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L1 Visa: Ultimate Guide to US Intracompany Transfers

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

L1 Visa: Ultimate Guide to US Intracompany Transfers

 

The L-1 intracompany transfer visa enables companies 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 be filled by a US-resident worker. In practice, this creates an extremely high threshold to meet and evidence, requiring a compelling and thorough petition to be compiled.

The L1 visa offers many benefits to employers. It is not subject to an annual limit on the number of visas that can be issued in this category, unlike the H-1B, and does not carry with it any educational requirements of the worker.

It is also classed as ‘dual intent’, so L-1 visa holders may become eligible to apply for US permanent residence, also known as a Green Card.

In addition, employers can submit blanket applications when transferring multiple employees to reduce the administrative burden of making separate individual applications.

However, the L1 visa can be one of the more complex visa petitions and is undoubtedly one of the more heavily scrutinized. Adjudicators are looking for specific and unequivocal evidence and reasoning as to why a US resident worker could not undertake the work in question and why the applicant is singularly placed to carry out the required work.

The application process for the L1 visa is, however, complex and highly involved. For an application to succeed, substantial and comprehensive supporting documentation will be critical. It will be better to over-document and ensure the adjudicator has all the information required to make a decision on the application.

Errors or omissions with the submission can result in delays with valuable personnel joining the company’s US operations.

NNU Immigration’s US attorneys have substantial experience supporting companies, employees and business owners with US visa applications, including the L-1 visa for intracompany transfers.

We will work with you to ensure eligibility criteria are satisfied and to advise on you on how best to build and present the application to overcome adjudication concerns.

Issues or errors at any stage in the application can result in delay or even application refusal, which can be disruptive to business plans and operations

 

What is an L1 Visa?

 

Definition of the L1 Visa

 

The L-1 visa is for professional employees of an international company to transfer to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the United States. It can also be used for professional employees coming to the US to set up a new affiliated office.

There are also two different categories of L1 visa: the L1A visa and the L1B visa. The L1A visa is for professional employees working in an executive or managerial capacity. The L1B visa is for employees with specialized knowledge about a company’s products, services and procedures.

In either case, the employee must have worked within this role for at least one year out of the preceding three years and intend to undertake the same or similar role in the United States.

The maximum initial stay is three years for both the L-1A and L-1B visas. Transferees entering the US to establish a new office will be granted a maximum initial stay of one year.

Beyond this initial 3-year period, it is possible to apply to extend the L-1 visa in increments of up to an additional two years until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years for the L-1A visa and a maximum of five years under an L-1B visa.

Before an employee can apply to obtain an L1 visa, their employer has to file an L1 visa petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the employee. The petitioner may be a US company or a foreign company.

Global companies requiring multiple transfers to the US may qualify for the ‘Blanket L’ petition. The Blanket L acts as continuing evidence of a company’s qualifying relationship, facilitating a faster transfer of qualifying employees under the L1 category.

 

 

 

Purpose of the L1 Visa

 

The purpose of the L1 visa is to support international business expansion, ensure the transfer of specialized knowledge, and facilitate the global mobility of employees within the framework of US immigration laws. This visa category underscores the importance of international collaboration and the free movement of skilled workers in today’s globalized economy.

Core objectives of the L1 Visa include:

 

Promote International Business Presence

 

The L1 visa is instrumental for companies seeking to establish or expand their business presence in the United States. It allows for the seamless movement of essential personnel with critical knowledge of the company’s operations, culture, and strategic goals.

 

Intracompany Knowledge Transfer

 

This visa category enables the transfer of employees who hold crucial knowledge unique to the company, fostering a cohesive operational strategy and maintaining the integrity of business practices across international borders.

 

Support for New and Existing US Operations

 

For new offices in the US, the L1 visa allows companies to send executives and managers to the United States to ensure that the establishment of the office aligns with the company’s broader objectives. For existing operations, it helps fill critical roles that require specific company knowledge or leadership skills not readily available in the US labor market.

 

Facilitate Global Mobility

 

The L1 visa supports the global mobility of staff, enhancing international collaboration, leadership development, and cross-border project management. It allows multinational companies to leverage their global talent pool effectively by positioning key personnel where they are most needed, irrespective of geographical boundaries.

 

Dual Intent

 

Unlike many other nonimmigrant visa categories, the L1 visa is compatible with the US immigration concept of “dual intent.” This means that an L1 visa holder can pursue permanent residency (Green Card) without jeopardizing their L1 status, providing a path for critical employees to contribute to the US operations of a company on a more permanent basis.

 

Importance for multinational companies

 

This visa category is an essential tool for global companies looking to transfer key personnel to the US to enhance operations, provide expertise, or oversee essential functions or departments.

L-1 visas are potentially open to employees of companies based in any country and of any size – whether a small start-up or global corporation, a company can apply to transfer eligible employees to qualifying entities in the USA.

There is also no cap on the number of L-1 visas that can be granted, meaning the employer’s prospects of making a successful application are based on the ability to satisfy eligibility and provide a comprehensive petition.

Key benefits of the L1 visa include:

 

Facilitating Intracompany Transfers

The L1 visa enables multinational companies to transfer key employees, including managers, executives (L1A), and those with specialized knowledge (L1B), from their operations in the UK to their US offices. This seamless movement is vital for companies looking to maintain a consistent culture and operational efficiency across borders.

 

Expansion and Establishment of US Operations

 

For UK-based companies aiming to establish or expand their presence in the US, the L1 visa serves as a gateway. It allows companies to send executives and managers to the United States to set up new offices, ensuring that the new operations are aligned with the company’s vision and practices from the start.

 

Access to a Global Talent Pool

 

The L1 visa provides companies with the flexibility to leverage their global workforce effectively. By enabling the transfer of employees with specialized knowledge or managerial expertise, companies can address skills shortages in the US market and bring in personnel with a deep understanding of the company’s products, services, and culture.

