L-1 nonimmigrant status is an employer specific, employment-authorized nonimmigrant status available to a foreign national employed abroad who seeks admission into the United States to work for a qualifying affiliate U.S. employer in either managerial/executive capacity (L-1A) or specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B).
Obtaining L-1 nonimmigrant status requires the U.S. employer to file an I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS adjudicates this petition, ideally, three weeks (premium processing). Upon approval, the prospective employee may apply for an L-1 visa at his or her respective U.S. consulate.
If the foreign national is already in the United States in a different status, he or she may file a request to change status when the L-1 petition is approved. Please note, however, that a change of status does not provide for the L-1 visa, which is necessary for reentry to the U.S. Therefore, if the foreign national obtains a change of status, and subsequently travels abroad, he or she will be required to apply for a visa at the U.S. consulate overseas. For this reason, it is often appropriate to apply for the visa at the outset, prior to beginning employment with the U.S. entity.
L-1 status is generally approved for an initial period of three years. However, if the U.S. employer is a start-up company, L-1 status is originally granted for only one year. L-1A (manager/executive) status can be extended up to a statutory limit of seven years; L-1B (specialized knowledge) status is limited to a total of five years. The employer is not obligated to retain the employee for the entire five- or seven-year period. Unless the parties contract otherwise, the employment relationship is "at will" and either party is free to terminate the relationship at any time. However, if the employee/employer relationship endures for the entire five-year or seven-year period, the foreign national must spend one year physically outside of the U.S. before regaining eligibility to apply for a new period of L-1 status.
I. BASIC INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTATION NECESSARY TO PROPERLY PREPARE AN L-1 NONIMMIGRANT PETITION
Proof of Employment Abroad With a Qualifying Company.