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Everything You Must Know About L1 Visa

TeamAckoFeb 9, 2024

L1 visas are a valuable tool for employers wanting to transfer their employees to the US from their foreign offices. It permits skilled workers to bring their expertise and work in US operations for an initial period of 3 years, which they can extend upon further requirements. However, obtaining an L1 visa can be complex and tiring. Therefore, this guide will help you understand all the basic points of an L1 visa and how you can apply for it easily.

L1 Visa

Contents

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What is an L1 Visa?

L1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits foreign companies to temporarily transfer their employees to the United States of America. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) works with the foreign company instead of the individual applicant to grant an L1 visa. 

In addition, this visa is valid for 3 years and employees can extend it, depending on their L1 visa type. People working in foreign and domestic offices for different organisations are eligible for L1 visas as well. 

What are the Types of L1 Visa?

There are mainly two different types of L1 visas that you can be eligible to apply for. Here are the details for both.

1. L-1A Visa

The L-1A visa is for transferring foreign managers and executives to the United States of America. It is also known as an L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager visa. In addition, an L-1A visa allows for an initial stay of 3 years in the country and can be extended twice until they reach the maximum stay limit of 7 years. All executives and managers must fulfil the following criteria to be eligible for an L-1A visa:

For Executives

  • Look after the company’s day-to-day management.

  • Establishes company’s rules, regulations and goals.

  • Has authority to make decisions on behalf of the board of directors and stakeholders of the company.

For Managers

  • Has authority to hire new employees.

  • Leads a key department of the business.

  • Directs everyday operations of the organisation.

2. L-1B Visa

Also known as the L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialised Knowledge visa, it facilitates the transfer of employees who have specialised knowledge of the company in United States. Specialised knowledge refers to having expertise or advanced knowledge in the organisation's processes, products, technology and other key areas. The L-1B visa allows a 5-year stay in the country, which includes 2 years of extended stay upon expiration of the initial 3 years. 

In addition, L-1B is given to individuals whose company can prove the employees applying for such visas are crucial to organisational functions. Following are some specialised knowledge of where different individuals are eligible for L-1B visa transfers:

  • Engineers

  • Teachers

  • Surgeons

  • Lawyers

  • Professors

The visas are initially issued for 3 years to both L-1A and L-1B visa holders. However, they can extend their visa upon request to the USCIS when their visa is about to expire. L-1A visa holders can extend their visa twice, for 2 years each, until they reach the maximum stay of 7 years. However, L-1B visa holders can extend their stay for 2 years, allowing them a maximum stay of 5 years.

What are the Benefits of an L1 Visa?

If you are looking for employment in the United States, here are some benefits of an L1 visa that will help you make an informed decision.

1. No Investment Required

The L1 visa does not require any specific investment in US company. It appeals to entrepreneurs who are seeking visa options to expand their business in United States of America. Although no specific investment amount is mentioned, the company must ensure that US operation can transfer an executive and manager within 1 year of the petition’s approval. 

2. Dual Purpose Visa

Being distinguished as a dual intent visa, the L1 visa allows applicants to claim a green card. The L1 visa does not require applicants to maintain a non-immigrant visa, like other non-immigrant visas. It permits applicants to seek permanent residency status while working temporarily on an L1 visa in United States of America.

3. Extended Stay

With an L1 visa, you can extend your stay in United States. L-1 visa is initially issued for 3 years, and L-1A visa holders can extend their stay for two terms until they reach 7 years of maximum stay. However, the L-1B visa holders can extend their stay for one term to reach their maximum stay of 5 years. These extensions help individuals stay in the country for a substantial duration during their L1 visa status.

4. Low Requirements

One of the key benefits of an L1 visa is that it has low requirements in terms of application. You need to be an executive, manager or an employee with specialised knowledge to apply for this visa. It gives individuals a chance who are not eligible to work in United States with other visa types.