 

Strategic International Growth

 

Multinational companies often operate in a competitive global environment. The ability to move key personnel to the United States quickly and efficiently can be a significant advantage in implementing strategic initiatives, entering new markets, or responding to competitive pressures.

 

Enhancing Global Collaboration

 

The transfer of employees between the UK and US offices under the L1 visa encourages greater collaboration and knowledge sharing across the company’s international operations. This can lead to innovation, improved best practices, and a more cohesive corporate culture.

 

Compliance and Legal Framework

 

The L1 visa provides a legal framework for the international movement of employees that is compliant with US immigration laws. For companies, adhering to this legal framework is crucial to avoid penalties and ensure the smooth operation of their US entities.

 

Long-term Benefits and Pathways to Residency

 

While the L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it is one of the few categories that allow for “dual intent.” This means that an L1 visa holder can apply for permanent residency (Green Card) without affecting their L1 status, offering a pathway for key employees to become long-term contributors to the company’s US operations.

 

L1A vs. L1B Visa comparison

 

There are two types of visa under the L-1 classification: the L1A and the L1B. The L1A visa is for employees working in an executive or managerial role, whilst the L1B visa is for those who have specialized knowledge of the company’s products, services and procedures that are key to its success. Each carries different eligibility criteria, requirements and restrictions.

 

L1A visa

 

The L-1A visa gives its holder the right to work in the USA for up to seven years, provided they continue to work for the same company or a qualifying related company in a position that continues to satisfy the visa criteria.

Read more about the L-1A Visa here >>

 

L1B visa

 

The L-1B visa is aimed at employees transferring to a related US-based company because they have specialized knowledge or skills that benefit the development of the branch or subsidiary they are moving to. The L-1B visa gives its holder the right to work in the USA for up to five years, provided they continue to work for the company or a related company and meet the visa criteria.

Read more about the L-1B Visa here >>

 

L1 Eligibility Requirements

 

 

Requirements for L1A Visa (Managerial or Executive Role)

 

The L1A visa is a nonimmigrant visa category designed for intracompany transferees who are moving to the United States to occupy managerial or executive positions within the same company or one of its qualifying organizations.

To qualify a beneficiary for L-1A classification, the company must show that the employee:

a. Will work in a managerial or executive role while in the US;

b. Holds the necessary qualifications or professional experience required to undertake the role in the US; and

c. Has worked for the organization for a minimum of 12 months continuously within the three years immediately preceding the petition being filed.

 

To qualify as an executive role, the employee must:

a. Direct the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;

b. Establish the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;

c. Exercise wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and

d. Receive only general supervision or direction from higher-level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

 

To qualify as a managerial role, the employee must:

a. Manage the organization or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;

b. Supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees or manages an essential function within the organization;

c. Have the authority to hire or recommend talent, as well as other personnel actions, or if no other employee is directly supervised, function at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy; and

d. Exercise discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.

 

For more information – please read our L1A Visa Guide.

 

Requirements or L1B Visa (Specialized Knowledge Employees)

 

The L-1B visa is aimed at employees transferring to a related US-based company because they have specialized knowledge or skills which are beneficial to the development of the branch or subsidiary they are moving to.

A position requiring specialized knowledge requires the employee to:

a. Have particular and special knowledge of their organization – whether that relates to the product, service, techniques, research, equipment or other interests and application within international markets, or

b. Have advanced knowledge of the organization’s procedures and processes.

c. Be a member of a profession, including but not limited to architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians and teachers

For more information – please read our L1B Visa Guide.

 

General L1 Visa Requirements

 

When applying for the L1 visa, either the L1A visa or the L1B visa, the following general eligibility requirements must also be met by both the applicant and employer:

An applicant may qualify as an L1 intracompany transferee if:

a. they have been employed abroad continuously for 1 of the three years preceding the application for admission to the United States

b. this year of continuous employment abroad was in either a managerial or executive capacity or in a position that involved specialized knowledge of the organization

c. they are seeking to temporarily enter the US to render their services to the same employer, which includes a branch, parent, affiliate or subsidiary of the foreign employer

d. the position in the United States will be in either a managerial or executive capacity or will involve specialized knowledge.

 

Company Requirements

 

In addition, the qualifying employer who intends to temporarily transfer the applicant to the US, also known as the petitioning employer, must be able to demonstrate that:

a. there is a qualifying relationship between the entity in the US and the foreign operation employing the applicant, where there must be sufficient common ownership and control

b. the petitioning employer will continue to do business both in the US and at least one other country, either directly or through a qualifying organization, for the duration of the applicant’s stay in the US, where they must be actively and continually providing goods and/or services, not simply having an agent or office in the US and abroad

c. the applicant has been employed by the office abroad for at least 1 of the last three years

d. their prior year of employment abroad was in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge role, and their employment in the US will be in the same or similar capacity

e. their proposed duties in the United States meet the criteria for either specialized knowledge or managerial or executive capacity.

 

The L1 Visa Application Process

 

 

Application Step-by-Step Guide

 

The L1 visa application process requires input and collaboration between the employer and the employee.

First, the petition is filed by the employer with USCIS. The applicant then submits their application form and attends a visa interview at the consular post or Embassy overseas where the petition was filed.

 

Step 1: Employer Petition

 

When applying for either the L1A or L1B visa, the employer starts the individual petition process by filing Form I-129, “Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker”.

On Form I-129, the petitioner will need to include detailed information about their organization and the employee (known as the ‘beneficiary’) for whom they are petitioning, including that individual’s previous employment abroad and their proposed employment in the US.

The completed petition is submitted to USCIS for adjudication for both standard and blanket visas.

The USCIS must approve the petition before the employee can begin their application.

If USCIS determine additional information or documentation is needed to make a decision, a request for additional information will be issued.

