The L-1 nonimmigrant visas allows US employers to transfer executives, managers, or professionals with specialized knowledge from an affiliated foreign office to US offices.
This temporary visa also allows foreign companies that do not yet have an affiliated office in the United States to send a manager, executive, or professional with specialized knowledge for the purpose of setting up an office.
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L-1 visas application process
To apply for the L-1 visas, the employer must:
- File with USCIS Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of the employee.
- Pay the filing fee.
- Pay a fraud detection and prevention fee associated with the American Workforce Competitiveness and Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) for the alien worker to obtain initial L-1 status.
Note that the L-1 visas has two classifications: L-1A for transfers of executives or managers within the same company and L-1B for transfers of professionals with specialized or expert knowledge within the same company.
L-1 visas requirements
L-1 visas eligibility for employers
To qualify for this category, the US employer must:
- Have an eligible relationship with a foreign company, whether head office, subsidiary, affiliate or branch; and
- Currently conducting or be conducting business as an employer in the U.S. and in another country, either directly or through an eligible organization during the L-1 beneficiary’s period of stay in the U.S. As long as the business is viable, no it is required that you are involved in international trade.
Note: Doing business means the regular, continuous and systematic supply of goods and/or services from an Eligible Organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the Eligible Organization in the US and abroad.
Eligibility for alien employees
To qualify for an L-1A or L-1B visa, the employee must:
- Have been working for an eligible organization abroad for one continuous year and within three years prior to admission to the United States; and
- Seek to enter the US with the intent to serve in an executive, managerial, or expert capacity at a branch of the same employer or one of the eligible organizations.
Please note that USCIS understands by:
Executive Capacity: The ability of the employee to make a wide range of decisions without much supervision.
Managerial Capacity: The ability of the employee to control and supervise the work of professional employees and to be able to manage a department, subdivision, organization, component or essential functions in the organization at a high level without being directly supervised by others.
Specialized Knowledge: The employee has specialized knowledge of the product, service, equipment, management techniques, research and other interests in the application for the international market, or is an expert in the procedures and processes of the eligible organization.
Foreign companies seeking to send an employee to the US as an officer, manager, or specialized knowledge employee for the purpose of setting up a new office must show that:
- Sufficient physical space has been secured to inhabit the new office;
- The employee has been hired as an executive or manager for a full year within the three years prior to the filing of the application;
- If the petition is approved, the potential new US office will support a managerial or executive position within a year;
- You have the financial capacity to open new offices and start doing business in the US.
L-1 Reform Act of 2004
The L-1 Visas Reform Act of 2004 applies to all petitions on behalf of L-1B employees who will be located at the place of employment of an employer other than the petitioning employer, subsidiaries, parent company, or affiliates. For the L-1B employee to qualify, the employer must show that:
- The employee will not be supervised or controlled by an employer that is not affiliated; and
- The work you will perform is not considered work for hire by an unaffiliated employer.
Period of stay
- 1 year maximum initial stay for qualified employees entering the US to establish a new office;
- 3 year maximum initial stay for all other qualified employees;
- Requests for extension of stay for all L-1A employees may grant an increase of up to two additional years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of 7 years;
- Requests for extension of stay for all L-1B employees may grant a two-year increase in stay until the employee has reached the maximum limit of 5 years.
Visa processing time
Processing time for the L-1 visas category may vary depending on the qualification of the employee and delays at the consular post. On average, the application time ranges from 3 to 5 business days at a consular office and 4 to 8 weeks to be processed by USCIS.
For faster processing, the employer can file Form I-907 , Premium Processing Application for a fee of $2,500.
L-1 visas fees
The L-1 visa application fee is $460, plus the $500 anti-fraud fee. If you employ 50 or more workers in the US and more than 50% of the employees are in L-1A or L-1B status, you will have to pay a fee of $4,500.
You can get more information on this at USCIS Filing Fees.
