L1 Visa Guide: Process, Requirements and Tips

L1 visa

IN THIS ARTICLE

The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for intra-company transferees in the United States. It enables international companies to transfer key employees—managers, executives (L1A), or employees with specialised knowledge (L1B)—from one of their offices in another country to the U.S. office or to establish a new office in the United States.

This visa is particularly significant for multinational companies looking to expand their operations and leverage global talent efficiently within their U.S. operations.

 

Section A: Brief Overview of the L1 Visa

 

1. L1 Visa Types

 

There are two subcategories of the L1 visa:

a. L1A Visa for managers and executives, recognising the visa holders’ leadership roles and decision-making responsibilities.

 

b. L1B Visa for employees with specialised knowledge, focusing on those who possess advanced knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or procedures.

 

The L1A visa is initially granted for up to three years with the possibility of extending it to a total of seven years, while the L1B visa is initially valid for up to three years with a maximum extension of five years.

One of the notable features of the L1 visa is its dual intent, meaning that visa holders can apply for permanent residency (a Green Card) without affecting their L1 status.

 

2. Importance of the L1 Visa for Professionals and Multinational Companies

 

The L1 visa is a critical tool for professionals seeking to expand their careers internationally and for multinational companies aiming to strengthen their presence in the U.S. market by leveraging global talent.

 

a. For Professionals

Career Advancement
It provides a pathway for professionals to work in the U.S., offering them international work experience and the opportunity for career progression within their company.

 

Cultural Exchange
Professionals gain exposure to the U.S. business environment and culture, enhancing their adaptability and global business skills.

 

Path to Residency
The dual intent aspect of the L1 visa allows professionals to pursue permanent residency in the U.S., a significant benefit for those looking to settle in the country long-term.

 

b. For Multinational Companies

Global Talent Utilization
Allows companies to transfer key personnel to the U.S., ensuring their operations are managed by trusted, experienced employees who understand the company’s culture and goals.

 

Expansion and Growth
Facilitates establishing a new office in the U.S. by transferring executives and managers who can oversee the setup and growth of the new operations.

 

Strategic Advantage
By moving employees with specialised knowledge or managerial experience to where they are most needed, companies can maintain a competitive edge in local and global markets.

 

Section B: What is an L1 Visa?

 

1. Definition and Purpose

 

The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States. It is designed explicitly for the intra-company transfer of key employees from an international office to a U.S. office of the same employer or its affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company.

This visa aims to facilitate the seamless movement of managerial, executive, or specialised knowledge staff within a multinational company, ensuring its U.S. operations have access to the same level of expertise and leadership available in its global network.

The primary purpose is to promote international business and operational continuity by allowing companies to leverage their global workforce effectively in the U.S.

For more specific guidance on L1 Visa check out:

https://www.nnuimmigration.com/l1-visa

 

2. What are L1A and L1B visas?

 

The L1 visa category comprises two categories. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for employees and employers to determine the most appropriate visa category based on the individual’s role within the company and the specific needs of the U.S. office.

The two categories are:

a. L1A Visa

Intended for executives and managers, the L1A visa enables these high-ranking employees to transfer to the U.S. to undertake significant roles within the company. These roles typically involve supervisory responsibilities over professional staff and critical company functions, operations, or divisions.

 

b. L1B Visa
Designed for employees with specialised knowledge relevant to the company’s interests, the L1B visa caters to those with a deep understanding of the company’s products, services, processes, management, or other interests considered integral to the company’s competitiveness in the market.

 

3. The Difference between L1A and L1B Visas

 

The main differences between the L1A and L1B visas lie in the roles and the kind of expertise the transferees bring to the U.S. operations:

 

a. Role and Position
L1A visa holders are involved in managerial or executive roles, making high-level decisions and overseeing the company’s operations, policies, and goals. On the other hand, L1B visa holders are not necessarily in leadership positions but are crucial for their unique, specialised knowledge or expertise that is not readily available in the U.S. labour market.

 

b. Duration of Stay
The initial stay granted under an L1A visa can be up to three years, extendable in two-year increments with a total limit of seven years. For L1B visa holders, the initial stay is up to three years but can be extended only once for a maximum stay of five years.

