The L-1 visa category is reserved for foreign nationals who are employed abroad with an affiliate, parent, branch, or subsidiary in the U.S. If the company wishes to temporarily transfer a foreign worker to the U.S. company to perform the same or similar duties as help abroad, the foreign worker may only qualify for an intracompany transfer if the foreign worker is holds an executive or managerial position (L-1A), or has “specialized knowledge” (L-1B). The foreign worker must have at least one full year of employment, within the last three years, abroad with the sponsoring company. The L-1 holder must be compensated such that she or he will not become a public charge.How to Apply
The foreign or U.S. company must file the non-immigrant visa petition, however, if the foreign company is filing, there must be a lawful U.S. business. The following documentation must be included to support the petition:
- Evidence demonstrating the relationship between the foreign and U.S. company that show control and ownership of the companies, (i.e. articles of incorporation, stock certificates, annual report, or financial statements);
- Confirmation letter from the overseas company verifying the foreign national’s dates of employment, salary, job duties and qualifications. A specific statement should be made in the confirmation letter that the foreign national worked for at least one full year out of the past three years with the company overseas prior to filing the L-1 petition.
- Letter detailing that the U.S. position is in a managerial or executive capacity or is a position requiring specialized knowledge. Details regarding the job duties and requirements will aid the USCIS adjudicator in determining if the U.S. position qualifies under the L-1 category.
Additional and extensive documentation will need to be filed if the foreign national is being transferred to the U.S. to open or be employed in a new office. The following should also be included:
- Copy of lease for office space;
- Photos of office (inside and out);
- Copies of contracts with new company;
- Copy of the business plan;
- Statement that the L-1 holder will be employed in a qualifying capacity and that the U.S. company has, or will have, the qualifying relationship to the foreign company; and
- Within one year of the L-1 approval, the new U.S. company will be able to support a managerial or executive position. The following information must be submitted to support this claim:
- Documentation of the organizational structure, scope, size and financial projections);
- Financial documentation of the foreign company (ability to compensate the L-1 holder and the size of the U.S. investment); and
- The organizational chart for foreign company.
By regulation, the USCIS is required to process the L-1 petitions within 30 days. However, typically processing times vary between 30 – 45 days. The USCIS can requests for additional evidence, which can delay the processing of the petition. L-1 petitions are eligible for expedited processing (15 days by paying the USCIS an additional $1,000) to process the petition.
Once the petition is approved, the approval notice is sent to the L-1 applicant to apply for a visa at the US consulate or embassy abroad. Once the visa is obtained, the L-1 visa holder will obtain an I-94 card upon entry into the U.S. which designates the L-1 via holder’s length of stay.
For mid size to large companies who have a high volume of intra company transferees, there is an option to file for a “blanket” L petition. This would simplify the process by qualifying the company as an L 1 eligible company and the company would merely need to demonstrate that the foreign worker qualifies for the U.S. position. Initial documentation must include:
- The company and its subsidiaries, branches, and affiliates are engaged in commercial services or trade;
- The company has a U.S. office that has been in business for at least a year or more;
- The company has 3 or more U.S. and foreign subsidiaries, branches, or affiliates;
- Within the past year, the company and its qualifying organizations have secured at least 10 L-1 visas or have at least 1000 employees in the U.S., or have a combined annual sales of at least 25 million dollars among the U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates.
Once the blanket petition is approved, the company can file for individual employees to qualify for L-1 status. If the foreign national is overseas, the she or he must complete Form I-129S, provide a copy of Form I-797, and provide an employer letter to the U.S. consulate. If the foreign national is present in the U.S., the company may file a request a change of status, based on the L blanket.
For assistance in determining if your company may qualify for the L-1 blanket, or if you have an employee you wish to transfer to the United States on an L-1 visa, please contact our office.Duration
Managers or executives (L-1A) are eligible to remain in the U.S. in L-1A status for a maximum period of 7 years. Individuals with specialized knowledge (L-1B) are eligible to remain in the U.S. in L-1B status for a maximum period of 5 years.Dependents
Dependents (i.e. spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of L-1 workers are entitled to L-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S. while remaining in L-2 status. Dependents, once they arrive in L-2 status, may apply for an employment authorization document (EAD or “work permit”).