Article

L1 Visa Processing Time: Planning Your Professional Move

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Processing times for an L1 visa

The L1 visa allows a foreign company to deploy key employees holding specialized knowledge, executive, or managerial positions to work in a qualified U.S. branch office, subsidiary, or parent company temporarily.

Due to the ever-changing US immigration laws and rules, the strict L1 visa process can be prolonged which can be detrimental to the operations of the company due to its operational and commercial needs where it needs the right people at the right place at the right time.

The processing time of an L1 visa also depends on a myriad of factors such as the caseload of the visa centre or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling the application and whether you’ll be opting for premium processing or standard processing.

Generally, the L1 visa is processed including the processing of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Form I-129 petition of the employer, which usually takes up to six months, and the consular processing which can take six months and beyond. This can be reduced if the employer applies under a blanket petition, where the application process can be reduced to 1-3 weeks.

When the employer pays for premium processing, the USCIS can process the Form I-129 within 15 days provided they pay the fee of $2,500. To opt for this service, they must file Form I-907 together with the Form I-129. The 15 days will be reset if the USCIS asks for further evidence through the RFE, and a new 15-day limit will apply once you have submitted additional evidence.

You can also contact the US Embassy or Consulate handling your petition for any guidance regarding the current processing times as they may vary per year.

Due to the different factors that affect the processing times of an L1 visa, it is highly recommended that you seek the guidance and consultation of an L1 visa lawyer who can help you prevent any delays with your application and help reduce the time it would need to process your visa.

Factors that influence the processing time for an L1 visa

There are myriad reasons why a multinational company will opt for an L1 visa, whether it be to establish a presence in the U.S. or to transfer multiple key employees to lead accounts. No matter the reason, it all points to the operations of the business, making it crucial for employers to understand the different factors that may be involved in possibly delaying the issuance of an L1 visa. Any further delay may cause effects to the business operations, which may be detrimental.

The processing time of an L1 varies depending on the caseload of the USCIS and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling the application. It may also vary per application, depending on its complexity and completeness.

To prevent any further delay, the petitioning employer and the transferring employees must compile and submit supporting relevant documents to establish that they satisfy the requirements of an L1 visa. Any missing document may cause the officer to delay the application by requesting further evidence or information from the employer or employee as the case may be, or to deny the application altogether.

It is highly recommended that you seek the help and consultation of an experienced US immigration lawyer in Singapore who can help you not only reduce the processing time of your L1 visa but also increase the chances of your application getting approved.

Premium Processing

Premium processing is available should you need the application process expedited. The USCIS offers the service for a fee of $2,500 where the employer must file a Form I-907 together with the Form I-129. Once applied for, the USCIS will process the L1 petition within 15 days or else the fee will be refunded.

L1 visa extension processing time

Since the L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it doesn’t confer permanent residency status to the nonimmigrant worker. Once approved, it is initially granted for a maximum of 3 years for both L1-A and L1-B holders.

The L1-A visa can be extended up to seven years, while the L1-B visa can be extended up to five years. You can opt for premium processing during the extension to make the processing faster.

The application process to extend an L1 visa is more or less the same as obtaining it. Your employer is required to file a new petition on your behalf before the expiration of your visa.

How to decrease the L1 visa processing time

Extensive supporting documents

One way to expedite and improve the processing time of your L1 visa application is to ensure that you attach and submit the correct supporting documents with your application. This makes sure that you avoid any delay with your application as it would prevent the adjudicating officer from requesting any further evidence.

The supporting documents must be extensive, so it’s highly recommended that you seek the help of an experienced L1 visa lawyer to help you determine which documents can prove your qualifications and avoid any delay.

Blanket L Petitions

A blanket petition is one of the ways to expedite the L1 visa processing. This allows the petitioning employer to transfer multiple key employees under a single petition, without filing individual petitions for each employee. To qualify for the blanket petition, the employer must possess the following requirements:

  • The petitioning company and its qualifying organizations must be engaged in commercial trade or services

  • They must have an office that has been engaged in business for at least a year

  • They must have a minimum of 3 domestic and foreign office branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates

  • They must either have successfully obtained ten L1 visa approvals for the previous 12 months, must have at least $25 million in annual sales for their affiliates and subsidiaries, or must have a U.S. workforce of more than 1,000 employees.

Please take note that a blanket petition doesn’t necessarily mean that your petition will be processed faster. This is advantageous for companies that are transferring multiple employees, but the processing time will still be dependent on the service centre processing the application or petition.

Premium Processing

When the employer files a Form I-907 together with the Form I-129 petition and pays the additional fee of $2,500, the petition can be processed within 15 days by the USCIS through premium processing. However, this doesn’t guarantee that the petition will be approved.

Preparing for the visa interview

To determine your eligibility for the L1 visa, you will also be asked by the consular officer questions during your visa interview in the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you have filed your application. The questions will cover different areas such as your skills, your job duties, your qualifications, your travel history, and your role in the company.

It is highly recommended that you answer the questions fully and truthfully to ensure that your application will not be deemed incomplete by the consular officer. This way, you will avoid any delay in your application for further requests for information.

Please take note that the role of the consular officer is to understand why your employer can’t fill the position with a qualified U.S. worker and why you need to transfer for the role.