 

c. Path to Permanent Residency
While L1A and L1B visa holders can pursue permanent residency (Green Card) through the dual intent provision, L1A visa holders may have a more straightforward path due to their executive or managerial roles, qualifying them for specific preference categories that expedite the Green Card process.

 

Section C: L1 Visa Eligibility Criteria

 

1. General Requirements for the L1 Visa

 

The L1 visa serves as a mechanism for multinational companies to transfer key employees to their U.S. operations. While specific requirements vary between the L1A (for executives and managers) and L1B (for employees with specialised knowledge) visa categories, there are also general eligibility criteria that apply to all applicants for the L1 visa.

Meeting these general requirements is the first step in the application process. However, it’s important to note that satisfying these criteria alone does not guarantee visa approval; each application is subject to review by U.S. immigration authorities, who consider the specifics of the company’s operations, the nature of the employee’s role, and the benefit to the U.S. office.

Here are the general L1 visa eligibility requirements:

 

a. Qualifying Relationship
The petitioning U.S. entity must have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company from which the employee is being transferred. This relationship can be that of a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate.

 

b. Continuous Employment Abroad
The employee must have worked for the foreign company for a continuous period of one year within the three years immediately preceding their application for admission into the United States. This employment must have been in a managerial, executive, or specialised knowledge capacity for the same overseas employer, subsidiary, or affiliate of the same organisation.

 

c. Intended Role in the U.S.
The employee is being transferred to the U.S. to serve in an executive or managerial role (L1A) or a position requiring specialised knowledge (L1B) about the company’s products, services, processes, or procedures.

 

d. Operational U.S. Office
For a new office in the U.S., the company must show that it has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office. Additionally, the company must demonstrate the financial ability to commence business in the U.S. and support the L1 employee’s position.

 

e. Duration of Transfer
The L1 visa is initially granted for a short period (up to three years, with the possibility of extension), reflecting the temporary nature of the transfer. For new offices, the visa is initially granted for one year.

 

f. Non-immigrant Intent (With Dual Intent Provision)
While the L1 visa is technically a non-immigrant visa, it does permit dual intent, meaning that the applicant can seek permanent residency (Green Card) during their stay without affecting their L1 visa status.

 

2. Specific Criteria for L1A Visa (Managers and Executives)

 

While the general eligibility criteria for the L1 visa category apply to both L1A and L1B visas, specific criteria differentiate the two, focusing on the nature of the roles and the qualifications of the employees being transferred.

Understanding these specific criteria is crucial for applicants and their employers to ensure they apply for the correct category based on the employee’s role and qualifications, thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful visa application.

The specific requirements under the L1A visa include:

 

a. Managerial Role
The individual applicant must manage the organisation or a department, subdivision, function, or component.

They must supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees or manage an essential function within the organisation or a department or subdivision.

The individual should also have the authority to hire and fire or recommend those, as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorisation) if other employees are directly supervised; if no employees are directly supervised, must function at a senior level within the organisational hierarchy or concerning the function managed.

 

b. Executive Role
The employee’s primary duties are directing the organisation’s management or a significant component or function.

They establish the goals and policies of the organisation, component, or function.

They exercise wide latitude in discretionary decision-making and receive only general supervision or direction from higher-level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organisation.

 

Duration of Stay
The L1A visa allows for an initial stay of up to three years, with extensions that can bring the total stay to a maximum of seven years.

 

3. Specific Criteria for L1B Visa (Specialised Knowledge Staff)

 

The specific requirements under the L1A visa include:

a. Specialised Knowledge
The individual must possess knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, other interests and its application in international markets, or advanced knowledge or expertise in the organisation’s processes and procedures.

The specialised knowledge must be distinct or uncommon compared to that generally found in the industry and necessary for the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace.

 

b. Role Requirements
The employee’s role in the U.S. must involve applying this specialised knowledge to the company’s operations or contribute significantly to the company’s ability to compete internationally.

 

c. Duration of Stay
For L1B visa holders, the initial stay is granted for up to three years, possibly extending the stay to a maximum of five years.

 

Section D: L1 Visa Application Process

 

1. Step-by-Step Guide to the L1 Visa Application Process

 

Navigating the L1 visa application process involves a series of steps that both the employing company and the employee must carefully follow.

