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What is the L1 Visa?

An L1 visa facilitates the transfer of professionals working for a company in a foreign country to the same company in the United States. These visa holders are known as intracompany transferees since, unlike other work visas, they already work for the company they plan on joining in the US.

L1 visas are temporary nonimmigrant visas, and therefore applicants must provide proof that they have intent on immigrating to the US before receiving the visa. However, L1 visa holders may eventually apply for permanent residency in the US through a green card.
The L2 visa exists for dependents of L1 visa holders. 

Types of L1 Visas:

There are two types of L1 Visas depending on the type of work the visa holder performs.
👉 L1A Visa
L1A visas are designated for managers and executives who meet criteria specifically defined by the USCIS.
  • Executives can make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight
  • Managers supervise and control the work of employees and manage the organization or a subdivision of the organization
👉 L1B Visa
Those with L1B visas perform work requiring specialized knowledge. This means that they either have advanced knowledge of the organization’s processes or special knowledge of the organization’s products, services, equipment, research, or other interests and applications.

L1 Visa Requirements:

There are two main requirements for an L1 visa: petitioner (employer) requirements and employee requirements.

Employer Requirements:

The employer within the US and its foreign branch/subsidiary/affiliate that employs the applicant abroad must have a qualifying relationship. This shows that the two entities are in some way tied to each other through their ownership or organization.
In addition, throughout the visa holder’s stay in the US, the employer must be doing business in the US and at least one other country.

Employee Requirements:

Under an L1 visa, the applicant must have been employed by the foreign employer for at least one continuous year within the previous three years before their admission into the U.S.
This year of employment must have been in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge field, and their prospective employers in the U.S. must be within those same fields.

L1 Visa Application Process:

Fortunately, the L1 visa application process is much simpler than other types of visas. There are three main steps within this process.
1. Form DS-160: Nonimmigrant Visa Application
The applicant’s foreign employer begins the visa application process by submitting the non-immigrant visa application (Form DS-160) online. This application must include the following items:
  • Two current passport-sized photographs
  • A copy of the applicant’s US passport
2. Form I-129: Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
After submitting the DS-160 form, the employer files an L1 petition for a nonimmigrant worker (Form I-129). This petition must be filed at least 45 days before the employee’s start date, and no more than 6 months before employment begins.
3. Consular Processing
After both forms are approved, the applicant currently outside of the US needs to go to their home country’s consulate or embassy to interview with a consular officer and apply for their visa. After the consulate approves the applicant, the visa is issued. 
The process for each country’s consulate varies, but more information can be found through the home country’s consular website.

L1 Visa Processing Times:

The L1 Visa processing time varies depending on the USCIS service center and the country from where the applicant applies. Typically, the average processing time for the I-129 petition is around six months. Consulate processing varies based on the home country but can be expected to take up to six months or longer. You can find more information on your specific consulate L1 processing time through your home country’s consular website.

L1 Visa to Green Card

Want to reside in the US permanently? By going from an L1 visa to a green card, you can! L1 visa holders are eligible to apply for a green card, but the process varies depending on if the holder has an L1A or L1B visa.

L1A Visa to Green Card

An L1A visa holder has a relatively simple process of obtaining a green card because they apply under an EB-1C green card. This doesn’t require a PERM Labor Certification, shaving up to 8 months off of the processing period. To apply for the green card, the employer only needs to file an I-140 petition. Once approved, the applicant files for an adjustment of status (Form I-485).

L1B Visa to Green Card

The L1B Visa to green card process is similar to the L1A visa to green card process, with the additional requirement of a PERM Labor Certification. This requires the employer to show proof that you (a foreign worker) are not taking away jobs qualified US workers. In addition, the employer must show that they will be paying at least the prevailing wage for the work in the area of intended employment. Meaning, that the immigrant the employer plans to hire is not receiving a smaller wage than what is typical of the job in the area.

After the PERM Labor Certification, the employer files an I-140 petition, and once approved, the applicant files the adjustment of status form I-485.

L1 Visa Extension Process and Renewal

The process for obtaining an L1 visa extension is, more or less, the same as the process for getting the original L1 visa. It requires your employer to file a new petition on your behalf prior to the expiration date on your I-94 form. 

L1 Visa Extension Documents:

Filing an L1 visa extension requires several documents. These documents are listed below:
  • Proof of the beneficiary’s employment for the duration of their time in the U.S.
  • Evidence of the beneficiaries U.S. work-relevant degree (or foreign equivalent) 
  • Letter for a foreign employer detailing the beneficiary’s previous three years of employment
  • Support letter from petitioner, including alien’s salary, job duties, terms of employment, etc.
  • USCIS filing fee
  • Summary and proof of travel history outside of the U.S. (boarding passes, passport stamps, etc.)
  • Completed I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
For those L1 visa holders who wish to extend their spouse or dependants visa statuses as well, your employer must file an I-539 form with your I-129 form. 

L1 Visa Extension Processing Time

Premium processing for L1 visas is available at an additional cost when the employer is filing the petition. La premium processing typically takes up to 15 calendar days and costs $1,225. 
If expedited processing is not required, a regular processing fee is available. 

L1 Visa Extension Fees

Because the process for extending an L1 vis is so similar to the initial application process, the filing fees are, more or less, the same. Your employer will be responsible for the below-listed costs:
  • I-129 basic filing fee of $460
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee of $500
Some costs from the initial filing will not need to be paid for an extension, including Public Law 114-113 fee and ACWIA fee. If premium processing is desired, the cost can be covered by you or your employer. 
Any L2 dependent visa extensions will be subject to a $370 filing fee for the I-539 form. 

How does the L1 Visa compare to other visas?

There are many visa options for those who wish to work in the US.

✅ L1 vs. H1B

An H1B visa allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The L1 visa is most often compared to the H1B visa because they both are nonimmigrant visas that bring foreign workers into the US to work for US employers. However, there are many key differences between the L1 and H1B visas, including employer eligibility and maximum duration of stay.
Overall, an L1 visa is more fitting for multinational companies with foreign affiliates, and for individuals that do not meet the strict H1B requirements.

✅ L1 vs. E1 and E2

Similar to the L1 visa, E1 and E2 visas allow foreign executives, managers, or specialty-knowledge workers to work within the US. However, E1 and E2 visa holders must work for companies that are engaged in large amounts of trade or investments with the United States.