L1 Visa section contents
- L1 Visa Introduction
- Business owners can also apply for L1 Visa
- Qualifying relationship between the overseas company and the US company
- L1 Visa and Employment Based EB1C Green Card
- There are two types of employee who may be sponsored for USA L1 visa
- L1 Blanket 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 900,000 dollars as required under the EB5 immigrant investor scheme. The L1 visa is also much quicker to obtain
The L1 visa is designed for foreign companies wishing to transfer select employees to a U.S. affiliate, subsidiary, or branch. The nature of this qualifying relationship can be one of three types:
There are three specific sub-categories that qualify:
- One company owns more than 50% of the other.
- One company is a 50% partner in a joint venture and possesses equal control and veto power over the other.
- One company owns a minority stake in the other but maintains control.
Branch Office Relationships:
A branch office is essentially a different location of the parent company. It must be registered as a foreign operating company in the U.S. to qualify for the L1 visa.
Three specific scenarios qualify as an affiliate relationship:
- Both companies are owned and controlled by the same parent or individual.
- Each company is owned and controlled by the same set of individuals, each having approximately the same ownership and control proportion.
- Certain multinational accounting firms also qualify.
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 preceding the EB1C petition being made, you need to apply for the EB1C immigrant visa within two years of entry to the US on an L1 visa. Alternatively, you need to have shown that you worked for the overseas employer for at least one year in the last three years preceding the most recent lawful nonimmigrant admission to the US. The business needs to have been established in the US for at least one year before you can apply under this green card scheme. The petitioner for EB1C must be the US employer.
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.
What Is the L1 Blanket Visa?
The L1 Blanket Visa certification IS designed for employers who frequently utilize the L1 visa category to transfer employees from foreign offices to the United States. By securing L1 Blanket Visa approval, employees can expedite their L1 visa process; they can apply directly at a U.S. consulate without needing prior I-129 petition approval at USCIS in the US.
Who Is Eligible for an L1 Blanket Visa?
To be eligible for L1 Blanket Visa certification, the following conditions must be met:
Scope of Business: The U.S. company and all associated parent companies, subsidiaries, and other qualifying organizations must be actively involved in commercial trade or services.
Business Longevity: The U.S. company must maintain a business office in the United States that has been operational for at least one year.
Business Scale: The U.S. company should have a minimum of three domestic or international branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates.
Additional Qualifying Criteria: The U.S. company, along with all qualifying organizations, must satisfy one of the following conditions:
Have secured approval for a minimum of 10 L1 visas in the past year.
Possess U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with a cumulative annual sales volume of at least $25 million
Employ a U.S.-based workforce comprising at least 1,000 individuals.
These criteria are set forth by the [Code of Federal Regulations Section 214.2(l)].
By meeting these conditions, companies can streamline the L1 visa process for their employees, making international transfers more efficient and less time-consuming.
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 30 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. Probably you should also set up a US bank account. 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 is available only to certain nationals, and 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 as a personnel manager, or manage an essential function of the organization. L1B visa specialized knowledge workers should have high levels of specialized knowledge in a particular area that will be difficult to find in the US, and is not commonly found in the business in the US or overseas.
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.