Requests will vary in length depending on the extent of information and documentation requested but will inevitably result in a delay in a case decision. As such, it becomes critical through professional advice to ensure the application satisfies evidentiary requirements in the first instance.

Upon receipt of the requested information and documentation, USCIS will resume processing the petition.

If a request for additional evidence is issued on a petition filed using the premium processing service, USCIS will have an additional 15 calendar days from receipt of the response to adjudicate the case.

 

Step 2: Apply for the visa with the DS-160 form

 

With an approved I-129, the applicant then files Form DS-160 and a recent photograph that meets the US passport criteria.

When the form has been completed, the applicant will be redirected to a confirmation page, which must be printed off and retained to take to the visa interview.

The applicant must then pay the application fee online and schedule their visa interview.

A visa interview appointment letter will then be sent via email.

 

Step 3: L1 visa interview

 

The visa interview aims to confirm whether the transfer is genuine and that the applicant will work as intended in the USA.

It will take place at the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where the applicant is applying. It will be conducted by an adjudicator who will, in most cases, make a decision on the application at the end of the interview.

Applicants must bring their documentary supporting evidence. They will be asked questions to determine their reasons and intentions for travelling to the US and to confirm that the L1 visa requirements have been met.

The L1 visa interview can usually take 15 minutes to half an hour. The interview duration depends on factors such as the complexity of the application and how well-prepared the applicant is to answer the questions and provide supporting evidence. In total, applicants would usually be at the Embassy for a total of 2 to 3 hours altogether.

Interview procedures vary widely among consular posts, so it is important to carefully follow any instructions provided for the post where the L1 interview will be held.

At the end of the interview, the interviewing officer should then inform the applicant whether their L1 visa application has been approved or denied or if further documentation is required.

If the interview and application are successful, the visa will go on to be processed, and the applicant’s passport will be taken for visa processing.

For more detailed information, see our detailed guide on L1 visa interviews.

 

Step 4: Post-Interview

 

The passport with embossed L1 visa stamp will be returned to the employee by courier within approximately one week of the interview. Once received, the employee is permitted to travel to the US to work in L1 status in line with the employment described in the L1 petition.

 

Blanket L Petitions

 

US companies seeking to employ multiple foreign nationals with L-1 status may file a blanket L 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 the L1 visa interview stage to verify their eligibility for either the L1A or L1B visa classification.

Blanket petitions are only valid for three years but can be renewed and extended indefinitely. If the employer allows the blanket petition to expire, they will need to wait three years before they can file another blanket petition but will be able to file individual petitions in the interim.

The grant of a blanket L1 petition does not guarantee that an employee will be approved for an L1 visa. Instead, it provides the US-based employer the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the US without filing an individual L1 petition with USCIS each time.

However, the blanket petition process is only available for larger multinational and commercial organizations.

 

Blanket L Eligibility 

 

Eligibility for blanket L1 approval may be established if the following requirements are met:

a. the petitioning employer and qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services

b. the petitioning employer has an office in the US which has been doing business for at least a year

c. the petitioning employer has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates

d. the petitioner, along with the other qualifying organizations, has obtained at least ten L1 approvals during the previous 12 months, have US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of $25 million or more, or a US workforce 1,000+ employees.

 

Applying under a Blanket L 

 

The employer is not required to file an individual petition at USCIS prior to the visa interview for Blanket L visa applicants. The employer need only complete Form I-129S, a nonimmigrant petition based on a blanket L petition. Upon approval of the Blanket L petition, a copy of the approval notice (Form I-797) should be sent to the prospective employee, along with other relevant evidence, so that the employee may present it to a US consular office as part of their interview.

For more information read our guide to Blanket L Visas and Blanket L Petitions here >>

 

USCIS L1 Visa Processing Times

 

Standard processing

Whether establishing a presence in the US or transferring multiple team members to lead on a key client account, the reason for transfer will usually be business or project-critical, making it important for employers to understand the timescales involved in petitioning for, and securing, the visa.

Generally, the average L1 visa application time can be between 2 to 4 months, depending on the consulate or Embassy where the application is filed and the quality and circumstances of the application.

There is usually no difference in the processing times between the L1A and L1B classifications.

Blanket L petitions take considerably less time to process than individual petitions, typically 1 to 3 weeks, where there are no issues with the petition.

However, processing times depend on factors such as the caseload of the consular post and the quality of the submission and supporting documents. L1 visa processing times vary by consular post, depending on caseload, and by application, with more complex or incomplete petitions taking longer.

Petitioning companies and their employees have to compile and submit extensive supporting documentation to establish eligibility under the L-1 route and to try and minimize L-1 visa processing times. Failure to provide a comprehensive submission can cause the adjudicator to delay the application and request further information from the applicant or to reject the petition outright.

Ensuring the application is complete and comprehensive will help avoid issues or processing delays. A critical area of focus should be supporting documents to evidence eligibility under the route.

 

L1 visa premium processing  

 

The L1 premium processing service is available for a fee where an expedited decision is needed. This official USCIS service reduces the processing time of the initial I-129 petition to just 15 days. The fee for this service is $2805, and the employer must file a Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, along with their Form I-129. The USCIS must process the application in 15 calendar days or the fee will be refunded.

 

L1 visa costs

 

Various fees are associated with L1 visa classification, including the petition and application fees.

 

Type of fee

Cost

Form I-129 USCIS L-1 visa filing fee $1385, or $695 for small employers, from April 1, 2024 ($460 for applications filed prior to April 1, 2024)
Fraud prevention and detection fee $500
DS-160 form MRV filing fee $205
Asylum Program Fee $600, or $300 for small employers, from April 1, 2024
Premium processing fee (optional) $2805

 

 

The base fee for filing Form I-129 is $1,385; a reduced fee of $695 applies to non-profit organizations and employers with fewer than 25 full-time employees.