Additionally, preparing a comprehensive set of required documents is crucial for a smooth application process and to ensure adequate evidence is submitted for adjudication.

Here’s a step-by-step guide, including a required documents checklist and tips for successful application submission for the L1 visa.

 

Step 1: Employer Files Petition
The process begins with the U.S. employer filing Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For new offices in the U.S., additional information about the business plans and financial commitments may be required.

 

Step 2: Petition Approval
Upon approval of Form I-129, USCIS issues a Notice of Action, Form I-797, which serves as the petition’s approval notification.

 

Step 3: Employee Applies for Visa
With the I-129 petition approved, the employee can apply for the L1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. This involves completing the Online Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, and scheduling a visa interview.

 

Step 4: Visa Interview
The visa interview is a crucial part of the process. The employee should prepare to discuss their role, qualifications, and the purpose of their transfer to the U.S. with the consular officer.

 

Step 5: Visa Issuance
If the visa application is approved, the visa will be issued. Processing times can vary based on the country and specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

 

Step 6: Travel to the U.S
Once the visa is issued, the employee can travel to the U.S. They must carry the required documents for admission at the U.S. port of entry.

 

2. Required Documents Checklist

 

To apply for the L1 visa, certain forms must be filed, and supporting documents must be submitted to prove the eligibility requirements are met.

While the specific supporting documents will depend on the specific circumstances of each application, as a general rule, the following will need to be submitted as a minimum:

 

a. Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker, and the I-797 approval notice.
b. Completed Online Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160.
c. Passport valid for travel to the U.S.
d. One (1) 2×2 photograph.
e. L1 visa application fee receipt.
f. Proof of continuous employment for one year in the past three years with a multinational company outside the U.S.
g. Detailed description of the job duties in the U.S. and evidence of qualifications.
h. For L1A applicants: Evidence of a managerial or executive role.
i. For L1B applicants: Evidence of specialised knowledge.
j. If applicable, proof of the U.S. company’s ability to support the executive or managerial position or specialised knowledge role.

 

3. Tips for a Successful Application Submission

 

The following tips can help maximise prospects of a successful L1 visa application:

 

a. Ensure Accuracy
Double-check all forms and supporting documents for accuracy and completeness to avoid delays or denials.

 

b. Over-Evidence 
Gather supporting evidence and documents that support the application and prove eligibility. It is generally better to provide less evidence rather than too little to avoid delays or issues during processing.

 

c. Document Preparation
Organise documents logically and explain clearly and concisely the employee’s role and qualifications.

 

d. Highlight Company Ties
Emphasise the relationship between the U.S. and foreign entities and the significance of the employee’s role in the company’s operations.

 

e. Prepare for the Interview
The employee should be prepared to explain their role, the reason for their transfer clearly, and how they meet the L1 visa criteria.

 

f. Consult an Immigration Attorney
Given the complexities of immigration law, consider consulting with an attorney specialising in U.S. immigration to navigate the process effectively.

 

Section E: Processing Times and Fees

 

When planning for an L1 visa application, understanding the processing times and associated fees is crucial for both the employer and the employee. These factors can significantly impact the overall timeline and budget for the visa process.

Applicants should regularly check the USCIS website or consult with an immigration attorney for the most current information on processing times and fees, as these can change based on immigration policy adjustments and budgetary considerations.

 

1. Average Processing Times for L1 Visa Applications

 

The processing times for L1 visa applications can vary widely based on the workload of the USCIS service centre processing the petition and the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling the visa application. On average:

 

a. USCIS Processing
The standard processing time for Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker) can range from a few weeks to several months.

On average, applicants should expect processing to take 2 to 4 months, provided there are no issues with the application.

 

b. Premium Processing
USCIS offers a Premium Processing Service for L1 visa petitions, which guarantees processing within 15 calendar days for a fee. If USCIS does not meet this timeline, the premium processing fee is refunded, and the case continues to receive expedited processing.

 

c. Consular Processing
After the petition is approved, the time to schedule a visa interview and processing at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate can vary. Applicants can typically expect a wait time of a few weeks to a couple of months, depending on the location and time of year.

