The L-1 visa facilitates the transfer of a foreign worker to the US to continue employment with an office of the same employer, its parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate. The L-1 visa has two subcategories:
· L-1A – Executives and managers.
· L-1B – Workers with specialized knowledge.
The L-1 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that is valid for 3 years, and in general the L-1A can be extended up to 7 years and the L-1B up to 5 years. If the company is a new company in the US (less than year), then the L-1 visa is granted initially for 1 year, and can then be renewed.
L1 Visa is also available for a business owner who has a company outside the US for at least one year, and wishes to open a branch or a subsidiary in the US One can own a certain kind of business in the foreign country and open a company In the US that will pursue different products.
An L-1 visa holder is known as an intra-company transferee. The L-1 visa allows the receipt of an L-2 visa for the spouse and minor unmarried children under 21 years of age. L-2 holders are allowed to work legally in the US.
Even though the L1 visa was initially planned for large multinational companies to transfer their employees to the US, today it provides small or start-up companies abroad with the ability and opportunity to expand their business and services to the US
An L-1 visa is not limited to specific countries that the US may have certain commercial or other treaties with. Therefore, as long as all eligibility requirements are met, applicants from any country are eligible
Generally, nonimmigrant visa applicants are “presumed to be an immigrant” and must provide satisfactory proof that they have no intention of immigrating to the US before receiving the visa. However, the L visa is what is known as Dual Intent visa. In other words, the applicants are not required to maintain a foreign residence which they have no intention of abandoning.
Many L visa holders eventually apply for a green card to permanently work and live in the US. This may involve filing permanent labor certification if needed, an I-140 petition etc., and either file for adjustment of status in the US or apply for an immigrant visa abroad. Any of those actions will not be the basis for denying an L-1 admission to the US
Even though full-time employment with the petitioner is not required to maintain L status, the employee must dedicate a significant portion of time on a regular and systematic basis to the company while in the US Even though the L1 visa holder must be employed on a full-time basis with the company, he/she does not necessarily have to be working in the US on a full-time basis. He/she is allowed to divide work between the US and another country. In other words, the applicant can be principally employed outside the US and still receive L1 visa for coming to the US to work on a short-term basis.
If the employee comes to the US for conferring with officials, attending meetings and conferences, and participating in training, such activities are not considered productive employment and in these cases the employee should apply for business visa instead.
Requirements for L-1 Visa
The following are the general requirements for L-1 visa classification:
- There must be a qualifying relationship between the business entity in the US and the foreign company which employs the employee abroad. The exact evidence that needs to be submitted while filing the petition varies based on the type of qualifying relationship.
- For the duration of the L-1 visa holder’s stay in the US, the petitioner must be doing business as an employer in the US and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization.
- The employee must have been employed abroad by the qualifying foreign employer for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his/her admission into the US (Aggregation of several shorter periods is not allowed to make up one year.)
The employee can be directly employed by the qualifying organization, or paid through an agency or personal service company, or even on a freelance basis, as long as the qualifying organization had management and control over the worker during the qualifying year.
Authorized periods of stay in the US for a branch of the same employer or a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary thereof and brief trips to the US for business or pleasure shall not be interruptive of the one year of continuous employment abroad. However, any such periods shall not be counted towards one year of qualifying employment abroad.
Part-time employment of one year or more can’t be added up to meet the one year abroad required. However, if the employee has worked part-time for several foreign affiliates of the US company, and the total employment time equals full-time hours, that is allowed.
If the employee is already in the US on some other work visa such as H1B visa for several years, it may still be possible to get an L1 visa from a qualifying employer as one year out of three years is counted BEFORE the admission into the US.
- The employee’s prior one year of employment abroad must have been in managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. The prospective employment in the US must also be in managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
However, the employee does not need to be transferred to the US in the same capacity or position in which he/she was employed abroad.
- In the event the employee is transferring to the US in order to open a new office or branch in the country, additional requirements may apply. To note, there is no amount of minimum capital investment required by US law for the new branch or office.