Article

Understanding Essential L1 Visa Requirements

What’s an L1 visa?

An L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows a foreign company to transfer employees holding specialized knowledge, executive, or managerial position to a U.S. subsidiary, branch office, or parent company.

Employees working for a company with both local and foreign offices are eligible for this visa, either for an L1-A or L1-B visa depending on their job duties. Meanwhile, companies without a U.S. office can also use this visa to transfer an employee to the U>S. to open a new office.

The L-1 intracompany visa can only be initiated by the petitioning employer on behalf of the transferring employee and is not eligible for self-petition. Compared to other nonimmigrant visas, the L1 visa is considered a dual intent visa. This means that the transferring employee can maintain their valid L1 status and their intent to acquire permanent residency for the duration of their visa.

Types of L-1 Visa

As it stands, two subcategories of L1 visa can be acquired:

L1-A

The L1-A visa is available for employees holding a managerial or executive position. The transferring employee can split their time between the U.S. office with other foreign offices. If the employee employed in their managerial or executive capacity is visiting the U.S. for meetings, conferences, or training, they are not eligible for the visa.

Once approved, the L1-A visa is initially valid for 3 years which can be extended up to seven years as long as the company continues to operate as a multinational organization. Meanwhile, an L1-A visa granted for the opening of a new office is initially granted for a year.

L1-B

The L1-B visa, on the other hand, is available for employees holding a specialized knowledge position. Along with the L1-A visa, this visa allows the foreign company to open a new office in the U.S.

Once approved, the L1-B visa is initially valid for 3 years which can be extended for up to five years as long as the company continues to operate as a multinational organization. Meanwhile, an L1-B visa granted for the opening of a new office is initially granted for a year.

Types of applying for an L1 visa

Individual Petition

Do not be confused as this petition doesn’t mean that you can initiate the petition yourself. Please take note that the employer should be initiating the L1 visa petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

This petition instead refers to a regular petition filed by the petitioning employer for each transferring employee. This means that the employer files an individual petition with the USCIS.

Blanket Petition

The blanket petition, on the other hand, refers to a petition initiated by the petitioning employer for multiple employees provided that they meet the criteria. This kind of petition expedites the process of L1 petitions.

To qualify, the petitioning employer must meet the following requirements:

  • The U.S. office must be doing business for at least a year

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

  • The petitioning employer must have at least 3 domestic and foreign subsidiaries, affiliates, or branch offices.

  • The petitioning employer and its qualifying organization must possess the following:

    • They must have at least 10 approved L1 visa petitions in the previous year

    • They must have combined annual sales of at least $25 million

    • The U.S. office must have more than 1,000 employees.

An approved blanket petition doesn’t guarantee a visa approval for the transferring employee. Once the blanket petition has been approved, the employer needs to send a complete Form I-129S along with a copy of the blanket petition approval notice and other evidence to the transferring employee to be presented to the consular office.

Eligibility Criteria for Singaporeans

Individual

The individual transferring employee must be employed by the transferring company for at least a year within the 3 years before their transfer and must be working in a specialized knowledge, executive, or managerial capacity to be able to acquire an L1 visa.

Company

Meanwhile, there are a few conditions the employer must meet before they can initiate an L1 petition. First, there must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the U.S. company as a branch office, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company. Second, the foreign company and the U.S. company must be active and operational for the entire duration of the transferring employee’s L1 status.

Specialized Knowledge

To be considered employed under a specialized knowledge capacity, the transferring employee must have extraordinary and unique knowledge or expertise over the company’s products and services or its management. This means that you must be crucial to the overall function of the business.

Managerial Capacity

To be considered a manager, you must manage the company or the major department and you supervise staff. Moreover, you have the authority to hire and fire employees and the essential functions of the company are your responsibility.

During the visa application process, the petition will be tested thoroughly to determine if the transferring employee possesses the required qualifications.

Executive Capacity

To be considered as an executive, you must be directing the management of the company and set its goals and policies. You must also have the freedom to make decisions with discretion and minimal direction from higher-level executives, board members, or stockholders.

Requirements for L1 Visa For Singaporeans

L1-A

To acquire an L1-A visa, here are the requirements that you must satisfy:

  • Continuous work. You should have worked for the foreign company continuously for at least a year within the 3 years before your transfer.

  • Managerial or executive position. You should be working in a managerial or executive capacity for a foreign company.

  • Qualifying relationship. You must be transferred to the U.S. branch office, subsidiary, or parent company to provide your managerial or executive services. For example, both companies are both owned and controlled by the same parent company or person.

  • Intent to depart. You must have the intent to leave the U.S. once your visa expires.

L1-B

To acquire an L1-B visa, here are the requirements that you must satisfy:

  • Continuous work. You should have worked for the foreign company continuously for at least a year within the 3 years before your transfer.

  • Specialized knowledge position. You should be working in a specialized knowledge position.

