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  • The L-1 visa is a useful vehicle for multi-national companies seeking to transfer high-level managers, executives and employees with specialized knowledge from overseas to provide services to a related entity in the U.S.
  • This visa also allows an intracompany executive or manager to come to the U.S. to establish a new business.
  • L-1 status is available to persons who have worked abroad for one continuous year within the preceding three years. Brief visits to the United States for business or pleasure do not interrupt the one year of employment abroad, but they do not count toward the fulfillment of the requirement.
  • The employment abroad must have been in an executive, management, or specialized knowledge capacity. The L-1 transferee does not need to work in the United States in the same capacity as abroad. For example, a manager abroad could be transferred to the United States, in a specialized knowledge capacity, or vice versa.
  • A 2002 memorandum issued by the USCIS reiterated and clarified the position on what constitutes specialized knowledge. The test for specialized knowledge tests on a product or process within a particular company. The alien should possess a type of specialized or advanced knowledge that is different from that generally found in the particular industry. The knowledge need not be proprietary or unique. Where the alien has specialized knowledge of the company or product, the knowledge must be noteworthy or uncommon.
  • USCIS recognizes that a foreign national on L-1 status may have the dual intent of immigrating to the United States while still intending to comply with his or her Nonimmigrant status.
  • The L-1 classification is petition based. The U.S. employer must file the petition on form I-129 with the “L” Supplement and approved by the USCIS before the foreign national can obtain an L-1 visa. The employers may utilize the premium processing program to expedite USCIS action on an L-1 petition.
  • The L-1 status will only be valid for the period of the petition’s validity. Individual petitions may be granted for up to three years, with a possible two-year extension for all L employees and two-year extension beyond that for managers and executives.
  • The L-1 blanket petition provisions permit intracompany employees to apply for L-1 visas directly at the U.S.Embassies abroad without the prior approval by USCIS of an individual petition. This is possible only when the prescribed requirements are met with.
  • Spouses and minor children of L-1 nonimmigrant may enter the U.S. in L-2 status. L-2 status spouses only and not children are eligible for employment.
  • After being admitted in L-2 status, the spouse of an L-1 nonimmigrant must apply to the USCIS for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • The status of an L-2 dependant is subject to the same period of admission and limitations as the principal L-1 alien.

 Frequently Asked Questions

L-1 Visa Questions

What is the L-1 Visa?

The L-1 visa is for a temporary worker who is coming to work at a subsidiary or parent company in the U.S.

What is the L-1 visa?

The L-1 visa is for Managers or for Executives. This visa allows a foreign nationals being transferred by their current employer to enter into the U.S. to manage an organization or a major function or division of an organization.

How do I qualify for the L-1 visa?

  1. The U.S. Company to which you are being transferred must be a branch, subsidiary, affiliate or joint venture partner of your non-U.S. employer
  2. Employment in the U.S. Company must be as a Manager, Executive or person with specialized knowledge and skills.

What benefits do I enjoy on an L-1 visa?

  1. Be quickly issued your visa, transferred to the U.S. and work legally for a U.S. company. Be permitted to travel in and out of the U.S. or remain here continuously until your L-1 status expires.
  2. Avail yourself of visas for accompanying family member (spouse and children under the age of 21).
  3. Apply for a permanent residency/ Green card through employment and skip a major step of the labor certification process.

What are the limitations of the L-1 visa?

  1. Work only for the U.S. employer who sponsored your L-1 visa.
  2. L-1 visa status is limited initially to a maximum three year term. An extension for a person with specialized knowledge (L-1B) is limited to only a two year extension (5 years total on L-1B). For Managers and Executives (L-1A), extensions may be granted in increments of two year terms but only up to seven years of total L-1-A status.

What is the difference between L-1A visa and L-1B visa?

The L-1A visa is for Managers and Executives. On L-1A visa you may apply for a Green card without going through the process of Labor Certification. If you were a Manager or Executive with the overseas branch for one year, you do not have to be in L-1A status for a year unless you are starting a new company in the U.S. after being on L-1A status for only a year.

The L-1B visa is for employees with specialized knowledge of the company’s products or procedures. L-1B employees will have to go through the process of Labor Certification when applying for green card.

What is the processing time for L-1 visa?