The visa fee when submitting Form DS-160 is $205. The applicant must pay the application fee, together with any other applicable fees based on where they are from and the US Embassy they are applying to, such as reciprocity fees.

However, the employer will be responsible for any costs associated with the petition, including the base fee. The employer may also be liable to pay a fraud prevention and detection fee of $500, plus a public law fee of $4500 and a new Asylum Program Fee from April 1, 2024. The Asylum Program Fee costs $600, or $300 for smaller employers, while the fee is waived for non-profits.

If the proposed US employer is looking to expedite the petition turnaround time, which could otherwise take several months, there will be an additional fee of $2,805 to use the premium processing service.

If the correct fees are not paid, or if there is an error or delay in payment, the application will be delayed and possibly rejected.

The breakdown of fees to make an L1 visa application is as follows:

 

L-1 visa filing fee 

 

The first part of the L1 visa petitioning process will be for the organization to complete, sign and file form I-129 with USCIS. This applies whether the application is for an L-1A worker in a managerial or executive position or an L-1B specialized knowledge worker.

Filing form I-129 incurs a charge for the employer, which is to be paid at the same time as the form and supporting documentation are submitted. From April 1, 2024, the L1 visa filing fee is $1385 or £695 for non-profits and small employers. Small employers have 25 or fewer full-time employees in the USA. The fee applies to applications for an initial L-1 visa filed from outside the US, for change of status petitions filed in the US and to L-1 visa extensions.

There is no fee waiver for this form.

After the I-129 has been filed and the filing fee paid, USCIS will process the petition. The employer will then receive confirmation of receipt of the petition. If applicable, USCIS will then issue a notice for biometric services and/or a notice to attend an interview.

The decision will then follow once all stages of the application have been completed.

 

L-2 visa change of status or extension filing fee: $470 

 

Applications to change status from within the US to the L-2 visa category or to extend existing L-2 status will require form I-539 to be completed and filed, and the filing fee of $470 per application paid.

 

Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: $500 

 

This fee is payable by the employer filing for an initial L-1 visa for a foreign worker or by the employer where the worker already holds valid L-1 visa status but is filing to change employers.

The exception to this fee is where the petition is to change status from L-1A to L-1B or from L-1B to L-1A.

 

US L-1 visa cost for premium processing (optional): $2805 

 

Premium processing is available under the L-1 visa classification, both in the L-1A and L-1B categories, to expedite processing to within 15 calendar days.

The premium service costs $2,805, which can be paid either by the employer or the applicant.

It is important to note that premium processing does not guarantee the application will be approved; it relates only to faster decision-making.

 

Public Law 114-113 Fee: $4,500 

 

This fee will only apply if an employer is seeking an initial grant of L-1 status for a foreign worker and the organization employs more than 50 employees, and of those, over half are under L-1A, L-1B, or H-1B status.

The Public Law fee is not payable for L-1 extensions or for L visa transfers relating to workers changing status from L-1A to L-1B or from L-1B to L-1A status.

 

DS-160 application fee for overseas filing: $205 

 

When the worker files their petition for an L-1 visa at a US consulate or Embassy in their country of residence, they will be required to pay the MRV fee. The MRV Fee for petition-based applications, such as the L-1 visa, is $205.

The fee is valid for one visa application within twelve months of the date of payment. If the worker is unable to attend the interview, they may reschedule an appointment for any time within that 12-month period. The fee is not valid for use by a third party.

The MRV application fee is non-transferable, and there can be no refund of the fee if the application is refused.

Refunds are also not available when the applicant schedules an appointment, cancels and does not reschedule within 12 months.

The MRV fee is not payable if the worker is applying for a change of status to the L-1 category from within the US.

The fee is also waived for the following:

a. Diplomatic passport holders
b. Official passport holders applying for official visas
c. Employees of International Organizations (G Visas)
d. Foreign Military Personnel stationed in the US (NATO visas)
e. Exchange Visitors who are sponsored by the US government (J Visas)

 

Asylum Program Fee: $600 

 

For L1 applications filed on or after April 1, 2024, the US employer pays a one-off Asylum Program Fee of $600 for each Form I-129 and I-140 they file. A reduced Asylum Program fee is charged to small employers of $300. Small employers are those that have 25 or fewer full-time employees in the USA.

 

Issuance fees 

 

Nationals of certain countries must pay an issuance fee for an approved visa to be issued. Fees are based on reciprocity and reflect the charges levied by the applicant’s government to a US citizen for a similar service. For the L category, the only issuance fees charged to a British Citizen passport holder is for the L-2 visa, i.e. L-1 visa dependents.

 

When do you pay the L1 visa fees?

 

Where applicable, the Fraud prevention fee and the Public Law 114-113 Fee must be paid when submitting form I-129 or the application will be rejected.

Each fee should be submitted in a separate check or money order drawn from a bank or other financial institution. Checks and money orders must be made out to ‘US Department of Homeland Security’, using no abbreviations. Do not send cash.

The fees must be paid in US dollars.

 

L1 Visa Required documentation

 

In general, the following should be provided to demonstrate eligibility for the L1 visa:

a. evidence that the petitioner and the organization which employed the applicant, or will employ them, are qualifying organizations;

b. evidence that the employee will be employed in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity;

c. evidence that the employee will have one continuous year of full-time employment abroad with a qualifying organization within three years preceding the filing of the petition;

d. evidence that the employee’s prior year of employment abroad was in a position that was managerial, executive, or involved specialized knowledge; and

e. evidence that the employee’s prior education, training and employment qualifies them to perform the intended services in the United States.

 

The following L1 visa document checklist summarises the main paperwork that must be submitted in support of the petition for a US intracompany transfer visa. These checklists are not exhaustive, and legal advice should always be sought based on specific needs.

