Who is it for: The L-1 visa is known as an Intracompany Transferee Visa and broken into two main classifications. The L-1A visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or a manager from one of its foreign offices to the United States. The L-1B visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an employee who has specialized knowledge related to the business to an office in the United States.
In both instances, the visa also allows a foreign company to send an employee to the United States for the purpose of establishing a presence in the country if that business does not yet have an office domestically.
To qualify as an L-1 executive or manager or an employee with specialized knowledge, the employee must have been working for the employer for at least one year in the preceding three-year period prior to seeking the visa.
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Part-time employment is not allowable, but an employee may switch employers or transfer to a different branch of the same company.
Immigrant or Non-immigrant visa: Nonimmigrant visa
Duration: Intracompany employees whose company already has an established presence in the United States are initially permitted to stay up to three years. Employees setting up a new office in the United States on behalf of their company are granted an initial stay of one year. Employees in both instances can request extensions in increments up to an additional two years. The maximum length of stay for an L-1A visa holder is seven years. The maximum length of stay for an L-1B visa holder is five years.
Details: Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 of L-1 workers may also enter the United States under an L-2 status. In most instances, their allotted visa stay is the same as the L-1 worker. Spouses of L-1 workers may apply to work in the United States by filing an Application for Employment Authorization, Form I-765. Upon approval, there is no restriction on where the spouse can work.
Companies that are active in transferring executive or specialized skill workers can shorten L-1 visa approvals by submitting a blanket petition in advance of filing individual L-1 visa petitions. To do so, the company must meet several criteria:
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- It must be engaged in commercial enterprises in the United States for at least one year
- Have at least three foreign and domestic branches
- Have a work force in the United States of at least 1,000 employees and combined domestic sales of at least $25 million
- Obtained a minimum of ten L-1 visas in the preceding 12 months
To streamline projects where multiple employees may be engaged on the same project in the same location and who are supplying the same specialized types of knowledge for the employer, USCIS allows employers to bundle L-1 applications. It is important to note that each L-1 visa application will still be judged individually and on its own merits.
To apply: To apply for L-1 status, the employer must file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129 on the employee’s behalf, along with supporting documents that show the company meets qualifying requirements.
Upon approval of Form I-129, the employee can apply for a visa at the embassy or consulate of their home country.
As of December 2012, the costs to apply for an L-1 visa were $325 for an application fee, $500 for an anti-fraud fee, and an optional fee of $1,225 for expedited processing
For more information: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has detailed information on L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge visas.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has detailed information on L-1B Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager visas.