What is an L1 Inter-Company Transfer Visa?
An L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows a foreign company to transfer qualified foreign workers to a US branch office, subsidiary, or parent company. This visa also allows companies to transfer employees to set up a new office.
There are two types of L1 visas: 1) The L1-A visa for employees holding a managerial or executive position, and 2) The L1-B visa for employees holding a specialized knowledge position.
Benefits of L1 Visa For Singaporeans
You don’t need to prove steep requirements to be qualified
There are a lot of visas which allow foreign nationals to go to the US, but many of them have steep requirements that may be difficult to be fulfilled. For example, the E2 visa requires that you invest a substantial amount in a US business to be able to qualify.
However, the L1 visa only requires that you are employed in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity to qualify.
Please take note that while the L1 visa has no set wage requirement, the employer must still comply with the current state and federal minimum wage laws.
You don’t have to fight with annual visa caps
Some visas have strict annual caps on how many petitions are approved each year. In return, this results in a small number of petitions being selected from a pool of submitted petitions or backlogs in the approval of petitions, which makes the visa harder to obtain.
However, there are no current limits on how many L1 visas are approved each year, which means you don’t have to wait a long time to get approved or your petition won’t be rejected because there are no more visas left.
Your dependent family members can go to the US with you
Another benefit of an L1 visa is that your dependent family members such as your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can go with you to the US. Your children can study and have access to US education while your spouse can work without securing an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as they’re already considered employment-authorized based on their status.
You don’t need a degree to qualify
There are visas which require that you have a certain educational attainment before you can qualify for the visa. With the L1 visa, you don’t need a degree or higher educational attainment to qualify.
You can pursue lawful permanent resident status
L1 is considered to be a dual intent visa, which means that L1 visa holders can pursue a lawful permanent resident status during their stay. Compared to other visas, you can pursue a green card without violating your nonimmigrant status and incur consequences from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
L1 Visa Qualifications
L1-A Visa for Managers and Executives
To be able to qualify for an L1-A visa, there are certain qualifications that you must meet. For purposes of the L1-A visa, applicants must meet the definition of a managerial or executive employee.
An employee is said to be acting in a managerial or executive capacity when they:
- Oversee the day-to-day operations and management of the business or company
- Establish the policies, procedures, rules, and goals of the business or company
- Makes executive decisions for the business or company
- Supervises high-level employees in the company and receives general supervision only from high-level directors and stockholders
- Head a key department in the business or company
- Hires, fires, and recommends personnel for vertical movement within the company
- Directs the day-to-day operations of the business or company
- Supervises and controls the work of high-level workers from professional, managerial, or supervisory roles.
L1-B Specialized Knowledge Employee Visa
Similar to an L1-A visa, the L1-B visa can also be used to transfer employees to the US, the difference is that they are considered specialized knowledge workers. These employees are indispensable to the various functions of the business or the company’s interests.
According to the USCIS, specialized knowledge is considered as the employee’s extensive knowledge of the products, services, management processes and other essential company interests that may be used in international markets.
How To Open an L-1 Qualifying Business In The USA
Both the L1-A and L1-B visa allows the employees to open a new branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of a foreign company in the US. Multinational companies that are looking to file an L1 visa petition to transfer an employee to the US to establish a new office are required to show the following:
- Evidence that it has acquired a physical space to set up the new office in the US
- Show their financial ability to start business operations in the US and pay the wages of the L1 employee for the duration of their stay
L-1 Visa Requirements For Singaporeans
There are certain requirements that the employer and employee must meet for the employee to acquire an L1 visa. We have listed them down for you below:
For the employer:
There must be a qualifying relationship between the multinational and US companies where the L1 employee will work. It can be in the form of a parent company, sister, subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate.
Moreover, the multinational company must be doing business as an employer in the US and another country for the duration of the L1 employee’s stay in the US. If the multinational company is not currently doing business in the US, it must have plans to do so and provide the necessary and supporting documents to show it.
“Doing business” means the regular and continuous selling of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and earning profits.
For the employee:
The L1 transferring employee must have worked for the multinational company continuously for at least 1 year within the last 3 years before their transfer.
