The L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa which allows companies to relocate foreign qualified employees to its U.S. subsidiary or parent company. The L1 visa is a good way for small or start-up overseas companies to expand their business and services to the United States. However, since the USCIS will scrutinize L visa petitions filed by lesser-known companies more closely, professional consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer is strongly recommended for these types of small businesses.
There are different types of L-1 visas. L-1A visa is specifically designed for intra-company executive or manager transferees. The L-1B visa is designed for intra-company transfers of employees with specialized knowledge. Generally, the requirements would be as follows:
Qualifying Relationship: Foreign and U.S. company must have a qualifying relationship (i.e., branch, subsidiary, or affiliate);
Work History: You must have worked for the foreign company for a continuous period of one year in the preceding three years;
Employment Capacity: The employee must be coming to the U.S. to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity, or to render services in a capacity requiring specialized knowledge.
Sufficient Physical Premise: In the case where the L-1 visa is used to establish a new office, the U.S. business must have physical premise sufficient to house the new office.
While some of these requirements seem simple, USCIS has consistently required extensive documentation to establish L-1 visa eligibility. This is particularly true of smaller, lesser-known companies.
Benefits of the L-1 Visa
Expedited Adjudication The L-1 visa petitions can take advantage of a service offered by the USCIS called premium processing. Premium processing provides faster processing for your L-1 petition. The USCIS guarantees a response within 15 calendar days.
Spouses and dependents of the L-1 visa holder (or L-2 visa holders) are permitted to attend school and/or work either part time or full time legally on their status. L-2 visas are issued to the L-1 holder’s spouse and unmarried children under twenty-one years of age who wish to accompany them to the United States. Holders of L-2 visas are considered to be the dependent of L-1 holders, as their duration of valid stay is the same as that of the L-1 holder.
L-1 visa is a dual intent visa. This means that the L-1 visa holder may apply for a Green Card and become a permanent resident without jeopardizing his/her L-1 visa status.
Usage in Conjunction with EB-5
Due to the current state of EB-5 retrogression, many EB-5 petitioners choose to obtain an L-1A status for the period in which they wait for their green card to become available. Because the L-1 visa allows dual intent, the EB-5 petition will not adversely affect the L-1 visa petition.
L-1A Path to Green Card
A specific employment-based immigrant preference category (EB-1C) was created for managers and executives who meet the L-1A non-immigrant standards and are interested in becoming lawful permanent residents. Although L-1A status is not a prerequisite for immigrant benefits in this category, an immigrant petitioner will have a stronger case for the EB-1C immigrant category if they were in L-1A status prior. The visa numbers are almost always current for the EB-1C category. This means that the L1 visa holder will not have to wait for visa numbers to become available before receiving a Green Card.