The L1 visa allows multinational companies to transfer key personnel to the US to work in an existing subsidiary, affiliate, parent or branch, or to establish new US-based operations for the company.
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.
In both the case of the L1 visa and L1 Blanket visa, following receipt of the petition by USCIS, the employee will be invited to attend a visa interview at a US consular post outside the US.
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.
NNU Immigration are specialists across all classes of US visa, including the L1 visa.
With exceptional knowledge and insight into US visa application protocol, we advise on the use of the L1 route within organizations’ global talent mobility programs, from individual employee visa applications through to Blanket L petitions for companies to transfer multiple workers.
We also advise on the costs and processing times involved in making an L visa application.
Extensive supporting evidence is required as part of the L1 visa application. We provide specialist guidance on supporting documentation requirements to ensure your petition is comprehensive and compliant.
Contact our US immigration experts
For advice on any aspect of a US visa application, contact our US immigration attorneys.
There are more detailed requirements under the L-1A and L-1B classifications, specifying eligibility criteria and evidentiary requirements to be met in order to qualify for the L-1 visa.
An employee may be eligible for an L-1 visa if they meet the following requirements:
Each of the roles must meet specific conditions of assignment for within the organization:
The L1 nonimmigrant visa classification enables a US-based employer that is part of an international organization to temporarily transfer key professional employees to the branch, parent, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company within the United States.
L1 classification can be divided into two categories: L1A and L1B, where L1A classification applies to intracompany transfers of employees currently working in either a managerial and executive capacity and who will be working within the same or similar role in the US.
In this context, “managerial” or “executive capacity” requires a certain level of authority where the employee is responsible for the running the business and/or managing other employees.
Managerial or executive roles can consist of a mix of job duties, but employees in these roles will plan, organise, direct and control an organization’s major functions, and work via other employees to achieve the organization’s goals.
In contrast, first-line supervisors, such as those who schedule and supervise the daily work of nonprofessional employees, are not employed within an executive or managerial capacity for the purposes of L1A classification, even though they may be referred to as managers by their employers.
L1A classification will also enable a multinational company to send an overseas manager or executive to travel to the States with the purpose of establishing an affiliated US office.
While the L1A classification applies to intracompany transfers of managers and executives, the L1B classification applies to employees with specialized knowledge of the company transferring from one of its related foreign offices to a location within the United States.
In this context, “specialized knowledge” typically refers to special knowledge of the organization’s products or services, as well as its research, equipment, techniques, management and other interests, and the application of this knowledge in international markets. However, for the purpose of L1B status, “specialized knowledge” can also refer to advanced level of knowledge or expertise of an organization’s processes and procedures.
In either case, this knowledge must not be commonly held throughout the industry, but rather gained through years of experience with the employer. In broad terms, the employee must possess essential specialized knowledge that is key to the success of the organization they work for, making them essential to its overall functioning and competitiveness.
Importantly, as with L1A classification, L1B classification will also enable a multinational company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send a specialized knowledge employee to travel to the USA with the specific purpose of establishing one there.
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:
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:
When applying for either the L1A or L1B visa, the employer starts the overall process by filing Form I-129, a petition for a nonimmigrant worker. It is only once that petition has been filed on the applicant’s behalf and subsequently approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the employee can then apply for a visa by submitting online Form DS-160 and scheduling an interview with their local US Embassy or Consulate.
For the L1 petition to be successful, unless the company that the applicant works for is especially large and has already established the required intracompany relationship through a “blanket L petition”, a considerable amount of documentation will need to be submitted in support to show that the employer meets the relevant requirements. This should include, for example, evidence of the qualifying relationship between the US and foreign employer, based on sufficient common ownership and control.
The petitioner will also need to include on Form I-129 detailed information about their organization, as well as about the beneficiary for whom they are petitioning, including that individual’s previous employment abroad and their proposed employment in the US.
Equally, provided the L1 petition is approved, the applicant will be required to submit various documents at interview and answers detailed questions relating to, amongst other things, their position and duties within the company and any specialized knowledge.
At the conclusion of their interview, the interviewing officer should then inform them whether the L1 visa application has been approved, denied or if further documentation is required.
The petition is to be used to submit evidence in support of your application for an L1 visa.
The following should be provided to demonstrate your eligibility for the L1 program:
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:
If the employee will be coming to the US in a specialized knowledge capacity to open or to be employed in a new office, the petitioner must submit evidence that:
Spouses and children may apply for L2 visas which will allow them to reside with the employee in the United States.
Note that 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.
Whether following approval of a blanket or regular L1 petition, employees seeking L1 status must attend an interview at which time their eligibility for the visa category will be determined.
The employee will have to appear for a visa interview at a US consular post abroad. Interview procedures vary widely among consular posts so it is important to carefully follow instructions provided for the post where the L1 interview will be held.
At the L1 visa interview, a consular officer will ask the employee questions to confirm the information provided in the L1 petition about the applicant and his or her intended US employment. The employee will be notified of the decision made on the application at the end of the interview. Provided the application is approved the consular officer will retain the employee’s passport for visa stamping.