 

L1 Visa Foreign Company Documents:

a. Articles of incorporation

b. Business license

c. Stock certificates

d. Audited accounts

e. Financial statements of business

f. Income tax filings for the past three years

g. Documents of business transactions (contracts, bills of lading, letters of credit)

h. Promotional materials of business such as company brochure or product overview

i. Organizational chart, including total number of employees and position held by the transferee

j. Detailed statement from authorized representative explaining ownership and control of company

k. Company letterhead with company logo, name, and address

 

L1 Visa US Company Documents:

a. Articles of incorporation

b. Stock certificates

c. Audited accounts

d. Financial statements of business

e. Promotional materials of business

f. Business license

g. Corporate by-laws

h. Description of company business and detailed business plan

i. Organizational chart, including total number of employees and position held by the employee

j. Detailed statement from authorized representative explaining ownership and control of company

k. Lease of business location

l. Bank statement or proof of initial investment

m. Corporate income tax return (if any)

n. Employer’s Quarterly Report Form 941 (if any)

o. Company letterhead

 

L1 visa employee petition supporting documents:

The applicant will be required to show documents including:

a. The visa interview appointment letter

b. The DS-160 visa application confirmation page

c. Copy of Form DS-160 and L supplement

d. The DS-160 visa application fee receipt

e. A valid passport with at least six months left prior to its expiry

f. Any of their expired passports

g. Their most recent resume or CV

h. Two recent colour photographs meeting the US photograph criteria

i. A copy of the I-129 petition submitted to USCIS

j. The I-797 approval notice from USCIS

k. A letter from the employer to the consulate requesting an L1 visa

l. Education certificates, such as University degree certificates

m. Payment statements

n. Income tax records

o. Job description

p. Organizational charts that show their place in the organization

q. Letter of reference from supervisors, colleagues, and others

r. The contact details of at least two co-workers in both current and previous jobs

s. Employment verification letter from the foreign company

t. Board resolution or appointment documents verifying the transfer

u. Any other documents showing the employee’s capability to conduct business in the executive position

v. If applying on the basis of specialized knowledge, provide any patent and trademark registrations they have made for their organization

 

Additional evidence when opening a new US branch

If an employee will be coming to the US as an executive or manager to open or be employed in a new office in the United States, the company must submit evidence that:

a. sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured;

b. the employee has been employed for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition in an executive or managerial capacity and that the proposed employment involves executive or managerial authority over the new operation; and

c. the intended US operation, within one year of the petition’s approval, will support an executive or managerial position.

 

L1 Visa Renewals and Extensions

 

Process for renewing and extending L1 visa

 

The L1 visa is temporary. It will initially be granted for a maximum of 3 years, although transferees entering the US to establish a new office will be granted a maximum initial stay of one year.

To remain in the US beyond this period would require an extension application petition to be made.

However, L1 visa renewals are only available if the visa holder continues to meet the visa requirements. Also, maximum periods of stay under the L route apply. L1A holders may 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.

L1B holders may be allowed to spend a maximum of five years in the US in L-1 status before they have to return abroad for at least one year before being granted L-1 status again.

For L1B visa-holders whose maximum permissible stay is limited to five years, it may be possible to transfer from an L1B to an L1A visa. However, the application would need to be approved six months prior to the expiry of the existing visa. The applicant would also need to satisfy the eligibility criteria for an L1A visa by working in an executive or managerial capacity.

 

 

Conditions and Requirements for Extensions

 

To reapply for an L1 visa, the applicant would need to satisfy the same criteria as per the initial L1 application, including that they have been employed by the parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the US company for one year out of the three years immediately preceding their admission to the United States.

The success of an extension application will depend on factors such as the nature of the continued role within the company and whether the overseas and affiliated US offices have continued to have a qualifying relationship for the duration of the stay.

Where the employee has been responsible for setting up a new office in the United States, an application for an extension of stay will depend upon the overall viability of the US operations.

See our detailed guide about renewing the L1 visa here.

 

L1 Visa Benefits and Limitations

 

Advantages of the L1 Visa

 

Holding an L1 visa presents numerous benefits for both individual visa holders and those employing multinational companies. This specialized visa category is designed to facilitate the intra-company transfer of key employees from an overseas office to the United States.

Key advantages associated with holding an L1 visa include:

 

Pathway to Permanent Residency

One of the L1 visa’s most significant advantages is its potential pathway to permanent residency in the United States. Unlike many other nonimmigrant visa categories, the L1 visa allows for dual intent. This means that while the visa holder is allowed to enter and work in the US temporarily, they can also apply for a green card.

 

No Annual Cap

Unlike other work visa categories, notably the H1-B, there is no annual limit on the number of L1 visas that can be issued. This lack of a cap ensures that companies can transfer essential personnel without the constraint of quota limitations, providing flexibility in staffing and operations.

 

Family Inclusion

L1 visa holders can bring their dependents, including spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age, to the United States under the L2 visa category. Spouses of L1 visa holders may also apply for work authorization in the US, further enhancing the attractiveness of this visa category for families.

 

Flexibility for Companies

The L1 visa offers considerable flexibility for multinational companies, allowing them to transfer employees who hold managerial positions or possess specialized knowledge critical to the company’s operations. This flexibility supports strategic staffing and global talent management.

 

Opportunity for Startups

The L1 visa category is also beneficial for foreign entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses into the US market. It allows business owners to transfer to the United States to establish a new office, provided they meet specific requirements, including having physical premises and the company being operational within one year.

 

Extended Stay Duration

The L1A visa allows for an initial stay of up to three years, which can be extended in two-year increments up to a maximum of seven years. The L1B visa, for those with specialized knowledge, permits an initial stay of up to three years, with the possibility of extension up to a maximum of five years. This extended duration is beneficial for long-term projects and assignments.

 

No Specific Wage Requirements

Unlike certain visa categories with specific wage requirements, the L1 visa does not impose such conditions. Companies must only continue to comply with the applicable laws regarding fair wages for their employees.