L-1 visa renewal
As stated above, this non-immigrant visa can be renewed. The extension of the type L-1A visa has a maximum duration of 7 years while for the L-1B visa it is a maximum of 5 years.
Some businesses may establish the relationship within the same organization before filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket visa petition. You may be eligible for a general L certification if you demonstrate that the petitioner:
- Is dedicated together with qualified organizations to trade or for purposes of commercial services;
- Has an office in the US that has been doing business for a year or more;
- Has 3 or more branches, national and foreign affiliates or subsidiaries;
- Together with the qualified organizations, they collectively meet one of the following criteria:
- Has US affiliates or subsidiaries that have combined annual sales of at least $25 million;
- Have obtained at least 10 L-1 visa approvals in the last 12 months;
- They have a US workforce of at least 1,000 employees.
What Happens With An Approved L-1 Visa General Petition?
Approval of a blanket “L” petition does not guarantee that the employee will be granted an L-1A or L-1B visa. However, it does provide the employee with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the US without prior notice and without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. Employees with specialized knowledge to qualify for a general petition must also be professionals.
As a general rule, once the blanket petition is approved:
- The employer must complete Form I-129S, Application for a Nonimmigrant Visa Based on a Blanket “L” Petition.
- Subsequently, you must send it to the employee with a copy of the approval notice and other required evidence so that the employee can submit it at the consular office.
Canadians with an approved blanket petition
Canadian citizens exempt from the L-1 category requirement may submit the completed I-129S petition and supporting documentation to CBP officials at certain points along the US-Canadian border.
If the prospective L-1 employee is visa-exempt, the employer may file the I-129S petition and supporting documentation with the USCIS office that approved the blanket petition instead of submitting the form and supporting documentation directly.
Can family members of L-1 visa workers accompany them?
Employees who have been transferred to US offices may be accompanied by their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, applying for L-2 classification. If approved, the length of stay in the US will be the same as that of the L-1 holder.
To learn more about this point, do not hesitate to contact our Los Angeles immigration lawyers.
EAD automatic extension for spouses
Some L-2 dependent spouses may qualify for an automatic extension on the EAD if they meet the following:
- Timely filed Form I-765 to renew their EAD based on the same L-2 status;
- They have an unexpired I.94 form evidencing their L-2 status.
The automatic extension of the EAD will continue until the first occurs:
- The expiration date of the dependent spouse’s I-94 showing valid L-2 status;
- The time of date the EAD renewal application is approved or denied;
- 180 days from the date indicated on the “Card Expires” on the front of the EAD.
Eligible L-2 dependent spouses may submit employers with the following evidence for an automatic extension of the EAD:
- Expired EAD issued under category A18;
- I-94 indicating unexpired L-2 status;
- Form I-797C on the EAD renewal application filed in a timely manner where it indicates as “selected class”.
Visa L-1 to achieve the Green Card
From the L-1A category to the Green Card
Executives or managers of a multinational company can apply for a Green Card for employment in the EB-1C category. The criteria for this category are:
- Have been employed in an executive or managerial capacity in a foreign company or organization for more than one year.
- Have entered the United States territory to continue providing managerial or executive services for the affiliated or subsidiary company or organization.
- Your US employer must have been doing business for at least one year as an affiliate, subsidiary, or as the same organization or company that employed you outside the US.
- A qualifying relationship must exist between the US and the foreign business or organization.
General Documentation You Must Submit
One of the main benefits of moving from L-1A visas to a Green Card through the EB-1C category is that there is no PERM labor certificate requirement. In most cases, two forms must be submitted:
- The immigrant petition;
- The Green Card application.
To start the EB-1C process, the US employer must complete and sign Form I-140, Petition for an Alien Worker. You will generally be required to have an approved immigrant petition before filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Although in some cases, it is possible to file both forms together.
Once the form is received, you must pay the biometric data fee. In the event that the application is denied, you may resort to an immigration appeal process.