The passport with embossed L1 visa stamp will be returned to the employee 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.
You submit the completed petition to USCIS for adjudication, for both standard or blanket visas. 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 your application satisfies evidentiary requirements in the first instance.
Upon receipt of the requested information and documentation, USCIS will resume processing of the petition.
Processing times may vary depending on USCIS workload.
For an additional fee, you may request expedited ‘premium processing’ of a petition for adjudication by USCIS within 15 calendar days.
Note that 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.
There are various fees associated with L1 visa classification, including the petition and application fees. The base fee for filing Form I-129 is $460. The visa fee when submitting Form DS-160 is $190. 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 $460 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.
If the proposed US employer is looking to expedite the petition turnaround time, which could otherwise take several months, there will be an additional premium processing fee.
The L1A visa route is a temporary nonimmigrant work route, where the initial grant of leave for those working within a managerial or executive role for the US-based employer will typically be for a period 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. A request for an extension of stay may be granted in increments of 2 years.
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 re-apply for an L1A visa. Any brief trips to the US for business or pleasure will not interrupt the required 1 year period outside of the States, but do not count towards fulfilment of that requirement.
Importantly, for those seeking to set up a new office in the US, an L1A 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.
As with L1A classification, the L1B visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa, where specialized knowledge employees will typically be granted leave for an initial period of 3 years to transfer to an existing affiliated office. However, requests for extensions of stay may be granted in increments of 2 years, but only up to a maximum of 5 years.
While it may be possible to transfer to an L1A visa, the visa-holder must have been working in the managerial or executive role for at least 6 months to be eligible for a total stay of 7 years.
Having exhausted the maximum permissible stay under an L1B visa, the employee must work outside the US for a minimum of one year before they can reapply for L1B status.
For L1B employees looking to establish a new US office, as with L1A classification, an L1B visa will only be granted for a period of one year. The employer will, again, be required to show that adequate physical premises to house the new office have been secured and that, within a year of approval of their petition, the intended US office will support a specialised knowledge position.
They will also be required to show that they have the financial ability to remunerate the visa-holder and to commence doing business in the United States.
Permission under the L1 visa is temporary, for a maximum of 12 months. Extensions can be granted for up to a total of 7 years in 2-year increments.
If an employee is performing an executive or managerial role in the United States, they will be allowed to spend seven years in the US in L1 status before they have to return abroad for at least one year before being granted L-1 status again.
If an employee is performing a specialized knowledge role in the United States, they will be allowed to spend five years in the US in L1 status before they have to return abroad for at least one year before being granted L1 status again.
Certain multinational organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance by submitting a blanket L petition, where eligibility for blanket L1 approval may be established if the following requirements are met:
The grant of a blanket L1 petition does not guarantee that an employee will be approved for an L1 visa, although it does provide the US-based employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the US without filing an individual L1 petition with USCIS each time.
In most cases, once a blanket petition has been granted, the employer need only complete Form I-129S, a nonimmigrant petition based on blanket L petition, and send this to the prospective employee with a copy of the approval notice and other relevant evidence, so that the employee may present it to a US consular office. However, the blanket petition process is designed only for larger multinational and commercial organizations.
To be eligible for a blanket L petition, a company must meet the following requirements:
In order for your company to obtain a Blanket L1 approval, it will be necessary for the filing company to provide the following documentation to demonstrate eligibility:
The completed Blanket L-1 petition must then be submitted to USCIS for adjudication.
Upon approval of the Blanket L petition, qualified employees can then go straight to a consular post to apply for an L-1A or L-1B visa to work for the US office. An employer is not required to file an individual petition at USCIS prior to the visa interview for Blanket L visa applicants.
If an employee currently holds an L1A visa but is looking to settle in the US on a more permanent basis, they will need to apply to change from nonimmigrant to immigrant status. Although a nonimmigrant visa is, by its very nature, temporary, the L1A visa is what is known as a “dual intent visa”, in this way providing a path to permanent residence.
An 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.
However, there are strict criteria that must be met, where it is always best to seek expert advice prior to embarking on the lengthy and costly process of applying for a green card.
The L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for established senior or specialised knowledge employees already working for a related employer abroad, but destined to work in the same or a similar role, while the H1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa to recruit new foreign skilled employees who will be working within a specialty occupation.
The H1B visa is a fairly common type of visa for which many overseas nationals will be eligible, provided they have the offer of a qualifying job from a US-based employer and are suitably qualified or experienced. However, to obtain an H1B visa, an applicant will first need to be offered an H1B job role by a US-based employer with suitable vacancies willing to sponsor foreign workers and who can petition for an H1B visa on their behalf.
The H1B visa is hard to come by, with a complex and protracted application process, not to mention an annual cap on the number of visas granted. As such, once the number of visa petitions exceeds the total number of visas that can be approved in any fiscal year, these are entered into a random computerised lottery to select the petitions to be adjudicated.
The process of obtaining L1 visa classification is far easier than the drawn out procedure for H1B visas. By filing a blanket petition, certain employers can also establish in advance the required intracompany relationship necessary for USCIS approval.