L1B Visa Requirements
When applying for a US visa, there are stringent rules and regulations that must be met to ensure a successful outcome. The following essential guide looks specifically at the requirements for the LB1 visa, from what this is and what this allows to how long this visa will last.
What is the L1B visa?
The L1B visa — also known as the Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge visa — is to enable US employers to transfer professional employees with specialized knowledge of the organisation’s interests from an affiliated foreign office to an office in the United States. This classification also enables foreign companies that do not yet have an affiliated US office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help establish one.
The Intracompany Transferee route is a temporary work route, although the L1B visa-holder may live in the US under this classification for several years. The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed to the United States under a derivative, dependent visa by their spouse and unmarried children who are under the age of 21.
L1B visa requirements
There are general requirements for both the employer and employee to be eligible for an L1B visa. To qualify for L1B classification, the employer must:
- have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, meaning either a parent company, branch, subsidiary or affiliate, collectively referred to as ‘qualifying organisations’, and
- currently be doing business, or will be doing business, as an employer in the US and in at least one other country, either directly or via a qualifying organisation, for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay as an L1B visa-holder. The business must be viable in order to qualify, although there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.
In circumstances where a foreign employer is looking to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the United States to set up a new office, the employer must show that it has secured sufficient physical premises to house the office, and has the financial ability to remunerate the employee and begin doing business in the US.
In respect of the named employee, to qualify for L1B classification, the individual must:
- generally have been working for a qualifying organisation abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding their admission to the United States, and
- be seeking to enter the US to provide services within a specialized knowledge capacity for either a branch of the same employer or one of the employers’ qualifying organisations ‘Specialized knowledge’ means special knowledge held by an individual of the petitioning organisation’s product(s), service(s), research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests and its’ application in international markets or, alternatively, an advanced level of knowledge and/or expertise in the organisation’s processes and procedures.
L1B visa application process
To apply for an L1B visa, the US employer must first file an employment-based petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the employee’s behalf using Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Petitioners can use this form to file on behalf of a nonimmigrant worker to come to the US temporarily to undertake work as an L1 visa-holder. The petitioner will need to include on Form I-129 information about their organisation, the beneficiary that the petitioner is filing for, and the proposed employment and employer.
The petitioner will also need to provide all required evidence and supporting documentation, including a duplicate copy of Form I-129 and documentation. There are a various detailed documents that will be needed in support of a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, including:
the L Classification Supplement to Form I-129, setting out various details, including the beneficiary’s duties abroad for the three years preceding the filing of the petition and their proposed duties in the US under an L1B visa, as well as how the US company is related to the company abroad, together with the percentage of stock ownership and managerial control of each company that has a qualifying relationship
evidence of the qualifying relationship, as between the US and foreign employer, based on ownership and control
evidence that the proposed employment is in a specialized knowledge capacity, with a detailed description of the proposed job duties and qualifications
evidence that the beneficiary’s employment for the required one year abroad with a qualifying organisation is in a specialized knowledge capacity, and that their education, training and employment qualifies them to perform the intended services in the US.
For new office petitions, the petitioner must include a description of the proposed job duties and qualifications; evidence that the petitioner has rented, leased, purchased or otherwise acquired a physical location that is appropriate for the type of work; and evidence that it has the financial ability to pay the beneficiary and to start doing business in the US.
The employer must complete and sign Form I-129, and pay the relevant fees. The base fee for filing the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker is $460. A petitioner seeking initial approval of L nonimmigrant status for a beneficiary must also pay an additional $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection fee. If the petitioner employs 50 or more people in the US, and more than 50% of those fall within H1B, L1A or L1B status, there will be a further fee mandated by Public Law of $4,500. Any failure to make payment could result in rejection or denial of the petition.
Once USCIS has received Form I-129, documentation and payment, the employer will receive confirmation of receipt. The employer may also be sent a notice to appear for an interview, if required, prior to the petition being processed. If the employer is asked to appear at a USCIS office to answer questions, they must answer these questions under either oath or affirmation. Ultimately, the employer will be sent a notice of the decision made by USCIS on the petition.