 

2. Breakdown of Visa Application Fees

 

Applications for the L1 visa incur the following fees:

 

a. Form I-129 Filing Fee
This is the fee charged by USCIS for processing the petition. From April 1, 2024, the fee is $1,385.

b. Premium Processing Fee (Optional)
For expedited processing (15 calendar days), the premium processing fee is an additional $2,805.

c. Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee
Required for the initial L1 petition filed by a company, this fee is $500.

d. Public Law 114-113 Fee
For companies with 50 or more employees in the U.S., where more than 50% are in H-1B or L-1 status, there is an additional fee of $4,500 for L1A and L1B petitions.

e. Visa Application Fee (MRV Fee)
Each visa applicant must pay a non-refundable visa application fee of $205.

f. Reciprocity Fee
Depending on the applicant’s nationality, there may be an additional fee based on reciprocity between the United States and the applicant’s country. Where applicable, this fee varies by country.

g. Asylum Program Fee
For applications submitted on or after April 1, 2024, a one-off Asylum Program Fee is payable by employers for each form I-129 and form I-140 filed. The Asylum Program Fee is $600. A discount of 50% is available for employers with 25 or fewer full-time employees. Nonprofits are exempt from paying the fee.

 

3. Additional Costs to Consider

 

In addition to application processing charges, applying for the L1 visa may also incur the following costs:

Legal Fees
Many applicants hire an immigration attorney to navigate the L1 visa process. Attorney fees can vary widely.

Travel and Accommodation
Costs associated with travelling to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the visa interview and any necessary accommodations.

 

Relocation Expenses
For the employee moving to the U.S., there may be significant relocation expenses, including shipping personal belongings, finding housing, and other resettlement costs.

 

SEVIS Fee
Not applicable for L1 visas but relevant for other visa types, highlighting the importance of checking all potential fees specific to your visa application.

 

Section F: Typical Issues Faced During the L1 Visa Process

 

1. Challenges of the L1 Visa Application Process

 

By anticipating potential challenges and preparing accordingly, companies and employees can navigate the L1 visa application process more smoothly, increasing the likelihood of success.

 

a. Documentation and Evidence
A frequent challenge is providing sufficient documentation to prove the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign entities and the employee’s eligibility based on their role and qualifications.

 

b. Defining Specialised Knowledge
For L1B visa applicants, clearly defining and proving “specialised knowledge” can be difficult. USCIS may require detailed explanations of how this knowledge is unique and crucial to the U.S. operation.

 

c. New Offices
Establishing a new office in the U.S. presents additional challenges, such as demonstrating the viability of the new office and its ability to support a managerial or specialised knowledge position.

 

d. RFEs and Denials
Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and potential denials are standard stumbling blocks. An RFE can significantly delay the process and, if not adequately addressed, may lead to a denial.

 

e. Maintaining Valid Status
Ensuring the L1 visa holder maintains a valid status, especially when seeking extensions or transitioning to a green card, can be complex, given the specific time frames and conditions that apply.

 

For more information on the transition to green card check here:

https://www.nnuimmigration.com/l1-visa-to-green-card

 

2. Expert Advice on Overcoming These Challenges

 

a. Comprehensive Documentation
Ensure all documentation is thorough and precise and directly supports the eligibility criteria. This includes detailed job descriptions, proof of the qualifying relationship, and evidence of the employee’s qualifications and achievements.

 

b. Clarify Specialised Knowledge
For L1B applications, provide concrete examples of the employee’s specialised knowledge, including how it has been applied in projects or initiatives and why it is critical to the U.S. operation.

 

c. Solid Business Plan for New Offices
If applying to establish a new office, submit a robust business plan outlining the proposed nature of the office, its organisational structure, financial projections, and how the office will support the L1 position within one year.

 

d. Responding to RFEs
Treat RFEs as an opportunity to strengthen your case. Provide all requested information promptly and consider it a chance to clarify and add to your initial application.

 

e. Strategic Planning for Extensions and Status Changes
Plan well in advance for visa extensions or adjustments in status. This includes understanding all deadlines, maintaining employment, and ensuring any changes in role or location are communicated and approved.

 

f. Legal Expertise
Consider hiring an immigration attorney specialising in L1 visas. Their expertise in navigating immigration law and dealing with potential challenges can be invaluable.