One to six months for L-1 and one to three weeks to process an L-1 covered by an L-1 Blanket approval. However, if you choose to file under the premium processing by paying additional fees, the petition will be adjudicated within 15 days of receipt by USCIS.

Can I extend my stay on the L-1 visa?

Yes, you may apply for an L-1 visa extension using Form I-129, and L Supplement. Extensions of two years at a time may be allowed until you have been in the U.S. for a total of seven years if you are a Manager or an Executive, or for a total of five years for employees with specialized knowledge.

Who can qualify as an L-1 Executive?

Any employee, who has worked for the foreign company for at least one year out of last three years, may qualify as L-1 Executive. The Immigration Act of 1990 eliminated the “immediately preceding” requirement. An employee can use combination of part-time employment to meet one-year continuous requirement, if part-time work is for affiliated companies. However, one year cannot be met by working part of year for an affiliate or branch in the U.S.

How do you define a Manager & an Executive for L-1 visa purposes?

The definition of a Manager for L-1 visas includes an employee who manages an essential function of the business within a qualifying organization. A special definition of Manager applies when you are coming to set up a new office or purchase a new business in the USA.

Executive capacity is an assignment “within an organization in which the employee primarily: (i) directs the management of the organization; (ii) establishes the goals and policies of the organization; (iii) exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and (iv) receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the Directors, or Stockholders of the organization.”

What is the minimum educational requirement and experience for an executive or manage to be eligible for L-1 Visa?

There is no minimum educational requirement for L-1 visa.

Can L-1 petition be filed outside the U.S.?

No. The petition must be filed by the U.S. Company to the appropriate service center of the USCIS in U.S.

Can I come to the U.S. on a visitor visa or Visa Waiver while the L-1 petition is being processed?

Theoretically this is possible but not advisable. Under no account should you risk putting in jeopardy the issue of an L-1 visa by engaging in any activity that might be construed as unauthorized work. As a result of L-1 Visa Reform Act, blanket L employees are required once again to show that they worked for the company abroad for at least one year. Previously, six months of past employment was sufficient.

Can I travel after applying for the Green Card on L-1 status?

Yes, if you are in a valid L-1 status and have already applied for green card, then you do not need an Advance Parole. However, you must be coming Back » to work with the same employer that applied for your L-1.

What is the visa status granted to the dependents of L-1 visa holders?

L-2 visa is issued to the dependents of L-1 visa holders. Dependents include the spouse and children under 21 years of age.

Can my dependents work in the U.S. on L-1 visa?

L-2 spouse of an L-1 visa holder can now obtain an Employment Authorization (EAD). This employment authorization must be applied for separately by filing a petition to the appropriate service center of the USCIS. The L-2 child is not permitted to work in the US.

Is there a requirement to pay L-1 holder the prevailing wage?

Not really. There is no such requirement, but paying L-1 workers significantly below the prevailing wage is likely to result in the USCIS viewing your petition unfavorably. It could also result in investigations by the USCIS or Department of Labor.

Once the L-1 petition is approved, can I create a new corporation and purchase a new business under this newly formed corporation?

Yes, you may purchase new business, as long as long it is done under the umbrella of the corporation name. If you have to change the employer, you have to file a new L-1 petition to the USCIS.

What is L-1 Blanket petition?

The L-1 Blanket petition is a device by which very large companies pre-qualify to transfer their L-1 employees to the U.S. Once the L-1 Blanket is approved, the company can transfer people to the U.S. quickly and on short notices without having the necessity of filing petitions with USCIS. There are some requirements for blanket procedure: (i) petitioner has office and has been doing business in the U.S. for one year; (ii) petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates. Petitioner and entities are engaged in commercial trade or services; (iii) combined U.S. annual sales of $25 million. U.S. workforce of 1,000 or received approval of at least 10 L petitions in last 12 months; (iv) non- profit organizations cannot file blanket petitions; (v) employee must work abroad for parent, affiliate or subsidiary for 12 months.


The information contained on this site is offered only for general informational and educational propose and does not constitute a legal advice or opinion. All efforts are being made to keep this information current, but it may not be guaranteed that it applies to your specific case, and should not be relied upon or acted without seeking the advice of qualified attorney.