L-1 Visa

Q: What is a blanket L visa petition and what are the requirements?

A: The L Blanket petition is a procedure where a company may "pre-qualify" to transfer its L-1 employees. Once the L-1 Blanket is approved, the company may transfer people to the U.S. on an L-1 visa quickly and on short notice, eliminating the need to file a separate petition for each employee with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The main advantage of a L blanket petition is that it speeds up the process of transferring employees from several months to a few days (or weeks). It eliminates a need for filing several separate petitions with USCIS.

However, in order to obtain a L Blanket, a company must meet some additional requirements that are not part of the regular L-1 criteria. There are also restrictions on which companies can apply for this. Consideration is only given to larger and more established institutions that have a verifiable track record of sales and employee volume over a period of time.

The definitions for managers and executives are the same as for an individual L-1 visa. The definition of a "specialized knowledge" employee is still based on having at least a bachelor's degree or an equivalency based on specialized education and work experience, but one difference here is that the required length of experience with the employer is only six months compared to a year with the regular L-1 visa.

The employer needs to complete Form I-295 and send it to the employee along with the approval document (Form I-797). This approval is valid for three years, and can be extended a number of times. If everything is in order, the employee will receive an L-1 visa stamp on his passport. This is done at a U.S. Consulate office.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What is the difference between an L-1A visa and L-1B visa?

A: There are important differences between the L-1A and the L-1b visas.

The L-1A visa is for an intra-company manager or executive. The legal definition of management and executive roles for these purposes is fairly stringent, and a detailed description of the duties involved with the position will be required. It is important that the executive or manager should have supervisory responsibility over a staff and hold a key position in a department or a branch of the employer's operations. He should be capable of making of wide ranging decisions without much oversight. There are no special academic requirements, but the L-1A visa does require prior employment in that position for at least one year of the preceding three with the same company. If these guidelines are met, an L-1A visa can be issued for a three-year period. Extensions in two-year increments are allowed up to a maximum of seven years.

The L-1B visa, on the other hand, is for an employee with "specialized knowledge." This knowledge is partly academic and partly identified with the company situation. It revolves around their products, techniques, management systems, research, equipment, corporate structure, and general procedures. Such people would be considered "key employees" of the company, and could be comprised of accountants, engineers, programmers, etc. This visa is not degree specific. In fact, a degree is not a requirement to qualify for a "B" rating. This is one reason why, in some cases, USCIS tends to want proof of expertise barring a normal degree or qualification. A company may even need to prove that it would be impractical for them to train a U.S. citizen to do the job. Since L-1B visas are available in unlimited numbers to employees of international companies, there is currently more scrutiny being leveled at the skills of applicants than in previous years. If approval is given, employees in this category are issued an L-1B visa initially for three years, but it can be extended up to a maximum of five years

Neither class of L-1 employees is permitted to work for any employer other than the one who sponsored them.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Does an L-1 visa allow for transfers or changing of jobs in the U.S.?

A: Basically the L-1 visa does allow for transfers or changing of jobs in the U.S. However, there are factors to be considered. Someone with L-1 status must work for a member of the multinational company group that initially acted as his sponsor. A foreign national in the U.S. on an L-1 visa is limited to working in L-1 status for a qualifying member of that multinational group (parent, subsidiary, sister, branch, or affiliated company) that sponsored him or her. If the individual entered the US on a regular L-1 visa, USCIS must be notified of any change in employment. If the individual entered the U.S. on a Blanket L-1, they may move between any of the group members listed on the Blanket L petition without further notification to USCIS. Any employment outside of a qualifying member of the multinational group will require a different type of visa.

In a situation where someone is fired by their U.S. employer while on an L-1 visa, there is a short time period allowable for looking for a new job and having that new job approved by USCIS. Otherwise it is necessary to return to the home country. It is acceptable to move to different U.S. work sites, as long as they are still under the same management and control.

There are no rules against part-time work in any of the locations. There are also no rules that govern the wages that must be paid to such workers. Salaries are not necessarily based on the U.S. standards, but being noticeably out of line with prevailing wages for similar employment could result in intervention by either USCIS or the Department of Labor.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: My L-1 visa application has been denied. What are the next steps?

