Businesses that function both in the United States and in their home country gain the benefits of the best of both areas. The L-1 visa is open to international organizations with offices in the U.S., and who transfer employees to the U.S office for temporary periods of time. This visa is sometimes referred to as the ‘intra-company transferee’ visa.
To obtain an L-1 visa, you must be able to prove that you have worked for the non-U.S. company for at least one full year within the last three years as an executive, manager or employee with specialized knowledge. The L-1 visa enables the transfer of managers, executives and specialized knowledge personnel to a U.S. office, subsidiary or affiliated company. This visa comes in the following categories:
L-1A visas – for executives and managers
L-1B visas – for personnel with specialized knowledge.
Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are allowed to join you in the U.S., under L-2 status. The L-2 spouse is allowed to work provided that s/he first obtains employment authorization from the USCIS. L-2 spouse as well as L-2 children can attend school or college. Servants may be eligible for a B-1 visa with work authorization.
The employer must file a petition with the USCIS Regional Service Center with jurisdiction over the location of the position. These documents should be photocopies of the originals. The L-1 petition can be premium processed which means that if an additional fee of $ 1000 is paid on top of the filing fee of $190 and the fraud prevention and detection fee of $500, the petition will be adjudicated within 15 days of being filed with the USCIS.
The USCIS may request additional documents prior to either approving or denying the case. If it is a premium processing case, the request for additional documents or information must come within the 15 days. You will then have 12 weeks to respond.
Once approved, the USCIS will forward the petition to the U.S. Consulate nearest your place of residence for review. If you are not in the U.S. when your petition is approved, you must get your visa stamped at the U.S. Consulate before being allowed to enter the U.S. Your employer will receive Form I-797, notice of approval. After receipt of the I-797, you must then file-in Form DS-160 at the Consulate.
If approved, your visa will be valid for 3 years. Blanket Petition: A blanket petition eases the process of getting the L-1 visa. If a company has been defined as a blanket petition entity by USCIS, the company can directly authorize L-1 visas to eligible employees.
To apply for an L-1 Visa, you must supply the following documents:
- A filled-in visa application Form DS-160.
- The employee copy of Form I-797. The Notice of Action, this petition is filed-in to the USCIS by your employer.
- Copy of USCIS Form I-129, and the L Supplement.
Your petition should show that both the U.S. and foreign-based company meet USCIS requirements for L-1 status. The U.S. entity should be a branch office, subsidiary or affiliate of the foreign enterprise, and both companies should be actively engaged in business.
The following documents may also be required:
- A letter from your prospective U.S. employer on company letterhead detailing your position and the U.S. operation’s status.
- Letters proving that the U.S. and foreign entities are engaged in business. These can be from attorneys, bankers or accountants.
- Proof of the size and status of the U.S. and foreign entities.
- Documents that detail the value of the applicant’s skills in regards to the U.S. entity.
You, the employee, should provide the following documents:
- A resume or curriculum vitae.
- Copies of passports for family members joining you.
- Proof of education: degrees, transcripts, etc.
- Reference letters from former employers.
- Professional licenses, if applicable.
If you are coming to the U.S. to start a new office, you should also provide the following documents:
- Proof of a building or location for the new office. A lease will work for this.
- Proof of your relationship with the foreign entity.
- Proof of financial resoluteness. You must show that you can pay your U.S. employees and handle any other business costs.