L1 Visa Requirements: Application Guidance
The L-1 intracompany transfer visa is designed to enable businesses to deploy key personnel to operations in the US on a temporary basis. Strict eligibility criteria however apply for this category and for an employee to be eligible, they must evidence they meet the L-1 visa requirements.
Any application for an L1 visa will be scrutinized by US immigration authorities to verify that the role being filled by the non-US workers could not by filled by a US-resident worker. In practice, this can be an extremely high threshold to meet and evidence, requiring a compelling and thorough petition to be compiled.
L-1 visa eligibility
To be eligible, the employee must:
- Be required to fill an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge role in the US; and
- Have been employed outside the US by the same organization (either a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary), in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge role for one out of the three years prior to the application being filed.
To file for the L1 visa, the individual must opt for either the L1A or L1B classification.
The L1A visa relates to executive or managerial level roles, whereas the L1B visa is for roles in a specialized knowledge capacity.
L1A visa: What is an executive role?
To qualify a beneficiary for L-1A classification, the company must show that the employee:
- Will work in a managerial or executive role while in the US;
- Holds the necessary qualifications or professional experience required to undertake the role in the US; and
- Has worked for the organization for a minimum of 12 months continuously within the three years immediatley preceding the petition being filed.
For a position to be classed as an executive role, the employee has to show they are:
- Are responsible for directing the management a large function of the organization or of the organization as a whole
- Set the organization’s, or function’s, goals and policies
- Holds wide discretion and authority in decision-making
- Operates under lite, general supervision or direction eg from senior level executives, the board or stockholders.
For a role to be considered managerial, the employee has to show they are responsible for:
- Managing a department, function or the organization on a day to day basis.
- Overseeing and supervising the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or managing an essential organizational function.
- Recruiting and other personnel duties, or where there are no direct reports, functions at a senior level within the organization.
To evidence the role meets the L1 visa requirements, the company must present the beneficiary’s typical managerial duties, and the percentage of time to be spent on each.
If the employee will be a first-line supervisor, submit evidence showing the supervised employees will be professionals. A professional is an individual who is a member of the professions, such as architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians, surgeons, and teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges, academies, or seminaries.
L1B visa: What is a specialized knowledge role?
A position requiring specialized knowledge requires the employee to:
- Have particular and special knowledge of their organization – whether that relates to the product, service, techinques, research, equipment or other interests and application within international markets
- Have advanced knowledge of the organization’s procedures and processes
- Be a member of a profession, including but not limited to architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians and teachers
To qualify, the employer must be prepared to address the following points:
- Explain the basis on which specialized knowledge applies, ie in relation to the product, service, process or procedure or other organizational interest, and how this is ‘special’ and how it is applied in the international market.
- Describe why the knoweldge is specialist and differs from other roles in the industry.
- Explain how the role requires knowledges that is advanced in relation to organizational processes and procedures.
- Provide an explanation as to why the role could not be performed to by another person in the industry.
- Specify the minimum time required to gain the required knowledge, from training through to professional experience.
- Detail how the employee has already contributed value to the organization through assignments.
L-1 Application Process
Where the individual’s eligibiity can be estalished, they will need to file a petition with USCIS. The L1 visa petitioning process is in two stages. First, an application is to be filed with USCIS. This will be followed by a visa interview at the consular post or Embassy overseas where the petition was filed.
US companies seeking to employ multiple foreign nationals in L-1 status may file a blanket petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services which serves as continuing evidence of the companies’ qualifying relationship.
With Blanket L status, the organization’s L visa employees will not be required to file an individual L1 visa petition. They will instead move straight to stage 2, and attend the L1 visa interview to verify their eligibility for either the L1A or L1B visa classification.
To be eligible for the Blanket L, the organization will need to show:
- It is engaged in commercial trade or services.
- It has an office in the US that has been operational for more than 12 months.
- It has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates.
- The organization – and other qualifying organizations – have been granted at least ten L-1 petition approvals during the previous twelve months; or have US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or have a US workforce of at least 1,000 employees.
L-1 Visa Renewal
An L-1 beneficiary performing an executive or managerial role in the US will be allowed to spend a maximum of seven years in the US in L-1 status before they must return abroad for at least one year before being granted L-1 status again.
An L-1 beneficiary performing a specialized knowledge role in the US will be allowed to spend five a maximum of five years in the US in L-1 status before they must return abroad for at least one year before being granted L-1 status again.
Do you have a question about the L1 visa requirements?
The successful grant of L1-A and L1-B visa status will require careful preparation and extensive documentation in support.
NNU Immigration are specialist US immigration attorneys. From our central London base, we support companies from across the globe with L-1 visa petitions, ensuring initial eligibility and exploring potential alternative routes to transfer key workers to the US. We also provide guidance to the employer and employee through the petitioning process, and also extension applications.
If you have a question about the L-1 visa eligibility or application, contact us.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.