A: The L-1 visa application can be denied because there was either an issue with the required documentation (221g) or the overall situation of the applicant in the home country did not warrant an approval from the visa officer (214b).

Regardless of the type of denial, you can apply again and again and at any timeframe after the issuance of the denial. Since a denied application cannot be appealed, you must reapply with a brand new visa application. This includes payment of all fees associated with the application.

For denials based on section 221g of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), you can resubmit the new application with the missing or additional documentation in order to resolve the issue of the initial denial.

For denials based on section 214b of the INA, you must provide additional proof of strong ties in the home country. The visa officer is in need of sufficient proof that there would be no chance of abandoning the home country while in the United States. Such proof can include additional documentation of economic and social ties in the home country, as well as proof of financial capability to live in the United States and return to your home country when required. Please note that the interview with the visa officer is only a small and short part of the process and that the overall application, including supporting documentation, is what the visa officer relies on to determine your visa approval.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Does the L-1 visa petition require any documentary evidence to validate the existence of the foreign company and its relationship to the U.S. company?

A: Yes, there is extensive documentation required by the USCIS in this process. This documentation is needed to establish the relationship between the two companies, the nature of the proposed project, as well as proof of the employee's personal qualifications. Providing all relevant documents and forms will help in speeding up your approval process.

Below is a list of some suggestions of which documents may be assembled by the foreign company. This is an area where an immigration attorney’s experience and expertise is essential.

  • Documents relating to the company ownership. This would include incorporation, partnerships, or other articles showing the company structure and ownership.
  • Evidence of licenses or permits issued by the local government or other entities that govern the company’s operation.
  • Documents that indicate that the company exists at a specific location. This can be shown by the existence of monthly office or warehouse lease payments, ownership deeds, and other ongoing costs of doing business.
  • Financial documents such as bank statements, P&Ls, and inventory lists. A bank letter and prior years tax returns will also add weight.
  • Evidence of ongoing business activities. This would include sales figures, advertising expenses, company printed literature and brochures, and letterheads.
  • List of present employees and copy of employment agreements used for hiring. It is necessary to establish that the company does have employees when seeking a L-1 visa approval. If possible, the individual employees wanting this status should be on the employee list along with the job title and relevant dates.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Can the spouse of a L-1 visa holder find work in the U.S. while stationed here?

A: First, it is best to settle the question of who is a spouse. For immigration purposes, a spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife. Cohabiting partners do not qualify. Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs. Polygamy is not allowed by U.S. rules. Only the first spouse qualifies as a spouse. In cases of legal marriage to two or more spouses at the same time, or marriages overlapping for a period of time, you may file only for the first spouse. If a divorce is involved, it must be final.

If those conditions are met, then a document termed an L-2 visa can be issued. This is a dependent visa tied to the issuance of an L-1 visa to the spouse. Therefore, the term will be either for 5 years or 7 years. As long as the L-2 visa stamps and status requirements are met, there are no restrictions on travel in and out of the U.S.

There is another option involving an H-4 visa, but only the L-2 visa makes provision for a spouse to find work should they opt for that choice. They can apply for an EAD (employment authorization document) with the USCIS and, when approved, can apply for any job anywhere in the U.S., and in any field, full or part-time. The EAD filing has to be done by the individual. It is not the responsibility of the employer. It is better to have this approved and issued before applying for the job. The term of validity for the EAD is two years, but is renewable.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What are the main differences between an L-1 and an EB-5 visa?

A: There are substantial differences between the L-1 and the EB-5 visas, both in the privileges conferred and the timeframe involved. In general, the difference is that the L-1 visa is non-immigrant visa, while the EB-5 visa is considered an employment-based immigrant visa.

An L-1 visa is issued to an executive or a key person with specialty knowledge to work for a company for a 1 to 5 year period. When the period expires, they must go back to their home country. They are eligible for an extension of the time, but there can be no permanency to their stay. Under an L-1 visa, you can operate in this status as long as you meet all requirements for this visa, but you are not considered to be a resident of the U.S.