 

g. Preparation for Interviews
Prepare meticulously for visa interviews, with clear explanations of the employee’s role, importance to the U.S. company, and an understanding of its operations.

 

Section G: L1 Visa Benefits and Limitations

 

The L1 visa category offers several advantages for both the individuals holding the visa and the multinational companies employing them. Yet, there are also specific limitations and restrictions that applicants and holders need to be aware of. Understanding these benefits and limitations can help make informed decisions and plan for the future.

 

1. Key Benefits of Holding an L1 Visa

 

a. Path to Permanent Residency
One of the most significant advantages of the L1 visa is the possibility of applying for a green card without losing L1 status, thanks to its dual intent provision. This is particularly advantageous for L1A visa holders, who may qualify for the EB-1C green card category designed for multinational executives and managers.

 

2. No Annual Cap
Unlike other visa categories, there is no annual limit on the number of L1 visas that can be issued. This removes one potential obstacle for companies looking to transfer employees.

 

3. Family Members Can Join
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of L1 visa holders can apply for L2 visas, allowing them to live in the U.S. Additionally, L2 spouses can apply for work authorisation, providing the family with a potential second income source.

 

4. Long Duration of Stay
L1A visa holders can stay for up to seven years, and L1B visa holders for up to five years, with the possibility of extensions. This provides a substantial period for employees to work in the U.S.

 

5. Establishing New Offices
The L1 visa allows international companies to send executives or managers (L1A) or specialised knowledge employees (L1B) to the United States to establish a new office, facilitating international expansion.

 

2. Limitations and Restrictions of the L1 Visa

 

Understanding the limitations of the L1 visa is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure that the L1 visa aligns with their professional objectives and personal circumstances.

 

a. Strict Eligibility Requirements
The L1 visa has stringent requirements regarding the nature of the employment and the relationship between the U.S. and foreign entities. Applicants must have worked for the company abroad for at least one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding their application.

 

b. Dependency on Employer
The L1 visa is tied to the employer. If the employment relationship ends, the visa holder may have to leave the United States unless they can change their status or adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

 

c. New Offices Have Shorter Initial Stay
For new office setups in the U.S., the initial visa is granted for only one year, after which the company must demonstrate sufficient business activity to justify an extension.

 

d. Limited to Company Transfers
The L1 visa is specifically for intra-company transfers. Employees cannot use this visa to work for a different employer in the U.S.

 

e. Potential for Scrutiny and Denials
Companies, significantly smaller or newer ones, may need more scrutiny during the application process to prove the legitimacy of the transfer and the viability of the U.S. operation, potentially leading to delays or denials.

 

f. No Direct Path for L2 Children Employment
While spouses on L2 visas can apply for work authorisation, dependent children cannot work in the U.S.

 

Section H: L1 Visa Renewal and Extension

 

1. Guidelines for L1 Visa Renewal and Extension

 

Renewing or extending an L1 visa is critical for many international transferees who wish to continue their employment in the United States beyond the initial period granted.

Understanding the guidelines and preparing the necessary documents in advance is the best way to avoid issues or delays during application processing.

 

a. Timely Application
Filing for an extension well before the current L1 visa expires is advisable. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends filing at least 45 days before the visa expires. However, the petition can be filed up to 6 months before expiration.

 

b. Same Employer Requirement
Generally, the L1 visa extension must be with the same sponsoring employer for the same position or a position of similar standing if there are significant changes in the job duties or the employer, a new L1 petition may be required.

 

c. Maximum Stay Limit
Note the maximum stay limits – seven years for L1A visa holders and five years for L1B visa holders. Extensions can be granted in increments of up to two years until these limits are reached.

 

d. Continued Eligibility
The applicant must continue to meet the eligibility requirements for the L1 visa category, including working for a qualifying organisation outside the U.S. for at least one continuous year within the three years before their initial L1 visa application.