 

Limitations and Restrictions

As well as the advantages, there are certain limitations and restrictions to consider about the L1 visa:

 

Initial validity period

The L1 visa is a nonimmigrant, temporary visa. In other words, it allows intracompany transferees for a limited period of time.

Staying in the US beyond the visa expiry can result in serious consequences, such as being barred for a number of years from returning to the US. This makes it critical to secure new, lawful status before the initial validity period expires.

 

L1A and L1B visa maximum periods of stay

The L1A visa period of initial grant of leave for those working within a managerial or executive role for the US-based employer will typically be for a period of 3 years. However, provided the visa-holder continues to meet the eligibility requirements for L1A classification, they can apply to extend their stay up to 7 years in total. A request for an extension of stay may be granted in increments of 2 years.

The L1B visa period of initial grant of leave is also typically for a period of 3 years. If the visa-holder continues to meet the eligibility requirements for L1B classification, they can apply to extend their stay for a further two years and up to a maximum of 5 years in total under L1B status.

Having reached the maximum period of stay, the employee will be required to leave the US and work overseas for one year before being potentially eligible to make a new application for L1 status.

Any brief trips to the US for business or pleasure will not interrupt the required one-year period outside of the States, but they do not count towards fulfilment of that requirement.

Importantly, for those seeking to set up a new office in the US, an L1 visa will only be granted for one year. The employer will be required to show that they have secured adequate physical premises to house the new office and that within a year of approval of their petition, the intended US office will support a managerial or executive position.

 

L1 to Green Card Transition

 

Overview of the Green Card Process

 

The L1 visa is what is known as a “dual intent visa. In immigration terms, an individual with L1 visa status is permitted to apply to change from nonimmigrant to immigrant status to settle in the US permanently.

As such, the L1 visa provides a path to a US Green Card for L1 visa holders, provided they satisfy the eligibility criteria.

The applicant does not need to prove that they do not intend moving to the US as a prerequisite to being granted entry clearance with an L1 dual intent visa, for example, by maintaining a residence in their home country. Instead, this visa permits lawful entry to the US on a time-limited nonimmigrant basis, albeit with immigrant intent, enabling that person to petition for a change of status by way of an EB1C visa while still present.

L1 visa holders can become eligible to apply for a Green Card once they attain years of US residence.

However, strict criteria must be met, and it is always best to seek expert advice before embarking on the lengthy and costly process of applying for a green card.

 

 

Differences between L1A to Green Card and L1B to Green Card

 

Green Card application processing varies between L-1As and L-1Bs. The L-1A for managers and executives qualifies under the EB-1C’ first preference’ green card route, with current priority dates across the board. L-1Bs, however, will come under second or third-preference levels – typically involving longer wait times.

Under an L1A visa, employees can apply for permanent residency using the EB1C route. The criteria under this category are similar to those for L1A status, whereby many overseas executives and managers come to the US under a nonimmigrant visa and then apply later to change their status.

However, given that the employee will need to have been employed in an executive or managerial capacity at a company outside the US for at least a year during the three years preceding the petition, the EB1C application will need to be made within two years of being in the United States.

To gain permanent residency with L1B status, the specialized knowledge employee would instead use the EB2 category (advanced degree) or the EB3 category (skilled or professional worker).

The adjustment of status process for L1B visa holders is less straightforward than for those with L1A status, requiring the US employer to obtain an approved labor certification before submitting the immigration petition. Known as the PERM Labor Certification requirement, this is to satisfy the US Department of Labor that there are insufficient available, qualified and willing US workers to fill the position being offered at the prevailing wage and that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers.

Read our comprehensive guide here for a detailed look at the L1 visa to Green Card process.

 

Advantages of L1 Visa in Green Card application

 

The L1 visa presents a strategic advantage for foreign nationals seeking long-term employment opportunities in the US. Its direct pathway to permanent residency, coupled with the benefits for families and the waiver of labor certification, make it an attractive option for executives, managers, and specialized knowledge workers aiming to establish their careers and lives in the United States.

The advantages of the L1 when applying for a US Green Card include:

 

Direct Path to Permanent Residency 

 

One of the most significant benefits of the L1 visa, particularly for L1A visa holders (managers and executives), is its direct path to permanent residency without the need for labor certification. This is achieved through the EB-1C Green Card category, designed specifically for multinational managers and executives. This category acknowledges the contribution of these individuals to their companies and the US economy, facilitating a smoother transition from temporary to permanent status.

 

Dual Intent 

 

Unlike many nonimmigrant visas, the L1 visa allows for dual intent. L1 visa holders can apply for a Green Card without jeopardizing their L1 status. The ability to pursue permanent residency openly without affecting nonimmigrant visa status is a significant advantage, providing peace of mind and stability for L1 visa holders and their families during the application process.

 

No Labor Certification Required 

 

For L1A visa holders aiming for the EB-1C Green Card, one of the notable advantages is the exemption from the labor certification process. This step, required for most employment-based Green Card categories, involves proving that there are no qualified US workers available for the job. By bypassing this labor-intensive and time-consuming process, L1A visa holders can expedite their Green Card application.

 

Family Benefits 

 

L1 visa holders’ dependents under the L2 visa, can also benefit from the primary applicant’s transition to permanent residency. This inclusivity ensures that families can stay together and enjoy the rights and privileges of permanent residency, including work authorization and access to education.

 

Retention of Employees 

 

For employers, the L1 visa’s pathway to a Green Card is an effective tool for retaining key employees. Companies can maintain a stable, motivated, and dedicated workforce by supporting their employees’ transition to permanent residency.

 

L2 Visa for Dependents

 

Eligibility for spouses and children

 

Spouses and children may apply for L2 visas, allowing them to reside with the employee in the United States. Civil partnerships and ‘common law marriages’ do not fall within the definition of dependents, and, as such, partners would not be eligible to apply for an L1 dependent visa.

