The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category that allows multinational companies to transfer certain employees from their foreign offices to their U.S.-based offices. It temporarily facilitates the transfer of key personnel, executives, and specialized knowledge employees to work in the United States.
The L-1 visa has two subcategories:
- L-1A Visa: This category is for executives and managers within the company. To qualify, the employee must have been working in a managerial or executive role for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding the application. The L-1A visa initially grants a maximum stay of three years in the United States, with the possibility of extending it up to a total of seven years.
- L-1B Visa: This category is for employees with specialized knowledge. Specialized knowledge refers to proprietary knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, equipment, techniques, or processes. The employee must have worked in this specialized role for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding the application. The L-1B visa initially grants a maximum stay of three years, with the possibility of extending it up to five years.
To qualify for an L-1 visa, the following requirements must be met:
- Qualifying Relationship: The U.S. and foreign companies must have a qualifying relationship, which means the U.S. office must be a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company. Both companies must be actively conducting business.
- Employment with the Foreign Company: The employee must have been employed with the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the past three years.
- Position and Job Duties: The employee must be transferred to the United States to work in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity.
- Intent to Return: The employee must intend to return to the foreign company after completing the temporary assignment in the United States.
The L-1 visa offers several benefits, including:
- Dual Intent: L-1 visa holders can maintain dual intent, meaning they can pursue a permanent residency (a green card) while on the L-1 visa without jeopardizing their non-immigrant status.
- Spouse and Dependents: L-1 visa holders’ spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old are eligible for L-2 visas, allowing them to accompany the primary visa holder to the United States. Spouses can also apply for employment authorization to work in the U.S.
- Extensions and Permanent Residency: L-1 visa holders can request extensions to their stay in the United States. The L-1 visa can also serve as a stepping stone for permanent residency through employment-based immigration avenues.
It’s important to note that the L-1 visa application process can be complex, and specific documentation is required to demonstrate the qualifying relationship, employee qualifications, and job duties.