5. Setup New Offices

If a multinational company does not have an office or branch in United States, they can send an L1 visa holder to establish a new setup. Although the process has some limitations, it is advantageous for individuals wanting to set up a new office in United States. After establishing a new office, the employer can transfer L1 visa holders to work in the country.

What are the Requirements for an L1 Visa?

There are several requirements and necessities applicable to employers and employees for an L1 visa. Below is a detailed discussion of the same.

1. For Employees (L1 Applicant)

Following are the L1 visa eligibility criteria for employees wanting to work in United States:

  • Employment with an Organisation: Applicants must be employed by a qualifying multinational company currently. The company must be a subsidiary, branch office, affiliate or parent company of the United States entity.

  • Employment for One Year: To be eligible for an L1 visa, applicants must have worked at least one year continuously for a foreign company within last year. In addition, the employment period must have taken place outside United States of America.

  • Qualifying Position: The L-1A visa holders (managers and executives) must come to work in an executive or managerial capacity. However, for L-1B visa holders (specialised knowledge), employees must have specialised knowledge of the company’s products, technology and procedures.

2. For Employer (Sponsor)

Here are some key L1 visa requirements for companies that want to transfer their employees or set up their branches in the US:

  • Qualifying Relationship: To apply for an L1 visa on behalf of individuals, the US employer must have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company. The organisation must show a significant level of control or ownership by the same entity or parent company.

  • Business in United States: The employer should have an active business in United States with a physical facility or office for employees to work there. However, for a new office, a US entity must showcase a plan for supporting thepositionsn of different employees.

  • Offer of Employment: The US entity must file an L1 visa petition and extend a valid employment offer with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of employees.

What are the Documents Required for Applying for an L1 Visa?

Here is a list of documents needed for an L1 visa that you must submit during the application process:

  1. A valid passport

  2. Two photographs, according to US visa photograph requirements

  3. DS-160 confirmation page and code

  4. Receipts of L1 visa fees

  5. Individual petitions:

  • Form I-129 and one photocopy

  • Form I-797

  1. Blanket petitions:

  • Form I-129S and two photocopies

  • Three photocopies of Form I-797

  1. Confirmation letter related to transfer and job description

  2. Employment proof of working at least 1 year in the past 3 years with the sponsor company

  3. Previous employers' letters and supervisors’ contact information

  4. Contact information of two workers from previous and current companies

  5. Education certificates

  6. Income tax records

  7. Payment statements

  8. An organisational chart showing your position in the company

  9. Patent and trademark registrations if you possess any specialised knowledge for your company

How to Apply for an L1 Visa?

If you are wondering how to apply for an L1 visa, here is a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Get the Transfer Offer

You need to get a transfer offer from your current employer for an executive, managerial or specialised knowledge position. Once you receive the offer letter, you can fill out the L1 visa application form.

Step 2: File Form I-129

There are two ways to file Form I-129:

  • Individual Petitions

The employer must file a petition to the USCIS on behalf of the employees for their transfers. This ensures that one individual applies for L1 visa. It includes filing a petition for a nonimmigrant worker, Form I-129 and an additional L Supplement to the Form. For the employees to start their application at US Embassy, the petition needs to be approved by the USCIS. Once the application is approved, the employer will receive Form I-797.

  • L1 Blanket Petitions

The L1 blanket petitions are framed for large companies who want to send many employees to the US on L1 visa status by getting only one approval from the USCIS. The employing entity needs to file Form I-129S and a non-immigrant petition on the basis of an L1 blanket petition to the USCIS. After its approval, the entity will receive Form I-797, which the employees can use in their application. 

Step 3: Form DS-160 Filing

You need to file Form DS-160, where you need to submit all necessary information, like intent to visit the United States and other important details, which will help the US Embassy make an informed decision. After submission of Form DS-160, you will receive a confirmation number and page, which are required later.