Provided the petition is approved, the specialized knowledge employee will then need to apply for the L1B visa itself. Applicants are usually required to apply for a visa in person through a pre-arranged interview with the US Embassy or Consulate of the country in which they reside. They will first need to complete Form DS-160 online and print the confirmation page. They will then need to pay the MRV application fee of $190 and schedule an appointment.
At interview, the applicant will need to provide the appointment confirmation page, their passport or travel document, a recent colour passport photograph, the receipt number of the approved petition, together with a number of other documents. They will also be asked a number of questions based on the application and the documents submitted. Essentially, the official will want to assess the applicant’s intentions for travelling to the United States and that they will be working in the US in the proposed employment as described.
L1B visa processing times
Once a petition has been approved, processing times for the visa itself will depend on where the beneficiary is applying. In the UK, the US Embassy usually takes 3 to 5 working days to process successful applications, although this can be delayed by several months if the applicant was advised at interview that a waiver of ineligibility will be required. There may also be significant wait times before an interview appointment is scheduled.
The time it takes for a petition to be approved by USCIS must also be factored in, as obtaining an L1B visa is a two-stage process. Petition processing times will depend on whether or not the petitioning organisation already has blanket L1 certification, or will need to file an individual petition. For an individual petition, a decision may take several months, although there is always the option of premium processing for an additional fee.
What is L1B blanket certification?
Certain organisations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing an individual L1B petition by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L1 approval may be established if all of the following requirements are met:
- the petitioner and the qualifying organisations are engaged in commercial trade or services
- the petitioner has an office in the US which has been doing business for at least one year
- the petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates
- the petitioner, along with the other qualifying organisations, collectively have either obtained at least 10 L1 approvals during the previous 12-month period, 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.
The approval of a blanket L1 petition doesn’t guarantee that an employee will be granted an L1B visa, although it does provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the US without having to file an individual petition with USCIS.
In most cases, once a blanket petition has been approved, the employer need only complete Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and send this to the employee along with a copy of the approval notice and other required evidence, so that the employee may present it to a US consular office. However, the blanket petition process is meant to serve only relatively large, established companies with multi-layered structures and various related business entities. The blanket petition provision is also available only to specialized knowledge professionals that are destined to work in an established office.
How long does an L1B visa last?
Qualified employees under the L1B visa classification will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years, although for those entering the US to establish a new office, this is just one year. For all L1B employees, requests for extensions of stay may be granted in increments of two years, until reaching the maximum limit of five years.
Spouses and children seeking admission or an extension of stay in the United States will generally be granted the same period of stay in the US as the L1B employee.
L1B visa renewals
If an L1B visa-holder is seeking an extension of stay with the same employer, the organisation will again need to file Form I-129 on the beneficiary’s behalf. For those who entered the US on an approved Blanket L petition, the petitioning organisation must also file Form I-129S, together with a copy of their previously approved Form I-129S.
Can an L1B visa be converted to a green card?
The L1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning that this does not directly lead to a green card. This means that to apply for permanent residency, the visa-holder would need to switch to an immigrant visa classification. An L1B visa-holder may also be able to convert their status to L1A. Under L1A classification, a visa-holder working in a managerial or executive capacity can stay in the United States for a period of up to seven years.
L1B visa FAQs
Who is eligible for L1B visa?
The L1B visa is for intracompany transferees with specialized knowledge of an organisation, where the employee must have worked for a qualifying organisation abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding their admission to the US.
What is US L1B visa?
The L1B visa enables US employers to transfer employees with specialized knowledge of the organisation’s interests to an office in the United States, or for foreign companies to send a specialized knowledge employee to establish an affiliated US office.
Is L1B better than H1B?
The L1B visa is for established employees with specialized knowledge of an organisation, whereas the H1B visa is for foreign professionals wanting to work for a US organisation, where the eligibility requirements are more stringent under H1B classification.
How long is L1B visa valid?
The maximum initial stay for intra-company transferees under an L1B visa is three years, and one year for employees entering the US to establish a new office, with a maximum limit of five years where an extension is sought.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.