1. What is an L-1 visa?
The L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant (meaning not permanent residence/green card) visa. It is designed to facilitate the transfer of multinational employees from a company outside the US to that same company’s office in the US. There are two sub-categories within the L-1 classification:
- The L-1A is for multinational managers or executives, and
- The L-1B is for specialized knowledge employees.
2. What are the requirements to obtain an L-1 visa?
First, the correct corporate structure must be in place between the overseas entity and the US entity. This relationship between the two entities can be a parent/subsidiary situation, an affiliate or a branch office. It is critical that the appropriate corporate relationship exist, and that it can be clearly documented.
Second, the L-1 beneficiary (the person seeking L-1 status) must have worked for at least one year of the past three years for the overseas company. Any time spent in the US (in B-1 status for example) does not break the continuity, but it also does not count towards the required one year.
Finally, the beneficiary must meet certain criteria according to the type of L-1 he or she is seeking.
- Direct the management of the organization or a major component or function;
- Establish goals and policies;
- Exercise wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
- Receive only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, board of directors, or stockholders.
- Manage the organization, department, subdivision, function, or component;
- Supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees, or manage an essential function within the organization or department or subdivision of the organization;
- Has authority to hire and fire or recommend personnel actions; and
- Exercise discretion of day-to-day operations of the activity or function.
Specialized Knowledge: This is not well defined, but generally includes a person who has “special” knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests and its application in international markets, or has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.
Each requirement must be clearly and fully documented.
3. For how long is the L-1 status valid?
The petition is valid for three years initially, and can be extended in two year increments. A person may hold L-1A status for up to seven years total, and a person may hold L-1B status for up to five years. Also:
- Any time spent in L-1B will count against the L-1A seven year limit. So if you spend five years in L-1B status, and then change to L-1A status, you will have a maximum of only two years left.
- Any time spent in L-1 status will count against the six year H-1B limit, and vice versa. So if you spend five years in L-1 status, and then change status to H-1B, you would have only one year left.
- Unlike H-1B status, the L-1 status cannot be extended past the seventh (or fifth) year, even if the permanent residence process is started.
4. When can we file the L-1 petition?
There is no numerical limit on the L-1 classification (unlike the H-1B), so it can be filed any time of year, regardless of the H-1B cap. In fact, it is sometimes used as an alternative to the H-1B classification.
5. What is the petition process?
The employer (or the employer’s attorney) files the L-1 petition with USCIS with the supporting documentation and support letter. Once the petition is filed, the employer and the attorney will receive a receipt notice with a tracking number (called the receipt number).
USCIS can take around one to two months to process a new L-1 petition, or up to several months to process an L-1 extension. However, USCIS does offer the premium processing service for the L-1. This means that if the employer pays USCIS an extra fee (currently $1225), USCIS will make a decision or issue a request for evidence within 15 calendar days.
If the L-1 employee is outside the US, he/she must apply for the L-1 visa at the US consulate before entering the US.
6. What about the L-1 employee’s family members?
Family members (spouses and children under age 21) can obtain L-2 status. The spouse may work in L-2 status; work authorization is documented using the employment authorization document (EAD).
7. What are the costs for the L-1 petition?
Please contact Sumner Immigration Law for the exact legal and filing fees. Please note that the employer must pay the employer fraud fee of $500 (for new petitions only).
8. Does the US entity have to pay the employee’s salary?
Either the US entity or the overseas entity can pay the employee’s salary.
9. Can the L-1 employee start the permanent residence (green card) process while in L-1 status?
Yes! L-1 status allows for dual intent, meaning a person can hold L-1 status and start the permanent residence process. In fact, there is a special “fast-track” permanent residence process available for certain multinational managers and executives. Please contact Sumner Immigration Law for more information on this process.
10. What documents are required for the L-1 process?
Please contact Sumner Immigration Law to request the specific list. However, generally speaking, the attorney will need basic corporate information (full name of company, number of employees, etc). If we have not filed an L-1 petition for your company before, we will also need copies of the most recent tax returns, business plans, etc. Note that all information will be kept confidential.
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