L-1 visa period of stay

The L1 visa is divided into 2 categories: the L1-A visa and the L1-B visa. The L1-A visa is issued to employees holding an executive or managerial role in a foreign company and will be assuming the same role in the U.S. Meanwhile, the L1-B visa is given to employees holding a specialized knowledge position.

The duration of the visa varies depending on the visa category. For the L1-A visa, the visa is valid for up to a maximum of 7 years, while the L1-B visa is available for a maximum of 5 years.

If you’re going to the U.S. to establish a new office, the visa is available for 1 year.

Conclusion

There are different reasons why a company would opt for an L1 visa, may it be for the benefit of its business operations or further client support in the U.S. No matter the reason, the petitioning employer and the transferring employee must know the different factors which affect the processing time as this may affect the operations of the organisation later on.

It is highly recommended that you seek and consult with an experienced L1 visa lawyer who can help you with the L1 visa process to avoid any unnecessary delay.

FAQs

Can I travel to the U.S. during the process of my L1 visa application?

You can travel to the U.S. as a visitor under the B1 business visitor visa or with an ESTA authorization under the Visa Waiver Program, however only where the reason for the visit is within permissible activities.

What are the requirements to qualify for an L1 visa?

To acquire an L1 visa, four main requirements must be satisfied:

  • The qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the U.S. company

  • The transferring employee must be continuously employed full-time by the foreign company for at least a year within the last 3 years before the L1 petition

  • The transferring employee must be employed in a specialized knowledge, managerial or executive capacity

  • The transferring employee must be working in the U.S. to assume the same role

Please take note that you can’t change companies under the L1 visa nor can you file an application with the USCIS for a visa transfer. The L1 visa is always tied to the same company that sponsored your L1 visa.

What does an executive or managerial position and specialized knowledge position mean?

The term managerial capacity means that you primarily manage the organization or a department, and supervise and control the work of other employees. You must exercise discretion over the daily operations of the activity you have authority over.

Meanwhile, the term executive capacity means that you primarily direct the management of the organization and exercise wide discretion in making decisions. You must receive only general supervision or discretion from higher-level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders.

Specialized knowledge as defined is special knowledge of the company’s products, goods, and services and its application to international markets. It is also an advanced level of knowledge of the processes and procedures of the company.

Can I apply for an L1 visa to establish a new office?

Yes, however, take note that L1 petitions for new offices are scrutinized more strictly than other categories. Once approved, the visa is valid for an initial period of one year, which can be thereafter extended.

Can I go from an L1 visa to a green card?

Since the L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it doesn’t confer permanent residency status to the visa holder. For you to acquire a green card, you will have to apply for an adjustment of status or an immigrant visa in your home country.

Can I bring my dependent family members with me?

Yes, your spouse and unmarried children can go and stay with you in the U.S. under a derivative L2 visa. You must be legally married to your spouse while your children must be unmarried and under the age of 21. However, due to the biometrics requirement of the L2 visa, it can’t be expedited with a premium processing service.

How is the L1 visa application started and are there distinctions in the processing time with L1 visa categories?

The L1 visa is initiated by the petitioning employer with the USCIS. The applicant can’t initiate the application directly. This process can vary depending on the service centre, which can take from 2 months and beyond. However, such a process can be expedited either by initiating a blanket L petition if your employer is planning to transfer multiple key personnel or through premium processing after paying the additional fee of $2,500 and filing the necessary form. This is the same as the general premium processing service offered by USCIS. Once approved, the USCIS will adjudicate and process the application within 15 days otherwise they will give a refund.

Please take note that a blanket petition doesn’t necessarily mean that your petition will be processed faster. This is advantageous for companies that are transferring multiple employees, but the processing time will still be dependent on the service centre processing the application or petition.

Moreover, due to the biometrics requirement of the L2 visa, it’s not available for premium processing. Before, it was processed faster as a courtesy but this has changed since biometrics came into the picture.

Finally, the processing time for an L1-A visa is not necessarily faster than an L1-B visa. They are adjudicated by the USCIS and the consular officer with similar time frames.

Jeremy Abernathy

9 January 2024

I had the pleasure of working with Verdie and Nessa to obtain my E2 Visa. Their in-depth knowledge and experience allowed me to be fully prepared in my application and they were able to answer all questions leading up to the Visa interview.

Saeed Muhammad

15 December 2023

Verdie was an amazing attorney, providing exceptional client care throughout the process. He had a great depth of knowledge in all areas on business visas in the US.

Satya Choudhury

20 September 2023

I had a great experience with Davies & Associates. They are very thorough in the approach and their have experts in this field who know the domain very well.I would certainly be leaning onto them for any future needs as well.

Hoshino Ryuichi

12 September 2023

Thanks to them for handling my E2 visa very professionally. I had a study visa from F1 and changed it to E2. I encountered many problems during the application process. Verdie and Etta were very patient in helping me and it took a long time. I highly recommend this place.

Mark I. Davies
Mark I. Davies
Dual qualified as a lawyer in the United States and the United Kingdom, Mark I. Davies is the Global Managing Partner and founder of our firm. Mark also Chairs our Global Business and Investor visa team and focuses his practice on EB5, L1, E2 and other business and investor visa solutions. A former General Counsel, Mark is relied on as primary counsel to major corporations, investors, non-profits and businesses of all sizes.

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