By contrast, the EB-5 visa is an investor immigrant category that creates a permanent resident status for the holder and can eventually lead to citizenship. A monetary investment is required for approval, and a two-year green card will be issued. This is conditional, since there are other conditions to be met involving such matters as job creation and successful operation of a company. If all conditions are met, the way is cleared for receiving an unconditional green card, and permanent resident status in the U.S.

There is not a large difference between the conditional and permanent green cards in the rights and privileges conferred. Actually, U.S. citizenship is available five years from the date of the original temporary green card. Nevertheless, the original card is intended for a two-year purpose, and must be upgraded.

The L-1 visa, while not requiring a substantial capital investment as the EB-5 visa, does need to have a participating employer and sponsor involved.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What kind of visa is available for the children of an L-1 visa holder?

A: Children of an employee working in the U.S. under an L-1 visa classification can accompany their parent or parents. The application can be made under an L-2 visa for all children under the age of 21.

Children (termed derivatives for immigration purposes) are generally subject to the same visa validity, period of admission, and limitation of stay as the principal applicant. Only biological or legally-adopted children are entitled to derivative status. An adopted child must have been legally adopted before the age of 16 and must have been living with the adoptive parent for at least two years. A child born after a petition is approved may be registered or added on to the petition as a derivative.

Under current rules, any child age 14 years of age and older must be present at the interview. Unlike the spouse of an L-1 visa holder, the children do not have permission to work in the U.S. They are not authorized to apply for or obtain an Employment Authorization Card from immigration services.

The application for an L-2 visa can be made in various places depending on circumstances. Someone not in the United States should use forms DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158 and submit them at a U.S. Consulate Office. For someone already in the United States, (in a status other than L-2), form I-539 should be used to apply for a change of status to L-2.

The authorized stay in the U.S. under the L-2 visa status normally expires at the same time as the L-1 visa held by the principal family member. There are provisions for extending the period of stay, with rules similar to those existing for holders of L-1 visas.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Is there a way to speed up my L-1 visa application process?

A: Regular processing of an L-1 petition can take anywhere from three to five months. In cases where the petition was filed under a blanket L-1 format, it can be done in less.

So for those who want or need faster service than this, the USCIS offers a service called Premium Processing for L-1A and L-1B visas. This basically provides faster processing for a fee. The USCIS guarantees that within 15 calendar days, clients of premium processing will receive either an approval notice, a denial notice, a notice of intent to deny, a Request for Evidence (RFE), or notice of an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation.

To request premium processing, Form I-907, (Request for Premium Processing Service) must be completed along with the standard Form I-129, (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker). They must accompany the L-1 visa petition. In addition to all other filing fees required for the application, there is a $1,225 Premium Processing fee levied. The premium processing service fee must be submitted in a separate check or money order. For most business transactions USCIS will accept credit card, debit card, and electronic fund transfers from a U.S. bank.

To expedite the process when filing Form I-907, a postage paid self-addressed envelope might be included. USCIS will send each premium processing customer an automatic email notification upon receiving Form I-907.

All subscribers to the premium processing service receive a special USCIS phone number and email address at each USCIS service center.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Can I change from L visa status to an H-1B visa once I have maxed out my stay on the L status?

A: Possibly. The time spent in the U.S. on your L status will count toward the H-1B visa limit of six years. However, if you were on a L-1A visa, you cannot get an H-1B visa if you have maxed out your seven years unless you qualify for a 7th year H-1B based on a pending Labor Certification/Immigrant Visa Processing.

The L-1 to H-1B visa change of status is subject to the H-1B cap unless the H-1B employer is cap-exempt.

You will need to wait for this approval before you can start working for the sponsoring company. If you wish to remain on L status after that date for a period of time, you will need to leave the U.S. and re-enter on L status.

If your H-1B status is approved, you status will automatically change from L status on the date of approval. The H-1B visa stamp will not be needed on your passport if the USCIS has approved the change of status and has given a new I-94 with the new validity dates. However, if you have never traveled to the U.S., you will need to get the H-1B visa stamped in your passport before you can make the trip to take up your H-1B job. You should not travel to the U.S. with an L visa stamp with an intent to work for your H-1B employer.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Visa Lawyer Blog - L-1 Visa