An L-1 is a short-term visa that may be an appropriate choice for you if you work for a multinational company and are willing to enter the USA as an intracompany transferee. Congress created the L-1 visa in 1970, in order to allow employers to more efficiently transfer professionals within their companies from countries abroad to the United States.
The USCIS may award these nonimmigrant visas to executives, managers, or those with specialized knowledge. If you are interested in applying to USCIS for an L-1 nonimmigrant visa, it may be prudent to consult with a skilled immigration attorney who is familiar with this type of intracompany transfer.
Two Kinds of L-1 Visas
Noncitizens who work for multinational businesses may qualify for either an L-1A or an L-1B visa.
Executives or managers who have been working continuously for a company with multinational offices for at least one of the past three years may be eligible to receive an L-1A visa. The USCIS defines an executive as someone who has the authority to “make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight.” A qualifying manager should be in a role in which they supervise professionals, control at least a department of an organization, or manage an essential function of the business at a high level.
An L-1B visa may be a viable option for a professional with specialized knowledge relating to the interests of the multinational organization. In general, the USCIS may consider a foreign professional for an L-1B intracompany transfer if they possess advanced knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures or other interests that are applicable to international markets. With this type of visa, the holder may also be able to enter the United States to establish a U.S. office if they meet the criteria to do so.
Qualifying for an L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa
In order to establish eligibility with the USCIS for either an L-1A or an L-1B intracompany transfer visa, both the organization and the professional must meet certain requirements.
Qualifying as a Multinational Employer
Generally, an organization in the USA may be able to qualify as a multinational employer for L-1 visa purposes if it meets two criteria:
The L-1 visa executive, manager, or professional with specialized knowledge will need to meet several criteria. To become eligible for an L-1A or L-1B visa, the noncitizen employee should have worked continuously for a company with multinational offices for at least one of the past three years in a role that qualifies them as an L-1 executive, manager, or professional with specialized knowledge.
Benefits of Obtaining an L-1 Visa
An L-1 visa has several advantages over other types of temporary statuses. These include the following:
Going from an L-1 Visa to a Green Card
An L1 visa is a nonimmigrant, intracompany transfer for work in the United States. It is not a green card. However, an individual who obtains an L-1 visa may be able to qualify for EB-1C lawful permanent resident (LPR) status as an intercorporate green card holder.
A businessperson with EB-1C status is an intercorporate green card holder. An alternative to the EB-5 immigrant investor green card, this lawful permanent resident status may be a viable option for entrepreneurs who have established themselves in businesses abroad.
Having worked in an executive or managerial capacity in their foreign business, an entrepreneur may be able to purchase a similar business in the United States and gain a one-year L-1 visa to enter the country to develop the venture. After the U.S. branch of the company has flourished for a year or more, the entrepreneur might consider applying for a EB-1C intercorporate green card.
L-1 Visa Application Process
The L-1 visa application process starts with completing Form I-129 and submitting it with supporting evidence to USCIS. Applicants may seek the assistance of an L-1 visa attorney with assembling the documents.
The L-1 nonimmigrant transfer visa generally has an initial stay of one to three years, depending on the type of L-1 and the age and circumstances of the company. However, an L-1 visa holder may also apply to USCIS for an extension. As with the initial L-1 visa petition process, an applicant will need to complete forms and submit supporting documentation to USCIS.
L-1 Visa Blanket Petitions
Certain American companies that are engaged in commercial trade or services may be able qualify themselves as multinational companies via an L-1 visa blanket petition. If the organization has already obtained ten or more L-1 intracompany transfers for its noncitizen professionals within a year’s time or has qualifying size or assets, it could consider applying for an L1 visa blanket petition A visa lawyer who is well-versed in L-1 blanket petitions can advise foreign national professionals who believe they might qualify.