to Apply For The L-1 Visa

To apply for an L-1 visa, you must follow these steps:

  • STEP 1: In order to apply for a work visa, the employer needs to submit Form I-129, which is a petition for a nonimmigrant worker, to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the employee. This form is used by employers to request permission for one of their nonimmigrant employees to enter the United States. The work visa is temporary and allows the employee to work and receive training in the US. Additionally, along with submitting the form, a fee payment of $460 must also be included.
  • STEP 2: Form I-129 can be filed by mail or through the online E-Filing system. If the E-Filing service is used, you will receive an electronic confirmation containing a tracking number (receipt number). This form is also used to request an extension of stay or a change of status to some other visa category.
  • STEP 3: Save receipt number to track visa application status: The employer will need to save this number to track the status of the application.
  • STEP 4: Wait for USCIS to review and approve Form I-129: Once Form I-129 has been successfully filed and the fee has been paid, USCIS will review the application and determine if the requirements for the L visa are met.
  • STEP 5: Receive Approval Notice from USCIS if visa is approved: If USCIS approves the visa, it will issue an approval letter called an “Approval Notice” or “Notice of Action.” This document contains the visa number assigned to the applicant, the expiration date of the visa, and other important information.
  • STEP 6: Prepare documents and schedule an interview at the embassy: The applicant must present this letter along with a valid passport, recent passport-size photographs, and a confirmed Form DS-160 (Application for Nonimmigrant visa) at the time of scheduling an interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • STEP 7: Be ready to provide additional documents during the interview: You may be required to present other documents during the interview, such as evidence that the applicant meets the requirements for the L visa.
  • STEP 8: Visa officer will review documents and interview answers to determine eligibility: The visa officer will determine if the applicant is eligible to receive a nonimmigrant visa based on the documents submitted, the answers given during the interview, and all other available information.
  • STEP 9: Prepare an "Offer of Employment" with detailed job information if required: The visa officer will determine if the applicant is eligible to receive a nonimmigrant visa based on the documents submitted, the answers given during the interview, and all other available information.

Documentation to Present

Company registration

Company annual report

Tax return

A detailed description of the required position

Salary offered for the required position

Employee Study Certifications

The organizational chart of the parent and affiliated companies’ financial statements

Documents evidencing the connection between the affiliated companies

Passport of the employee to transfer evidence of the employee’s work history

Is it possible to file more than one L-1 visa petition within the same company related to the same project?

There is no restriction on number of visa application

There is no restriction on the number of visas that a company can apply for. To speed up the process, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services allows companies to submit multiple L-1 visa petitions together as a “bundle”. Each worker’s request will still be evaluated individually, but they can be submitted collectively by the company.

For the USCIS to agree to incorporate all petitions into one package, they must:

  • Be related to employees working on the same project
  • Be related to employees who will work in the same place
  • Have the same specialized duties in terms of knowledge

Status of Relatives of the L-1 Visa Holder

Spouses and children

Spouses and children under 21 years old who are not married can come with or join the person holding an L-1 visa in the United States.

L-2 non-immigrant visa

These family members will be able to apply for an L-2 non-immigrant visa, which will allow them to study, work, and live freely in the United States. This visa is granted for the same duration as the L-1 visa holder.

For the spouses to work

For the spouses to work in the United States, they must apply for and obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). To apply for a work permit, they must complete and submit Form I-765.

Additional documents

Along with this form, they must also submit recent passport-size photographs, copies of the L-1 visa holder’s passport and L-1 visa, as well as the USCIS approval letter or “Approval Notice.”

Children under 21

Children under the age of 21 do not need to apply for a permit to study in the United States. However, if they wish to work, they must apply for and obtain a work permit.

Children over 21

On the other hand, children over the age of 21 cannot be considered “companions” and must apply for their nonimmigrant visa if they wish to travel to the United States.

Benefits of the L-1 visa

  • It allows the extension of the visa to the spouse and children, including stepchildren, under 21 years of age and unmarried.
  • Allows the spouse to apply for employment authorization.
  • Children under 21 years of age access the educational system, both public and private.
  • It allows the renewal of the visa for up to 7 years.
  • It allows the possibility of accessing a permanent residence (Green Card) in the United States.

L-1 visa Extension

The L-1 visa can be extended for up to 7 years if the employer continues to meet requirements. After 7 years, the visa holder must leave the US for at least a year before reapplying. The only way to extend stay is by obtaining permanent resident status through a Green Card.

Minimum investment of the subsidiary or affiliate

There is no set minimum investment required to establish a new subsidiary or affiliate in the United States under an L-1 visa. However, if the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has concerns about the financial stability of the new entity, they may request evidence demonstrating that it will have enough financial resources to operate in the US.

Furthermore, proof must be provided that the new subsidiary or affiliate is set up to offer the specific service or product for which the L-1 visa was granted. Failure to meet these requirements could result in the USCIS revoking the L-1 visa of the foreign representative.

What happens if the foreign representative stops working for the US subsidiary or affiliate?

This means that if you are a foreign representative working for a U.S. subsidiary or affiliate on an L-1 visa, you are only allowed to stay in the United States as long as you are still employed by that company. If you leave your job, you will no longer be eligible to stay in the U.S. on your L-1 visa and will have to leave the country.

In certain situations, you may be able to apply for a different type of visa if you meet the qualifications for that visa. However, this option is not guaranteed and will depend on your individual circumstances.

What does it mean for the L-1 visa to be a dual intent visa?

This means that the applicant may apply for a visa to temporarily stay in the United States, but may also intend to become a permanent resident.

However, it is important to note that this process can take several years and that a Green Card is not guaranteed.