For more information about L1 Visa Renewal check here:

https://www.nnuimmigration.com/l-1-visa-renewal

 

 

 

2. Necessary Documents and Eligibility Criteria for Extension

 

The supporting documents required for an L1 visa extension application include, as a minimum:

 

a. Completed Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker: This form is used for the initial petition and extension requests.

b. Copy of the Current L1 Visa: A copy of the visa stamp in the passport and the I-94 record, which shows the most recent entry into the U.S. and the current visa status.

c. Supporting Letters: A letter from the employer supporting the extension, detailing the necessity of the extension and affirming that the conditions of employment remain unchanged.

d. Proof of Employment: Documentation showing that the visa holder has maintained valid L1 status, such as pay stubs, W-2 forms, or other payroll records.

e. Updated Documentation on Company’s Operations: Any changes in the company’s structure, operations, or financial health that would support the need for the L1 worker’s continued employment in the U.S.

f. For New Office Extensions: Additional evidence that the new office has been active and operational and requires the continued presence of the L1 employee.

 

3. Eligibility Criteria for Extension

 

The criteria to extend an L1 visa include the following:

a. The L1 visa holder must have maintained lawful status throughout their stay in the U.S.

b. The individual must continue to be employed by the petitioning employer in a managerial, executive, or specialised knowledge capacity.

c. The U.S. employer must demonstrate that the extension is necessary for the continued operation of the business.

 

4. Tips for a Successful Extension

 

Extending an L1 visa requires careful attention to detail and adherence to the eligibility criteria. Proper planning and timely submission of the extension request can ensure a favourable outcome.

 

a. Early Preparation
Start gathering documents and preparing the extension application well in advance of the visa’s expiration date.

 

b. Maintain Compliance
Ensure compliance with all U.S. immigration laws and regulations during the entire stay under the L1 visa to avoid complications during the extension process.

 

c. Consult an Immigration Attorney
Given the complexities and potential changes in immigration policies, consulting with an immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance and increase the chances of a successful extension.

 

For more information about L1 Visa Extension check here:

https://www.nnuimmigration.com/l1-visa-extension

 

Section I: Transitioning from L1 Visa to Green Card

 

Transitioning from an L1 visa to U.S. permanent residency (a Green Card) is a significant step for many international transferees. The process involves several options and specific requirements, depending on the individual’s situation and the category under which they apply.

 

1. Options for L1 Visa Holders to Obtain Permanent Residency

 

a. EB-1C Category for Multinational Managers or Executives

This category is especially relevant for L1A visa holders, as it is designed for managers and executives who have been employed outside the U.S. for at least one of the three years preceding the petition or the most recent lawful non-immigrant admission if they are already working for the U.S. employer in a managerial or executive capacity.

The U.S. employer must file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on behalf of the employee.

 

b. EB-2 Category for Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability

L1B visa holders with specialised knowledge may qualify under this category if they possess an advanced degree or equivalent or demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business that will substantially benefit the U.S. national interest.

The process usually requires labour certification (PERM) to demonstrate that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position. However, a National Interest Waiver (NIW) can bypass this requirement if it’s in the interest of the United States.

 

c. EB-3 Category for Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers:

This category may be an option for L1B visa holders who do not qualify for EB-2 but are skilled workers with at least two years of job experience or training, professionals with a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent, or other workers performing unskilled labour that is not temporary or seasonal. This generally involves labor certification (PERM) and filing Form I-140.

 

2. Process and Requirements for Transitioning to a Green Card

 

a. Labor Certification (PERM)

As is required for most EB-2 and EB-3 applications, the PERM process involves testing the U.S. labour market to ensure no qualified U.S. workers are available. It is not required for EB-1C or those applying for a National Interest Waiver.

 

b. Filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

The employer must file this form with USCIS to establish the employee’s eligibility for a Green Card under one of the employment-based categories.

 

c. Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) or Consular Processing

If the employee is in the U.S., they can file Form I-485 to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident after the I-140 is approved and a visa number is available.

If outside the U.S., they will go through consular processing to obtain their Green Card.

 

d. Permanent Residency Requirements

Generally, the employee should continue working for the sponsoring employer in the same or similar occupational classification until the Green Card is granted.

 

e. Admissibility 

The applicant must also be admissible to the United States under immigration law.

 

f. Document Requirements

Comprehensive documentation will be required to support the application, including proof of employment, qualifications, and the employer’s ability to pay the offered wage.

 

3. Tips for a Successful Transition

 

Transitioning from an L1 visa to permanent residency is a detailed and lengthy process. Careful planning and adherence to all legal requirements can help ensure a successful transition.