Dependent visa applications may be made at the time of the interview or by scheduling a separate interview at a US consular post following approval of the L1 visa application.

See our detailed guide to the L2 visa for spouses and dependent children.

 

 

Work and study rights in the US

 

L2 spouses automatically attain US employment authorization based upon their valid L nonimmigrant status. This means that L-2 spouses are authorized to work as a matter of status upon entry to the USA.

L2 spouses are issued Form I-94 with an ‘L-2S code’, which can be used as evidence of their employment authorization under List C of the I-9 employment verification process. As such, L2 visa holders do not need to apply for a separate employment authorization document (EAD).

However, L-2 dependent children are not entitled to US employment authorization. They can, however, study while in the USA.

 

Tips for a Successful L1 Visa Application

 

Expert advice on application preparation

 

An approved petition does not, in itself, guarantee that the visa will be granted. Eligibility will still need to be determined based on the information in the application and the supporting documentation.

If that information is deemed incomplete, the application may be significantly delayed, if not ultimately denied. At the very least, where information is lacking, there will be a request for further information before a final decision is made on the visa application.

Furthermore, even where an application and supporting documentation are satisfactory and complete, the employee still has to pass the interview based on that information.

Detailed questions will be asked relating to the company and the capacity in which the applicant has been, and will be, employed by the overseas and US companies, respectively.

For L1 visa applicants, the questioning by a consular officer during the interview can be challenging, requiring a persuasive explanation to prove the role is vital to the overall functioning and competitiveness of the business.

Employees can significantly improve their chances of being successfully granted an L1 visa by ensuring that their paperwork is correct and answering any questions as openly and as fully as possible.

 

How to avoid common pitfalls

 

Errors or omissions in the application can result in delays or, worse, a refused application. Even where an application is being processed through the premium service, applicants should ensure the petition is correct and comprehensive for the full benefit to be realized. The following can help to avoid delays or issues with processing.

 

Check Eligibility 

 

Before applying, it will be important to ensure the eligibility criteria are met under the relevant L1 visa category.

To qualify for the L1A visa, the employee must supervise a team of employees in a main business function. An executive may qualify if they are shown to make major decisions in the company without input on a significant scale from superiors.

To qualify for an L1B visa, the employee must be shown to be indispensable to the company as they have specialist knowledge vital to the success of the company’s product or systems.

As such, 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 before the application being filed.

The eligibility of the applicant employee is solely based on an assessment of the application and evidence by the USCIS officers looking at the application.

Critical to any assessment of eligibility will be evidencing why the employee should be employed in the US and not a US-resident worker. The employer must meet a high bar in proving the specialist and relevant nature of the applicant’s professional experience, knowledge or skillset.

 

Collate and File The Correct Supporting Documents 

 

In the absence of a definitive or exhaustive list of L1 visa documents, employers should proceed with care when compiling the supporting documentation, which will need to cover foreign company documents, US company documents and employee documents.

Particular scrutiny is currently being directed towards the role of the individual, and the adjudicator will need substantial evidence as to why they should be permitted to work in the US in favor of a resident worker. This will require a detailed explanation of the employee’s duties, an employment verification letter from the foreign company and documents showing either the transferee’s capability to conduct business in the executive position or, if applying on the basis of specialized knowledge, provide patent and trademark registrations by the applicant for the organization.

 

Pay The Correct Application Fees 

 

Another common error with US visa applications that causes delays is where the incorrect fee is paid.

The L1 visa fees are generally paid by the employer directly to the USCIS. These payments can be by money order or cheque and must be submitted with the visa form.

 

Dealing with RFEs & delayed L1 visa processing 

 

When the USCIS assess the application, it will either be approved or rejected or, in many cases, they may send an RFE – a Request for Evidence.

Adjudicators have substantial discretion regarding the applications they are processing. If the adjudicator cannot decide based on the information and supporting evidence provided, they may pause processing and request further information on the application, resulting in an inevitable delay in the application processing time.

Once the applicant has provided the additional documentation, the 15-day limit will start again.

Common reasons RFEs are issued by the USCIS include:

a. Insufficient evidence of the employee’s specialized knowledge and or/ an inadequate link to the company operations.

b. The duties described in the job description do not align with similar managerial or executive positions in comparable US companies.

c. The employer did not send an L1 business plan that sufficiently details the company structure and the expected growth for the future.

d. There is a discrepancy between the finances of the business and, the ability to support a new office and the salary of the L1 employee.

 

This makes it important to ensure the application is accurate, complete and thorough.

Taking advice from an immigration specialist can help ensure you are representing the case most effectively.

 

Summary

 

The L1 visa offers a pathway for multinational companies based in the UK to transfer key employees to the United States, highlighting its significance in global talent mobility and business expansion.

Below is a summary of the critical aspects of the L1 visa program and the benefits it entails:

a. Eligibility and Categories: The L1 visa is split into L1A for managers and executives and L1B for employees with specialized knowledge, each with distinct eligibility criteria tailored to their roles within a multinational company.

b. Advantages: Among the notable benefits are the possibility of a pathway to permanent residency, the inclusion of family members through the L2 visa, and the absence of an annual cap, making it a highly advantageous visa category for eligible individuals and their employers.

c. Work and Study Rights for L2 Visa Holders: Spouses and children on L2 visas can pursue employment and education in the US, facilitating a smoother transition and integration for families relocating under the L1 visa program.

 

The intricacies of the L1 visa, coupled with ongoing changes in immigration laws, underscore the necessity of seeking specialized advice tailored to your unique circumstances. Engaging with an immigration attorney can provide clarity, strategic guidance, and support throughout the application process, ensuring compliance and optimizing the chances of success.

 

Need assistance?