  • Qualifying relationship. You must be transferred to the U.S. branch office, subsidiary, or parent company to provide your specialized knowledge services.

  • Intent to depart. You must have the intent to leave the U.S. once your visa expires.

For both visas, there’s no need to prove that you’re employed full-time in the company and instead, you should be able to prove that a large and regular portion of your time is dedicated to the company. Compared to other visas, the L1 visa has no salary or nationality restrictions. You have the option to engage the services of a qualified and experienced L1 visa lawyer who can help you prove your eligibility with an L1-A or L1-B visa with the immigration officer.

Required documents for L1 visa

In general, the documents that you and your employer should submit must prove that you both possess the criteria for eligibility. You together with the foreign company and the U.S. company must submit these documents to prove that you’re eligible for the L1 visa.

Please take note that these documents are not exclusive and it’s highly recommended that you engage the services of the US immigration lawyer who can handle your application from start to finish and determine a list of documents that can prove your eligibility.

For the foreign company, the following documents must be included in the application:

  • Articles of Incorporation and Business License

  • Income tax filings for the past 3 years

  • Organizational chart

  • Promotional materials

  • Business transactions

  • Company letterhead with name, logo, and address

For the U.S. company, the following documents must be included in the application:

  • Office lease and stock certificates

  • Bank statements and accounting reports

  • Income tax return and quarterly report, if applicable

  • An explanation of the company’s business

  • Bills of lading, commercial contracts, letters of credit, or invoices

  • Company letterhead with the logo, name, and address

Finally, the transferring employee must include the following documents in the application:

  • Visa interview appointment letter

  • Diploma

  • Resume or CV

  • Income tax reports

  • Salary statements

  • An organizational chart that shows their role

  • Reference letters from supervisors and colleagues

  • A full description of their roles and responsibilities

  • Employment verification from the foreign company

  • Appointment documents

  • Any document to prove their specialized knowledge, executive, or managerial position

L1 visa fees

A part of your L1 visa application is the payment of several fees and costs. Here are some of them that you should take note of:

  • $460 – Filing Fee

  • $2,500 – Premium Processing Fee, which ensures that your case is processed within 15 days

  • $500 – Detection and Fraud Prevention Fee

  • $ 4,500 – Additional fees as applicable based on certain circumstances

  • Legal fees

  • Translation and other professional fees

L1 visa application process

After knowing everything about the L1 visa, here’s a breakdown of the visa application process:

Hire and consult with an experienced and qualified L1 visa lawyer

While you can handle the application yourself, it’s still highly recommended that you engage the services of an L1 visa lawyer. As with other visas, the L1 visa process can be complex and the experience of your lawyer can help manoeuvre through it.

They can determine which documents you can submit to prove your qualifications based on your circumstances and help increase your chances of getting approved through their expert advice.

Gather all the relevant supporting documents

Submitting the relevant supporting documents is essential in your L1 visa process as it proves your qualifications to the immigration officer. It’s essential that after you have hired a lawyer, you must gather all the necessary documents as determined by your lawyer.

Filing Form I-129 and the L-supplement

The L1 visa application starts with your employer initiating a petition with the USCIS by filing Form I-129 and L-supplement. After it’s approved, you can now start to apply for the visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country.

If you’re applying for a change of status, you don’t need to leave the U.S. Your status will automatically change to L1 from the start date indicated on your approval notice.

L1A visa interview

During your L1 visa interview, you need to present evidence and information that you possess all the requirements to acquire an L1 visa. Importantly, you must show that you are working in a specialized knowledge, managerial, or executive capacity.

Your L1 visa lawyer should be able to help you prepare for the interview and give you advice.

L1 visa processing time

The L1 visa processing time can vary depending on the USCIS service centre and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling the petition. Generally, the processing time for a Form I-129 is 6 months while processing in the U.S. Embassy or Consulate takes 6 months or longer.

L1 visa extension

Both the L1-A and L1-B visas are initially issued for 3 years and can be extended in increments of 2 years. The L1-A visa can be extended for a maximum of 7 years, while the L1-B can be extended for a maximum of 5 years.

L1 visa granted for the set-up of a new office is available for one year.

FAQs

Do I need to already have a U.S. office to acquire an L1 visa?

No, you can also transfer an employee to the U.S. for opening or setting up a new office.

Can my family stay with me in the U.S.?

Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old can stay with you in the U.S. under the L2 visa. Your spouse can work in the U.S. without the need to secure an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as they are considered authorized through their valid L status.

Can I work for another employer?

No, under the L1 visa, you must only work for the petitioning employer.

Is there a required business size for an L1 visa?

No, there’s no business size required to be qualified for the L1 visa. All sizes of businesses can file a petition as long as they meet the requirements and eligibility of the visa.

Can I acquire a green card while on an L1 visa?

Yes, the L1 visa is considered a dual intent visa which means that you can acquire a green card without violating your L status.

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.

Picture of 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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