The L-1 visa can be leveraged by employers to transfer foreign national employees to the U.S.
When organizations evaluate visa options for foreign national employees, top of mind for many is the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees. This visa allows employers to transfer employees from international offices within a related corporate entity into the U.S. Here’s a closer look at the L visa category, including eligibility criteria, application processes and other considerations for employers.
An overview of the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees
There are two L-1 visa categories: the L-1A visa for executives and manager-level employees and the L-1B visa for those with specialized knowledge. Each category has its own eligibility requirements, but both require employees to have worked at a related entity abroad for at least 12 continuous months out of the last three years at the time of application.
L-1A visas are available to employees of the sponsoring U.S. company in an executive or managerial capacity at a foreign branch or entity. The L-1B visa classification allows a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization from one of its affiliated foreign offices to a U.S. parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch office.
If an L-1A or L-1B employee’s purpose for travel is to open a new office location in the U.S., the employer must have secured the physical location for the office.
The L-1 visa has no annual cap, which means any number of applicants can apply knowing that their petition won’t be rejected because a limit has been reached.
If filing with USCIS, the filing fee that goes along with an L-1A or L-1B petition is $960. Employers can pay the $2,500 premium processing fee and USCIS will adjudicate the petition, meaning they are required to approve, issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or deny the visa petition within 15 calendar days. However, at this time, premium processing is not available for L visa petitions.
The initial period of stay for an L-1A visa holder in the U.S. is three years, after which the visa holder can apply twice for a two-year renewal, making the total stay seven years. L-1B visas have an initial period of stay of three years as well, but can only be granted one, two-year renewal, for a total stay of five years. Of note, however, is that any time spent outside the U.S. while in L-1 status, can be recaptured and added to extend L-1 status. For example, if an L-1 nonimmigrant spends 100 days outside the U.S., the U.S. petitioning entity can extend their status for an additional 100 days beyond the 5 or 7 year max stay. Global Immigration Associates advises that employers and their talent consult with their immigration attorney if the temporary nature of the employee’s visit changes.
Blanket L Certification
Some companies choose to establish an intracompany relationship in place of filing individual L-1 petitions. The Blanket L helps employees skip up to six months of processing time and take their application directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad for on-site approval. Other than receiving the Blanket L Certification from USCIS, no additional petition needs to be filed in the U.S., which saves time and money. In general, it’s an ideal option for companies looking to make short-notice transfers between international branches.
The Blanket L is available for eligible companies that have:
- Three or more domestic foreign branches, subsidiaries and affiliates;
- U.S. and foreign entities that are doing business;
- A U.S. office that has been doing business for at least one year; or
- At least one of the following: have been approved for 10 or more L-1 visas during the last 12 months, make annual sales of at least $25 million or have a U.S. workforce of 1,000 employees or more.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old are eligible for an L-2 nonimmigrant dependent visa. Dependents are also able to study, and spouses may apply for work authorization once they are in the U.S.
Download our comprehensive L visa guide to learn even more about eligibility criteria, necessary documents, and other considerations for employers.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Sara Herbek, who is a Managing Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (www.giafirm.com), Envoy’s affiliated law firm.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.