What is the L-1 Visa Category?

Immigration Attorneys


Are you looking for a U.S. visa in order to transfer to an office your company has in the United States? Fortunately, the L-1 visa may have been specifically designed for people in your position. The L-1 visa category is for intra-company transfers and allows a company with a U.S. office to transfer key employees from an office in another country to one based in the U.S. Let’s take a closer look at the details of the L-1 visa category.


What is the L-1 Visa Category?


The L-1 visa category is reserved for intra-company transfers of key company employees such as executives, managers, and other specialized knowledge employees. There are, in fact, two types of L-1 visas. An L-1A visa is for managers and executives who are transferring to their company’s U.S. office. Alternatively, an L-1A visa can be used for managers and executives who are coming to the U.S. in order to set-up the company’s U.S. office.  An L-1B visa is for specialized knowledge employees of the company who bring essential, specialized skills or knowledge to their role.


There are specific visa requirements that must be met in order for an employee to be eligible for an L-1 visa. It is the employer who must actually petition for the employee’s visa and is tasked with submitting the visa petition. The petitioning employer company can be a corporation or a charity and there are also other qualifying entity types. The U.S. office of the company must, however, have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company meaning that it must be a parent company, subsidiary, branch, office, or company affiliate. Furthermore, the company must be actively doing business as an employer in the U.S. and a minimum of one foreign country. Merely having an office will not suffice.


As far as qualifications of the employee looking to be the recipient of the U.S. visa, there are qualifications they will need to meet as well. The employee must have worked for the company for a minimum of one year of continuous employment within the last 36 months immediately preceding the L-1 visa petition. Any time the employee spent working in the U.S. does not count towards this one year of continuous employment.


The L-1 visa petition requires extensive supporting documentation, particularly for a petitioning company that is not necessarily established or well-known. An L-1A visa will likely require proof of the employee occupying an executive or managerial role while an L-1B visa will likely require proof of the employee’s skills, knowledge, or experience. The proof should support the employee having specialized knowledge that is not commonplace within the company’s industry or within the company itself.


Those granted an L-1A visa can stay for a maximum of 7 years. An L-1B visa grants a stay of up to 5 years. If an employee has previously worked in the U.S. with an H visa, however, the time period spent under the H visa can be deducted from the allowed stay time granted by either L-1 visa.


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