 

a. Plan Early
Begin the process well in advance, as obtaining a Green Card can take several years, depending on the category and the country of birth.

 

b.Maintain L1 Status
Ensure you maintain valid L1 status while your Green Card application is pending until you can adjust your status.

 

c. Consult with Immigration Legal Professionals
Given the complexity of immigration law and policy, consulting with an attorney can provide valuable guidance and help navigate potential pitfalls.

 

Section J: Article Summary

 

The L1 visa offers a valuable pathway for international companies to transfer key employees—executives, managers, and those with specialised knowledge—to their U.S. operations. This visa category not only facilitates the global mobility of staff but also plays a crucial role in expanding and managing multinational business activities within the United States.

Here are the key points summarising the essential aspects of the L1 visa:

 

a. Flexibility and Dual Intent
The L1 visa allows for the transfer of critical personnel without requiring labour certification. It uniquely recognises the dual intent of applicants, permitting them to seek permanent residency while on a temporary visa.

 

b. Categories
The L1 visa is divided into two subcategories: L1A for executives and managers and L1B for employees with specialised knowledge, each with specific requirements and benefits.

 

c. Family Inclusion
L1 visa holders can bring their spouses and unmarried children under 21 to the United States under the L2 visa, with the spouse eligible to apply for work authorisation.

 

d. Path to Green Card
One of the most significant advantages of the L1 visa is the relatively smoother transition to permanent residency, especially for L1A visa holders through the EB-1C category.

 

e. No Annual Caps
Unlike other work visas, there are no annual limits on the number of L1 visas issued, offering greater availability and flexibility for multinational companies.

 

Given the complexity of the L1 visa process and the critical importance of ensuring that all application details and documentation are accurately presented, seeking professional advice is highly recommended. Immigration attorneys specialising in L1 visas can provide invaluable assistance, from navigating the intricacies of immigration law to addressing any challenges that arise during the application process. Their expertise can significantly enhance the likelihood of a successful outcome, allowing companies and their employees to focus on their core business objectives and personal transitions confidently.

So, while the L1 visa offers numerous benefits and opportunities for companies and individuals, the application process demands careful attention to detail and adherence to regulatory requirements. Engaging with professional advisors mitigates the risk of errors and delays and provides peace of mind, ensuring a smooth and efficient pathway to achieving your professional and personal immigration goals.

 

Section K: Frequently Asked Questions about the L1 Visa

 

Q1: What is an L1 visa?
A1: The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category that allows international companies to transfer executives, managers (L1A), and employees with specialised knowledge (L1B) from their foreign offices to one of their offices in the United States. It is also used to establish a new office in the U.S.

 

Q2: How long can you stay in the U.S. on an L1 visa?
A2: L1A visa holders can stay up to 7 years, while L1B visa holders are allowed a maximum stay of 5 years. The initial visa might be granted for shorter periods (1 to 3 years, depending on the circumstances), with the possibility of extensions.

 

Q3: Can L1 visa holders apply for a Green Card?
A3: Yes, L1 visa holders can apply for permanent residency (Green Card) without affecting their L1 status, thanks to the dual intent provision of this visa category. L1A holders may have a more straightforward path through the EB-1C category for multinational managers or executives.

 

Q4: Can my family accompany me if I have an L1 visa?
A4: Yes, spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of L1 visa holders can apply for L2 visas to accompany the L1 visa holder to the U.S. Spouses on L2 visas can also apply for work authorisation.

 

Q5: Is a labour certification required for an L1 visa?
A5: No, labour certification is not required for the L1 visa application process. This streamlines the process for companies transferring employees to the U.S.

 

Q6: Can I change employers on an L1 visa?
A6: The L1 visa is employer-specific, meaning it does not allow for a simple transfer to another employer. To change employers, an individual would typically need to apply for a different visa that permits employment with another company.

 

Q7: How long does it take to process an L1 visa application?
A7: Processing times can vary widely based on several factors, including the workload at the relevant USCIS service centre and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate processing the visa. Standard processing can take a few weeks to several months on average. Premium processing, which guarantees a 15-day processing time, is available for an additional fee.