Moreover, the L1 transferring employee must have worked for the multinational company in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge position and must be transferred to the US to perform a similar role.
The L1 transferring employee must also signify their intent to return to their home country at the expiration of their visa, and must only work for the US company which their visa was granted for as long as their L1 visa remains valid.
L1 Visa Validity Period
The L1 visa is valid for up to seven years for L1-A visa holders and up to five years for L1-B visa holders. In both cases, the USCIS generally issues the visa initially for a 3-year period which can be extended in increments of 2 years until the maximum duration of stay is met.
If the employee is transferring to the US to establish a new office, the USCIS generally grants the visa initially for one year which can be extended to 2-year terms as long as they meet the extension requirements.
L1 Visa Application Process
The foreign company has two ways to file a petition for an L1 visa, either through an individual petition or through a blanket petition. The main difference is that through a blanket petition, the foreign company can initiate multiple petitions at once. Either way, the process is less complex than other visas. Here is the complete application process for an L1 visa:
Filing Form I-129. The company needs to submit first the L1 petition at the USCIS service centre. You would need to attach the approved petition with the documents you will submit.
Filing Form DS-160. Once the company has made the L1 petition and it is subsequently approved, you can begin the visa application process by submitting a Form DS-160. After this, you need to prepare and submit relevant documents to prove your eligibility for the visa.
Consular Processing. Once your DS-160 has been approved, the consular officer will then conduct an interview and decide whether you meet all the requirements for an L1 visa. In some cases, the consular officer would request additional evidence or other documents before processing your visa application. Once they approve your visa, the USCIS will issue the visa.
L-1 Visa Processing Time
The processing time of an L1 visa depends on the USCIS service centre handling the L1 petition and the US Embassy or Consulate where the transferring employee has filed their application. Generally, the processing time for an I-129 petition can take around 6 months, while consular processing can generally take 6 months or beyond.
However, you can avail of the premium processing of the USCIS for a fee of $2,500. With this, your application will be processed within 15 calendar days instead of 6 months. Please take note that this doesn’t guarantee that the visa will be issued. The USCIS will issue a full refund should they fail to process the petition within the required time frame.
Costs and Fees for L-1 Visa
There are different costs associated with your L1 visa application, and you have to make sure you pay them accordingly or you risk your application getting denied. We have highlighted the costs below:
Form I-129 – $460. The filing fee must be submitted together with the Form I-129.
Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee – $500. Your employer would need to pay an additional fee for the USCIS to investigate fraudulent filings.
Visa Application Fee for Consular Processing – $190. Once the USCIS has approved the Form I-129, you will then need to proceed to the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country. You would need to pay the application fee.
Premium Processing Fee (Optional) – $2,500. The processing fee can be paid in the USCIS during the processing of the Form I-129 petition to expedite the process and adjudication.
Public Law 114-113 Fee – $4,500. This fee only applies to US employers who have more than 50 employees and at least half of them are L1 or H1-B holders.
Legal Fees. This fee may vary depending on the legal services you employ. We highly recommend the services of an experienced L1 visa lawyer to help you with your visa application and increase your chances of getting approved.
Business Entity Formation. If you are transferring to the US to set up a new office, this fee is needed to cover the costs of setting up a new company. Your employer is the one primarily responsible for this fee.
Documentations Singaporeans Need to Know
As we have said, the submission of necessary and relevant documents during your consular interview is needed for the consular officer to properly adjudicate your application. The documents you submit will be the basis for whether the consular officer denies or approves based on your qualifications. These documents include:
- Your passport and recent passport-size coloured photograph
- Your approved DS-160 application
- Your consular interview appointment letter, both the original and photocopies
- The receipt for payment of the application fees
- Visa issuance fee demand draft
- Your resume or CV
- A detailed job description of your position in the foreign company
- A detailed job description of your position and job in the US company
- General information about the US company and the foreign company, including photographs of their locations
- Evidence of your past work experiences from previous employers
- Certificates of training you have undertaken
- Bank records within the past 6 months.
The documents above are not an exclusive list of the documents you would need to submit, and there are chances that the consular officer may request additional evidence to properly adjudicate your visa application. You have the option to engage the services of a US immigration lawyer Singapore has to offer to help you determine the right documents to be submitted during your application and to avoid costly mistakes.
