What is an L-1 Visa?
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 an L-1 Visa
- Obtaining an 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 his 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-year 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 the U.S. before regaining eligibility to apply for a new period of L-1 status.
Dependent family members (spouses and minor children) of an L-1 nonimmigrant are eligible to apply for L-2 derivative status. Individuals in L-2 status are authorized to work in the U.S.
Preparing an L-1 nonimmigrant petition
- Basic Information and Documentation necessary to properly prepare an L-1 Nonimmigrant Petition
- Proof of Employment Abroad with a Qualifying Company.
- The prospective employee must have been employed abroad with an affiliate, parent, branch, or subsidiary of the petitioning U.S. Company for a continuous period of one year within the three years prior to filing the petition or entry into the U.S. This period of employment abroad must have been in either a managerial/executive or specialized knowledge capacity. Supporting documentation required from the petitioning employer abroad will include:
- Proof that the company abroad and the U.S. Company are appropriately related.
- Documentation that the foreign national was employed at least one full year of the previous three years with the related enterprise overseas. Please note that if the foreign national was employed overseas and made business trips to the U.S., time in the U.S must be deducted from the total amount of time employed abroad.
- Detailed written description of the company’s business, including: history, location of facilities, types of operations, number of employees, approximate volume of venues, copies of marketing material, and any published reports.
- Current invoices as well as any contracts or written obligations (such as leases or long term contracts with customer(s) tending to show the long-term viability of the company.
- Corporate documents for the corporation (financial statements, annual report, SEC report).