For more information on the L1 Visa Processing Times check out our 2024 guide here:

https://www.nnuimmigration.com/l1-visa-processing-time

 

Q8: What is the difference between L1A and L1B visas?
A8: The L1A visa is intended for managers and executives who direct a significant part of the organisation. The L1B visa is for employees with specialised knowledge essential to the company’s operations.

 

Q9: Are there any annual caps on the number of L1 visas issued?
A9: No, there are no annual limits on the number of L1 visas that can be issued, differentiating it from other work visa categories with numerical caps.

 

Q10: What happens if my L1 visa is denied?
A10: If your L1 visa application is denied, the decision letter should explain why. Depending on the grounds of denial, you can address the issues and reapply or consider other visa categories that suit your situation. Consulting with an immigration attorney can guide the best course of action.

 

Section L: Glossary of Key Terms for the L1 Visa

 

L1 Visa: A non-immigrant visa category that allows international companies to transfer executives, managers (L1A), and employees with specialised knowledge (L1B) from a foreign office to the U.S. office or to establish a new office in the United States.

 

L1A Visa: A subcategory of the L1 visa for executives and managers who are being transferred to the United States. It allows for a maximum stay of seven years.

 

L1B Visa: A subcategory of the L1 visa for employees with specialised knowledge valuable to the company’s operations. It allows for a maximum stay of five years.

 

Dual Intent: A policy that permits L1 visa holders to apply for a Green Card (permanent residency) without affecting their L1 status, acknowledging that the applicant may intend to become a permanent resident while on a temporary visa.

 

Specialised Knowledge: Expertise or advanced knowledge unique to the company’s processes, procedures, products, or services, which is not commonly found in the industry and is critical to the company’s operations in the U.S.

 

Multinational Company: A business that operates in multiple countries, having a home office and affiliates, subsidiaries, or branches in other countries.

 

Form I-129: The Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker, a form submitted by U.S. employers to USCIS to request an L1 visa for an employee.

 

USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services): The government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States, including processing L1 visa petitions.

 

Premium Processing: An optional service offered by USCIS that expedites the processing certain employment-based petitions and applications, including the L1 visa, providing a decision within 15 calendar days for an additional fee.

 

Form I-140: The Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, a form used by employers to petition USCIS for an immigrant visa on behalf of a worker, is applicable in the context of L1 visa holders seeking permanent residency.

 

EB-1C Category: An employment-based preference category for multinational executives and managers seeking to become permanent residents relevant to L1A visa holders.

 

Adjustment of Status (Form I-485): The process by which an eligible individual already in the U.S. can apply for permanent residency (Green Card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.

 

Consular Processing: A method whereby individuals apply for an immigrant visa through a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.

 

Labor Certification (PERM): A certification from the U.S. Department of Labor that a U.S. worker cannot fill a particular position at a U.S. company and that employing a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

 

Section M: Useful Links

 

For comprehensive and authoritative U.S.-based information on the L1 visa, consider exploring the following resources:

1 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides an official guide to the L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager visa category, including eligibility criteria, application procedures, and guidelines for establishing new offices in the U.S. For detailed information, visit their L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager: USCIS L-1A Visa Page .

 

2 Wikipedia offers an overview of the L-1 visa, detailing the differences between Regular L-1 and Blanket L-1 visas, the application process, associated costs, conditions for renewals, and status changes from L-1B to L-1A. It also touches upon the dual intent policy relevant to L-1 visa applicants. To learn more, check out the Wikipedia page on L-1 Visa: Wikipedia L-1 Visa.

 

3 The USCIS Policy Manual is another critical resource that provides an in-depth background and purpose of the L-1 visa program, its legislative history, and various amendments that have shaped its current form. For a thorough understanding of the L-1 visa from a policy perspective, read more in the USCIS Policy Manual, Chapter 1 – Purpose and Background, dedicated to Intracompany Transferees (L): USCIS Policy Manual – L Visa.

 

These resources are essential for individuals and employers looking to navigate the complexities of the L1 visa process and ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements.

 

 

Author

L1 Visa Guide: Process, Requirements and Tips 1
 | Website

Nita Upadyhe is the Founder & Principal Attorney at NNU Immigration. She has substantial experience in the field of business immigration law in the US and the UK, specialising in L1, E2, acting for leading corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, actors and athletes in US immigration matters.

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