The L-1 classification allows multinational organizations to transfer key personnel from overseas into the United States. This category permits a U.S. company to temporarily transfer certain employees from a properly affiliated foreign company. The L-1 requires a qualifying corporate relationship between the foreign and U.S. employer (e.g., parent, subsidiary, affiliate, branch office, or joint venture). Unlike the H-1B, this category of nonimmigrant visa is not dependent on academic preparation. Instead, to be considered for L-1 classification, the foreign national must have been employed by the qualifying entity abroad for at least one year within the three years preceding his application for admission. He or she must also have been employed in a managerial or executive capacity or position utilizing specialized knowledge abroad and be coming to the United States to undertake a similar role.
In other words, 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.
Foreign nationals can hold L-A visas for seven years, and L-1B for five years, with initial approval for up to three years. The period of stay is calculated as a combination of periods of stay on L1A, L1B and H1B status.
The L-1 classification also allows foreign employers to send an employee to the United States as an executive or manager to establish a new office in the U.S.
The spouses and unmarried children below the age of 21 are allowed to accompany or join the L-1 worker as L-2 dependents. Spouses on L-2 may work upon obtaining employment authorization from the USCIS. The unmarried children cannot work but can enroll and attend schools.
Requirements to be eligible for L-1 visa:
- A qualifying relationship must exist between the U.S. company and the foreign company. Qualifying relationships include parent company, branch, subsidiary or affiliate.
- The transferred employee must have been employed by the foreign affiliate for at least one continuous year within the three years prior to coming to the United States.
Procedure for Applying for an L-1 classification:
- Petition by multinational organization with USCIS indicating the transfer of its foreign national executive in a managerial/ executive/ specialized knowledge capacity, by including following documentation:
- Documents in support of qualifying relationship between the U.S. company and the foreign company;
- Documents in support of employment of foreign national by foreign affiliate for at least one continuous year within preceding three years in a managerial/ executive/ specialized knowledge capacity.
- Obtain approval from USCIS on Form I-797.
- Where applicable, foreign national to apply for L-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
- Procedure to apply for L-1 visa is illustrated below:
- Obtain Approval Notice (Form I-797) from USCIS for the L-1 petition filed by a U.S. Employer
- Complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/, upload photos while completing the online Form I-160, and print the confirmation page for interview
- Pay the non-refundable visa application fee
- Make an appointment for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate
Documents required for applying for an L-1 visa:
- Valid Passport: Applicant’s passport must be valid for at least six months at the time of applying for L-1 visa.
- Form DS-160 Confirmation Page.
- Application fee payment receipt.
- Photographs and Biometrics – Applicant will be required upload photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Alternatively, few U.S. Embassies/ Consulates have arrangements to setup a separate appointment for biometrics and photographs requirement. Applicants are required to follow the procedures of respective consulate they intend to apply at pertaining to completion of photographs and biometric requirement.
- Documents in support of the Job Offer, which include but not limited to L-1 Approval Notice, U.S. Employer’s position description, and foreign national’s employment history with foreign affiliate.
Few other things to note about L-1 classification:
- To facilitate the transfer of personnel into the United States, larger multinational companies can “prequalify” for L-1 classification by obtaining a “Blanket L” petition from the USCIS. An approved Blanket L petition allows the qualifying employee to apply directly to the U.S. consular post for his or her L-1 visa, eliminating the time-consuming process of individually petitioning the USCIS whenever an employer seeks to transfer a foreign national employee to the United States.