Please take note that even though an L1 visa can be extended, it doesn’t mean that it will always be granted. You must first meet the conditions for the extension such as:
- You must be holding a valid L1 visa
- You must have a clean criminal record throughout your stay
- You must have followed the conditions of your admission to the US from the time the L1 visa was issued
- You must hold a valid passport throughout your stay.
If you are still qualified, your L1 visa can be extended in 2-year increments until you reach the maximum duration. Moreover, it’s important to remember to file the extension at least 45 days before the expiry of your visa to let USCIS have enough time to process such an extension.
L1 Blanket Visa
An L1 blanket visa essentially helps the employer to transfer employees under a single petition and on short notice. This eliminates the need to file separate petitions for each L1 visa applicant.
The process is essentially similar, the difference is that the company would just need to send a copy of the L1 blanket petition approval notice and the completed Form I-129S to the transferring employee.
Not all companies are eligible to file an L1 blanket visa, however. It is only available to qualifying organizations that satisfy the following criteria:
- The company must have an office in the US that’s been operating for not less than a year
- The company must be established enough to have three other branch offices, affiliates or subsidiaries around the world
- The company must have a minimum of 1, 000 employees
- The company and its qualifying organizations must have a combined annual sales of at least 15 million dollars
- The company must have successfully been approved for at least ten L1 approvals within the last 12 months before the filing of the blanket visa petition
- The company and its qualifying organizations must be engaged in commercial trade or services.
L-1 Visa Restrictions and Disadvantages
The L1 visa is not glitz and glamour, however, and the visa may come with some restrictions and disadvantages. Even though it comes with several benefits, you must also take note of the disadvantages associated with it.
You must be already employed.
If you are not employed in a multinational company that’s large enough to have an office in the US, it can be hard to apply for an L1 visa. As such, if you are planning to go to the US under an employment-based visa, you might need to check for other options.
You can’t extend your visa beyond the maximum period of stay.
Even though the L1 visa allows you to work in the US for up to seven years or up to five years, you can’t work beyond this maximum duration. While other visas allow you to work beyond the maximum period of stay, L1 visa holders are only granted one extension for every 2 years. After that, you would need to apply for a new L1 visa.
You can only work for one employer.
Under the L1 visa, you are only allowed to work for the company which your visa is granted for. You are not allowed to work for another company, nor are you allowed to start for other businesses.
Alternatives to the L-1 Visa
If you have an advanced degree, extensive publications or citations, awards in your field, or any other evidence that you are a leading professional in your field of work, your employer can also sponsor you for an O1 Visa.
Moreover, you can also apply for an H1-B visa which allows you to work in the US for a specific period. Under this visa, you must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent typically in the fields of technology, finance, engineering, and architecture among others. Please take note that under this visa, the US employer initiates the petition and that there are annual visa caps.
L-1 Visa for Singaporeans FAQs
Can I apply for a green card even if I’m an L1 visa holder?
Yes, you can apply for a green card as an L1 visa holder. Your employer can sponsor you by filing a petition on your behalf, either through EB2 or EB3 employment-based immigrant visas. Moreover, if are married to a US citizen, your spouse can sponsor you for a green card.
We highly recommend that you engage the services of an experienced immigration lawyer to help you determine the right path towards a green card.
Can my spouse work in the US?
Yes, your spouse can work in the US without anymore obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The recent policy update by the USCIS allows L visa spouses to work without securing an EAD anymore as they are considered employment-authorized based on their valid L status.
Can I start a new company while holding an L1 visa?
No, you can’t start or register a new company while under the L1 visa. This visa allows you to work in the US temporarily as a manager, executive or specialized knowledge employee. It doesn’t allow you to start or register a new business in the US.
Can I apply for an H1-B visa while working on the requirements of an L1 visa?
No, you can’t work on the requirements of an L1 visa and then apply for an H1-B visa. The H1-B visa allows you to work in the US for speciality occupations and has different qualifications and requirements that you must meet.
Can an L2 dependent visa holder stay in the US without an L1 visa holder?
No, a L2 visa holder is dependent upon an L1 visa holder as the latter provides support for the former to stay in the US