From the category L-1B to the Green Card
To obtain permanent residence through the L-1B visa, applicants generally apply under the EB-2 visa in the graduate degree or exceptional aptitude subcategory.
Your US employer must obtain an approved labor certification from the US Department of Labor (DOL) before filing the petition. However, this process can result in a significantly long wait, making changing status from L-1B to Green Card more complicated and lengthy than for L-1A holders.
After the PERM labor certification, the employer must file the I-140 petition on your behalf. Total processing time will depend on when the priority date is updated. If you are in the US you can adjust your status, if you are abroad you can carry out the consular process.
How long does it take to obtain the Green Card with the L-1 visas?
Generally, the processing time to go from the L-1A category to a legal permanent resident can take approximately 12 months. The one from the L-1B category to permanent resident can take more than 18 months approximately.
Can L-2 visa holders apply for a Green Card?
Holders under the L-2 category can also obtain the Green Card by being included in the application of the main holder under the L-1 category.
L-1b visa interview
Applicants in the L-1 category are interviewed in person by a consular officer to ensure that the applicant meets all the necessary requirements. You may attend the interview up to 90 days before the start date of your employment indicated on the I-797.
It is important that before your interview, you study the type of common questions that you may be asked in order to be well prepared and to have a better chance of obtaining your visa. These are:
- Have you been to the United States before?
- When did you return from the US?
- Have you been outside the US for more than a year?
- When was the last time you traveled to the US?
- Do you have the visa payment receipt?
Questions about current job
- Where are you currently working?
- What is your current salary?
- How long have you been working at your current company?
- What is your current role and responsibility?
- Talk about your work experience.
- What did you do before joining the current company?
- What kind of job training did you go through?
- Didn’t you get bored after working for this company for more than 10 years? Don’t want to change employers?
Questions about the proposed job in the US
- I have never heard of that company. What do they do?
- Where will you work in the US?
- What type of work will you do in the US?
- Where will you stay in the US?
- What will be your job responsibilities in the US?
- Who manages you in the US?
- Is your boss in the US?
- How long do you plan to stay in the United States?
- Why do you need to travel to the US territory?
- What will your salary be in the United States?
Questions for the L-1A category
- Do you have the authority to hire and fire people?
- What kind of budget authority do you have?
- When did you last hire?
- When was the last time you fired someone?
- What is the process at your company for hiring and firing associates?
- How many people report to you?
- Whose approval do you need to hire and fire associates?
Questions for the L-1B category
- What phase is your project currently in?
- Why do you need to go to the US for this job? Can’t someone else go?
- How did you acquire the experience?
- What is it that makes it so special?
- Why do you think it is special?
- What is your specialization and special abilities?
- What kind of special abilities do you have?
- Why can’t your boss hire someone in the US and train them to work in your field?
- How long have you worked in your area of expertise?
Documents to submit at the interview
- Copy of Form DS-160 and Supplement L.
- DS-160 confirmation page.
- Visa interview appointment letter.
- DS-160 fee receipt.
- Valid passport with at least 6 months before expiration.
- I-797 Approval Notice.
- Two recent color photographs.
- Certificate of education.
- Most recent Curriculum or CV.
- Income tax record.
- Payment statuses.
- Copy of I-129 petition sent to USCIS.
- Letter from your employer to the applicant consulate for the L-1 visa.
- Directory agreement or documents proving the transfer.
- Letter of reference from colleagues, supervisors and others.
- Description of your work.
- Any other document that certifies or evidences the ability of the assignee to conduct business in the executive position.
- Organizational chart that shows your place in the organization.
- Employment verification letter from the foreign company.
You may be asked to provide detailed documents that support your visa eligibility. In case you do not show up with the necessary documentation, you run the risk that your application will be delayed or even rejected.
At the Lluis Law firm we will be happy to help you process any type of work or investment visa. If you want to immigrate to the United States, we can tell you about all the options that are available to you. Call now for a private, no obligation consultation.
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