 

Intra-company transfers typically relate to employees who are high profile and bring business- and project critical skills and knowledge. Getting the application right first time will be vital to avoid delays or a refused petition, and wasted outlay in US L1 visa costs. Employers should also factor in the resource and effort required to compile the submission to the required standard.

NNU Immigration are specialist US immigration attorneys. 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 application process or eligibility requirements, contact us.

 

L1 Visa FAQs

 

What is the L1 Visa?

 

The L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows multinational companies to transfer executives, managers (L1A), and employees with specialized knowledge (L1B) from their operations outside the US to their US subsidiaries or affiliates.

 

Who is eligible for the L1A and L1B visas?

 

L1A visa eligibility is reserved for executives and managers with supervisory authority or control over the organization’s operations. L1B visa eligibility is for employees who possess specialized knowledge essential to the company’s interests.

 

Can L1 visa holders apply for a Green Card?

 

Yes, L1 visa holders can pursue permanent residency through the Green Card process. The L1A visa, in particular, provides a relatively straightforward path to the EB-1C Green Card category for multinational managers and executives.

 

What are the main advantages of holding an L1 visa?

 

Key advantages include the potential pathway to permanent residency, no annual cap on issuances, and including spouses and children under the L2 visa category, with spouses eligible to apply for work authorization.

 

Can L1 visa holders bring their family to the US?

Yes, L1 visa holders can bring their immediate family members (spouses and children under 21) to the US under the L2 visa. L2 visa holders may attend school and, in the case of spouses, may apply for employment authorization.

 

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the L1 visa?

 

Unlike other work visa categories, there is no specific minimum salary requirement for the L1 visa. However, employers must comply with applicable laws to pay a fair wage for the position.

 

How long can you stay in the US on an L1 visa?

 

L1A visa holders can stay for an initial period of up to 3 years, extendable in 2-year increments up to a total of 7 years. L1B visa holders can stay for up to 5 years.

 

Can L1 visa holders study in the US?

 

Yes, L1 visa holders and their dependents can engage in part-time or full-time study in the US without the need to change their visa status to a student visa.

 

How does the application process work for an L1 visa?

 

The process involves the U.S.-based employer filing a petition with USCIS on behalf of the employee. Upon approval, the employee applies for the visa at a US consulate or Embassy.
For more detailed guidance on the L1 visa process and eligibility, consulting with an immigration attorney is highly recommended to navigate the complexities and ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

 

What are the requirements for the L-1 Visa?

 

L1 visa requirements are determined by which classification you will be applying for; either the L1A visa for executive or managerial level roles, or the L1B visa is for roles in a specialized knowledge capacity. In both cases, you will need to have worked for the foreign national company for at least 12 months continuously within the three years immediately preceding the petition being filed before you can transfer to a US branch or subsidiary.

 

Is Getting an L-1 Visa Easy?

 

The L1 visa application process is complex, but professional guidance can optimize your chances of securing an approved application.

 

Which Is Better L-1 Or H1B?

 

The chances of attaining an L1 visa are higher since the H1B visa is highly oversubscribed and competitive, but the applicant must meet the visa criteria, such as being employed by an overseas company with US operations.

 

Does L-1 Visa Require Sponsorship?

 

L1 visa holders, as intracompany transferees within multinational companies, are limited to being employed in the US by their petitioning employer.

 

Additional Resources

 

For comprehensive insights, application guidance, and up-to-date information regarding the L1 visa for UK-based applicants, the following resources offer authoritative and detailed support:

 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

As the primary source of information on all US visa categories, USCIS offers detailed guides, application forms, and the latest updates on immigration policies, including those affecting L1 visa holders. Visit USCIS L1 Visa Page.

US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs

For specifics on visa applications, interviews, and consulate procedures, the Bureau of Consular Affairs provides valuable insights, especially regarding L1 visa processing at US Embassies and Consulates. Explore US Visas Information.

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

AILA is a national association of immigration lawyers and professionals that offers resources, legal analysis, and updates on US immigration law, including L1 visa regulations. Visit AILA’s Official Website.

British American Business (BAB)

As the leading transatlantic trade association, BAB provides resources and networking opportunities for businesses involved in UK-U.S. trade, including those utilizing L1 visas for employee transfers. British American Business Site.

 

L1 Visa Glossary 

 

L1 Visa: A non-immigrant visa category allowing multinational companies to transfer executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge from their foreign operations to the United States.

Blanket L Petition: A streamlined L1 visa process for large multinational companies, allowing them to transfer multiple employees to the U.S. without filing individual petitions for each employee.

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

Dual Intent: Immigration law concept that allows certain visa holders to enter the U.S. temporarily while also seeking permanent residency (a Green Card).

EAD (Employment Authorization Document): A document issued by USCIS that grants the visa holder the right to work in the U.S. This is applicable to L2 visa spouses.

EB-1C Green Card: A category of employment-based green card for multinational executives and managers who meet certain criteria, including having worked outside the U.S. for the company for at least one year in the three years before applying.

L2 Visa: A derivative visa for the dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21) of L1 visa holders, allowing them to accompany or follow to join the L1 visa holder in the U.S.

Specialized Knowledge: Unique knowledge possessed by an L1B visa holder, essential to the company’s products, services, processes, or procedures.

I-129 Petition: A form submitted to USCIS by the employer on behalf of the employee seeking an L1 visa, requesting the employee’s classification as an intra-company transferee.

Premium Processing: A service offered by USCIS that expedites the processing of certain employment-based visa applications, including the L1 visa, for a fee.

Consulate Interview: An interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy required for visa applicants, including those applying under a Blanket L Petition, as part of the visa application process.

DS-160 Form: An online non-immigrant visa application form required for those applying for a U.S. visa, including L1 visa applicants under a Blanket L Petition.

Visa Reciprocity: An agreement between two countries on the types of visas issued to each other’s citizens, including their validity period and entry permissions.

 

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Author

Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.