Step 4: Fee Payment for the L1 Visa

After successfully filing all the forms, you must pay fees for the L1 visa to proceed with application procedure. In addition, you might be required to pay additional fees based on your home country or collaboration measures with United States. After paying the fees, you will get the receipts for attaching them to your documents. 

Step 5: Schedule an L1 Visa Interview

After successfully paying your L1 visa application fees, you need to schedule an interview at US Embassy. On the interview day, you must carry all your original documents, including your interview appointment letter, which you will receive while scheduling your interview. 

What is the L1 Visa Cost?

The following are the five main costs associated with an L1 visa:

1. USCIS Filing Fee (Form I-129) 

The filing fee is $460 (approximately ₹38,000), which you need to submit with Form I-129. It is mandatory for first-time L1 petitions, applications for extending L1 status and changing the status to L1. 

2. USCIS Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee

The US immigration authorities charge $500 (around ₹41,500) for investigating fraudulent filings of L1 petitions initially or if applicants file a petition for changing the change. The US employer will bear the cost of this fee.

3. Visa Application Fee for Consular Processing

After the approval of Form I-129, applicants must visit the nearest US Embassy or Consulate to apply for their L1 visa. In this step, an applicant needs to pay an application fee of $190 (approximately ₹15,700).

4. Premium Processing Fee (Optional)

The premium processing fee is $1,440 (around ₹1,19,000), and either the employer or employee can pay the fee.

5. Public Law 114-113 Fee

The fee of $4,500 (approximately ₹3,73,000) is applicable for US employers having more than 50 employees, where half of them have L1 or H-1B visas.

Furthermore, you must note that the fees are subject to change and can vary depending on the situation of each L1 visa applicant.

Hence, an L1 visa is valuable for skilled workers and multinational companies to set up their offices in United States. It will allow you to work in the country for a maximum of 7 years and convert your L1 visa to permanent residence via EB1C classification. 

In addition, you must opt for international travel insurance while visiting the US with an L1 visa. It will help you in case of unforeseen circumstances like loss of passport, travel funds and checked-in baggage. In addition, the travel insurance will also protect you in case of medical emergencies during your visit to United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions related to L1 visa.

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1. What are the L1 visa interview questions that the US immigration officials will ask?

Some of the frequently asked questions during an L1 visa interview are as follows:

  • What is the professional work experience?

  • Have you worked in any foreign country before?

  • Where did you work before working in the current company?

  • What is your yearly income?

  • What is your current job role and responsibilities?

2. What is the processing time for an L1 visa?

The processing time for an L1 visa is between 2 to 4 months. However, if you opt for premium processing, you will get to know your L1 visa status within 1 to 3 weeks.

3. What is the validity period of an L1 visa?

The L1 visa is issued for 3 years. If you are an L-1A visa holder, you can extend your stay for a maximum of 7 years. In the case of L-1B visa holders, they can extend their stay for a maximum of 5 years.

4. Can my spouse work on an L1 visa status?

US immigration allows L1 visa holders to bring their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years to United States on L2 visa status. The L2 spouses can automatically work upon their entry into the United States.

5. Can I apply for a green card with my L1 visa status?

Yes, you can apply for a green card, if you are an L1 visa holder. However, the process of obtaining a green card depends on the type of L1 visa status. If you are an L-1A visa holder, the process takes around 8 months to a year to complete. On the other hand, for L-1B visa holders, the process takes 8 months to 2 years to complete.

6. What are the criteria required to qualify for an L1 blanket petition?

To fall under the L1 blanket petition, the company needs to fulfil the following requirements:

  • Must have a commercial trade or service business in the US.

  • Have a minimum of 3 offices in the US or abroad.

  • Combined annual sales in foreign countries and the US should be at least $25 million or have more than 1000 employees in the US office.

7. Are there any alternatives to an L1 visa?

H1-B visa is the only comparable temporary work visa available for individuals seeking work in the United States of America. However, the maximum work stay is 3 years, and you can extend it for another 3 years.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet and is subject to changes. Please consult an expert before making any related decisions.

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