L1 Visa section contents
- L1 Visa Introduction
- Business owners can also apply for L1 Visa
- L1 Visa and Employment Based EB1C Green Card
- There are two types of employee who may be sponsored for USA L1 visa
- Further information, help, and advice for L1 Visa
The United States L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows overseas companies to transfer employees under two types of L1 visa schemes. For L1 visa transfers of executives and managers including business owners for up to seven years there is the L1A visa, and for specialized knowledge employees the L1B visa allows entry for up to five years to a new or existing US office. To qualify for an L1 visa the employee, which can include business owners, must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the US company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.
One of the benefits of the L1 visa is that there is no quota. Unlike in the case of the H1B visa category, an unlimited number of visas can be issued. However, unless the company is a very large company with blanket filing a considerable amount of documentation needs to be submitted for each L1 visa petition to the USCIS in duplicate. Indians and Chinese nationals are able to come under the L1 visa category. They are unable to come under the E2 visa and E1 visa which is limited only to certain nationalities.
This can be an excellent way for businesses including small businesses to expand into the US with a minimal investment. However, the business outside the US should continue trading even after the L1 visa holder has entered the US. Business owners who have worked for the business outside the US for one year in the last three years, wishing to set up a business in the US can apply without having to make a large investment of at least half a million dollars as required under the EB5 immigrant investor scheme.
The requirements for employment based immigration (permanent residence) under the EB1C immigrant scheme are similar to the requirements for the L1A Executive and Manager visa category. Many overseas executives and managers including business owners come under the L1A visa scheme first and then apply at a later date for EB1C as an international manager or executive which is one of the best ways of gaining an employment based immigrant visa (green card).
As you need to show that you have worked for the business outside the US for at least one year in the last three years, you need to apply for the EB1C immigrant visa within two years of entry to the US on an L1 visa. The business needs to have been established in the US for at least one year before you can apply under this green card scheme.
Companies operating in the US can apply to the relevant USCIS service center for an L1 intracompany transfer visa to transfer someone to the US from their overseas operations. Employees in this category will, initially, be granted an L1 visa for up to three years. For a new office (that has been in operation for less than a year) the L1 visa is granted for one year.
- L1A Executives and Managers
L1 Visa requirements for management and executive roles for these purposes is quite strict, and a detailed description of the duties attached to the position will be required. In particular, the executive or manager should have supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or for a key function of the department or subdivision of the employer. Such personnel are issued an L1A visa, initially for a three year period extendible in two year increments to a maximum of seven years. For a new US office entry for an L1 visa is granted for one year.
- L1B Specialized Knowledge Staff
This category covers those with knowledge of the company's products/services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or procedures. This should be explained in some detail when applying for the L1 visa. Staff in this category are issued an L1B visa, initially for three years extendable to a maximum of five years.
On completing the maximum allowable period in L1 visa status, the employee must be employed outside the United States for a minimum of one year before a new application is made for L or H status.
If you would like to apply for an L1 visa through workpermit.com, please fill out our application form.
Workpermit.com's team of specialists has over 25 years of experience in immigration services, and have helped thousands of people to study and work in the US. All applications for US visas are dealt with in-house by a US qualified lawyer who is typically also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Frequently Asked Questions:
What sort of investment is required to set up a new office on a L1 visa?
There is no investment requirement as such. The minimum requirement in most cases is that you have a company set up in the US and have an office. Forming a company is usually very easy to do and can be done online. You also do not need to spend very much on an office in the US, and so a basic office should be sufficient. There is no requirement that the business should have started trading as yet. Another option that many people consider is the E2 Treaty Investor visa category that requires you to show a substantial investment.
What is the requirement for an employee to be transferred to the US on an L1 visa?
The employee must have worked physically outside the US for at least one year in the last three years for the transferring business, either as a manager or executive or specialized knowledge worker. The requirements are quite strict these days. If time has been spent in the US this will not count towards the one year requirement that you have worked for the business outside the US. L1A visa management level people will usually need to show that they have managed a number of staff outside the US. L1B visa specialized knowledge workers should have high levels of specialized knowledge in a particular area.
What size business can come under the L1 intra-company transfer visa?
There is no requirement that the overseas business transferring the employee over to the US has to be a particular size. However, very small businesses with say one or two staff may have difficulty coming under the L1 intra-company transfer visa. For a very small business you may have difficulty showing that the business will remain trading outside the US while the L1 visa applicant is in the US. For very small businesses it may also be difficult to show that you meet the requirements as an L1A visa Executive or Manager outside the US for one year in the last three years.
Does the L1 visa lead to a Green Card?
Technically the L1 visa does not in itself lead to an employment based immigrant visa (frequently referred to as a “Green Card”). The good news is that the requirements for an L1A visa as a manager or executive are similar in many ways to the EB1C multinational manager or executive employment based immigrant visa. Therefore, if you are in the US on an L1A visa you may find it easier to qualify for an EB1C immigrant visa. One benefit of the EB1C visa is that there is no Labor Certification requirement and the process is relatively fast. To apply for a Green Card under this category the office in the US must have been trading for at least one year.