There are two types of visas in the L-1 category. The L-1A is reserved for managers or executives while L-1B is reserved for individuals with "specialized knowledge".
The L-1 visa is an intra-company transferee visa which allows executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge (the knowledge that is referred to in the term "specialized knowledge" covers any knowledge that specifically concerns the employer company, its procedures, products or international marketing methods) to transfer from the foreign company to a U.S. branch, subsidiary, or affiliated company to perform temporary services.
A key qualification for eligibility for the L-1 visa category is the requirement that an individual should have been in continuous employment abroad with a foreign employer for one year within three years preceding the time of the employee’s application for admission into the U.S. in L-1 status. The individual must have been employed as an executive, manager, or as a specialized skill worker for a minimum of twelve months during the three years immediately preceding the filing of the L-1 visa petition.
The maximum duration of L-1 status is seven years for executives and managers and five years for persons with specialized knowledge. L-1 visa status holders may remain in the US in valid nonimmigrant only as long as the U.S. Company qualifies as the same company or subsidiary or affiliate status with the foreign company and there is continual existence of the foreign company during the said period.
It is permissible for an employee to be granted L-1 status to open a "new office" of the foreign parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate. The newly incorporated U.S. Company will be the petitioner for the L-1 visa category on behalf of the individual employee. A certified public accountant will be able to assist in incorporating a new company. Any form of corporation (C Corp, S Corp, LLC, Professional Corporation, etc.) is fine for immigration purposes. Evidence must be submitted to the USCIS establishing that the new office has a suitable place to do business and that the employer has the ability to pay the employee and to begin doing business in the U.S. Both the foreign and U.S. operations must be "doing business" for the entire time that the L-1 employee is working in the U.S.
In practical terms, a “new office” can be created in the following order: incorporating a company and being issued a federal tax i.d. number; leasing or subleasing office space for at least one year; and opening a business checking account and depositing enough funds in the account to take care of initial expenses until the U.S. company is capable of generating revenues. Our law firm has experience in filing L-1 petitions with both well-established U.S. companies as well as new office cases. Since we will also be providing evidence of the relationship between the U.S. company and the foreign company (for example, the U.S. office issues 100 shares of stock, at least 51 of which are owned by the foreign company), the USCIS understands that the foreign company will be providing financial and other support to a newly established U.S. company, since the foreign company has a vested financial interest in the success of the U.S. company. The U.S. company can be in a different line of business than the foreign company. A well-established foreign company with deep pockets may result in easier approval of the L-1 petition filed by the newly established U.S. company.
The petition for a nonimmigrant worker is filed with the appropriate USCIS service Center in the United States with the applicable filing fees. Once the petition is approved, the employee may apply for an L-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. If the employee is in the U.S. and maintaining other nonimmigrant status, he or she may apply for a change of status in the U.S. If a candidate changes from another status (for example, B-1 business visitor status) to L-1 within the U.S., there is no requirement to have a L-1 visa stamp in the passport. However, if this person travels abroad, he or she will apply for an L-1 visa stamp from a U.S. Consulate abroad in order to enter the U.S. The L-1 visa stamp is multiple-entry, and an individual will maintain L-1 visa status even if he or she spends most of his or her time outside the U.S. It is also permissible to be paid a salary by the foreign company instead of the U.S. company and still maintain L-1 status. An individual in L-1 status looking for employment flexibility can change to another nonimmigrant employment-based visa status such as H-1B.
L-1 visa status is granted initially for one to three years with extensions available in three-year increments, with a total stay not to exceed seven years. In new office situations, the petition may be approved only for one year initially. The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of the L-1 visa holder are granted L-2 visas. L-2 dependent visa holders are eligible to apply for employment authorization with the USCIS and be legally employed during their temporary stay in the United States.
It is possible to convert the L-1 visa for executives and managers to lawful permanent residence status under the employment-based first preference (EB-1) category. Executives and managers in L-1 status can obtain permanent resident status by directly filing the Immigrant Petition for Individual Worker under the employment based first preference category (EB-1) without first obtaining a labor certification (PERM) from the United States Department of Labor. The time taken to obtain permanent resident status under this category is relatively short when compared to other employment based preference categories, and in most cases an adjustment of status application can be filed concurrently with the EB-1 petition.
The L-1 petition requires extensive documentary evidence to establish the existence of the foreign company and the viability of the U.S. company, the relationship between the two entities, the nature of the proposed employment and the employee’s qualification for the offered position. We will guide you by providing information on the supporting documents to be obtained. In addition to the above, our office will ensure that the supporting documents are organized as per the USCIS’s preferred format, that the petition is properly filed with the appropriate USICS service center, and will keep you informed about the progress of your petition.
As a guide to persons seeking to utilize our law firm’s legal services in the preparation/filing of the L-1 petition, we have prepared a list of documents that can be collected to expedite the filing of a petition. The below list is relevant when we have discussed with you whether the threshold requirements of filing have been met, as well as the probability of success. Please contact our law firm to discuss your options.
We request a copy of the following documents in duplicate from the foreign company in order to file the L-1A or L-1B petition once our law firm has been retained for the preparation/filing of the petition:
From the U.S. Company we need copy of the following, in duplicate:
Some of the above evidence from the U.S. Company is not applicable in “new office” situations.
Other documents and information that may be helpful:
[Note: Please consult with an attorney specializing in Immigration & Nationality law for professional advice in specific situations.]