OVERVIEW OF THE L-VISA APPLICATION PROCESS

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THE L-VISA PETITION

There are two types of L-1 visas—the L-1A and the L-1B—each of which is issued to U.S. employers and used for different purposes.

In order to obtain these visas, the  employer must have a “qualifying relationship” with a foreign company. It must also be “doing business as,” or planning to be “doing business” as an employer in the United States; either directly or through a qualifying organization, as long as the beneficiary remains here as an L-1 visa holder.

The employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with fee, on behalf of the employee.

CLASSIFICATION

L-1A This visa designation allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. It also allows a foreign company that doesn’t have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States to establish one.

L-1B This type of visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with expertise relevant to the business from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.

L-1A QUALIFYING RELATIONSHIP WITH A FOREIGN COMPANY

⚖️ ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

Qualifying relationships are legally defined as those in which the petitioning company is  a parent, branch office, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign business entity; these are collectively known as “qualifying entities” or “qualifying organizations.”

The following provisions apply to the  L-1A beneficiary :

He or she must have worked overseas for the foreign company for a continuous period of 12 months within the three years immediately prior to his or her admission to the United States. Any time spent working here will not count toward the one year of required foreign employment.

He or she must have been employed abroad in an executive or managerial position, which is also known as a “qualifying position.”

He or she must be coming here for the purpose of providing services in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

  • According to federal law, “Executive capacity” is defined as the employee’s ability to make decisions with wide discretion and without much oversight.
  • “Managerial capacity”  is generally defined as the employee’s ability  to oversee the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision.

The employee must be qualified for the position based on his or her education and experience.

The employee must have the intention to leave the United States upon completion of his or her authorized stay.

📑 SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS 

A “business entity” is defined as any of the following: corporations, nonprofits, and religious or charitable organizations.

Information / Documents required from the Foreign National:

  • A copy of his or her passport, including the I-94;
  • A copy of his or her resumé;
  • Copies of college or university transcripts;
  • Copies of letters from employers documenting previous experience;

Information / Documents required from the Foreign Company:

  • A company pamphlet;
  • Copies of the articles of incorporation;
  • Copies of stock certificates;
  • A copy of the official business plan;
  • Copies of the company’s financials;
  • Copies of bank statements;
  • Copies of the business’s lease, telephone and utility bills;
  • Copies of relevant contracts;
  • A copy of the organizational chart;
  • Evidence of the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign employer;

Information / Documents required from the U.S. Company (if available):

  • A company pamphlet;
  • Copies of the articles of incorporation;
  • Copies of stock certificates;
  • A copy of the official business plan;
  • Copies of the company’s financials;
  • Copies of bank statements;
  • Copies of the business’s lease, telephone and utility bills;
  • Copies of relevant contracts;
  • A copy of the organizational chart;

L-1B INTRACOMPANY TRANSFEREE SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE

⚖️  ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

The company must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and

Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization, for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1.  While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

Doing business is defined as the activity carried out by a qualifying organization that includes the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services. The mere presence of the qualifying organization’s an agent or office in the United States and abroad does not satisfy this definition.

To qualify, the named employee must also:

Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and

Be seeking to enter the United States to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

Specialized knowledge is defined as an employee’s proficiency in the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures (See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D)).

📑 SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS 
  • Documentation of the foreign employee’s training, work experience, or education during which he or she has been using or developing the claimed specialized knowledge;
  • Evidence of the impact the alien’s transfer would have on the petitioner’s U.S. operations;
  • Proof that he or she  is qualified to make significant contributions to the U.S. business’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions as a result of knowledge not generally available in the petitioning organization’s U.S. operations;
  • Contracts, statements of work, or other documentation that demonstrates that he or she has knowledge that is particularly beneficial to the petitioner’s competitiveness;
  • Paperwork include correspondence or reports, showing that he or she has been employed abroad in a capacity involving assignments that have significantly enhanced the petitioner’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or financial position;
  • Personnel or in-house training records demonstrating that his or her claimed proficiency or expertise can only be gained via prior experience or training with the petitioner;
  • Curricula and training manuals for in-house training, financial documents, or other proof that he or she has knowledge of a product or process, that can’t be easily transferred to another individual without the petitioner incurring significant economic cost or inconvenience;
  • Patents, trademarks, licenses, or contracts the petitioner gained through his or her work;
  • Evidence that his or her expertise or proficiency pertains to a process or product that is sophisticated, complex, or of a highly technical nature (though not necessarily proprietary);
  • Any relevant records verifying the positions he or she held and the compensation he or she received from the petitioning organization;

After determining that the available evidence demonstrates “specialized knowledge,” the petitioner must also ensure that the prospective beneficiary meets the following additional criteria for L-1B eligibility:

The employee must have worked abroad for the overseas company for a continuous period of 12 straight months within the three years immediately prior to  his or her admission to the United States. Any time spent working in the United States will not count toward the one year of required employment.

The employee must be coming here for the purposes of rendering services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

The employee must have the intention to leave the United States upon completion of his or her authorized stay.

Following the L-1 Reform Act of 2004, L-1B nonimmigrants will be in violation of status if they are “stationed primarily” at the worksite of an employer other than the petitioner, and if one of the following occurs:

  • a. They are principally under the control and supervision of the unaffiliated employer, or
  • b. Their placement at the unaffiliated worksite is “essentially an arrangement to provide labor for hire for the unaffiliated employer,” rather than placement in connection with the provision of a product or service for which specialized knowledge specific to the petitioning employer is necessary.

Blanket Petitions

Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship prior to filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition.  Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:

  • The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
  • The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;
  • The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates;
  • The petitioner and other qualifying organizations, must collectively, meet one of the following criteria:
    • Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approval during the previous year ;
    • Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
    • Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees;

In order to qualify under the blanket petitioning process, the employee having specialized knowledge must also be a professional. See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(E).

New Offices

For foreign employers that want to send an employee with expertise or proficiency to the United States to work in a qualifying new office, the employer must show that:

  • The business has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office
  • The business is fiscally able to pay the employee and begin doing business in the United States.

See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(3)(vi) for details.

🗂 MATERIALS TO BE SENT IS AS FOLLOWS:

1️⃣Form I-129 with L Supplement; 2️⃣Supporting documents based on your L-Visa classification 3️⃣Filing fee

FILING FEE / WHERE TO SEND PACKAGE
The Filing fee for these visa applications is $460
For the most current information about where to file this application, visit the Direct filing addresses for form i-129 page 
How long will an L visa be good for?

Typically, an L visa that is approved by USCIS will allow a foreign national an initial stay of three years in the United States. However, employees sent to establish a new U.S. office will only be given a maximum initial stay of one year. Generally however, all L visa holders will be eligible to renew their L statuses, in two year increments up until they have reached the maximum limit of seven years in L visa status. This is true as long as you and your employer continue to meet the requirements. For employees sent to the U.S. to help establish new offices, the initial maximum is lower since the company won’t yet have a trackrecord of furfilling the L visa requirements in the United States. However, these employees are eligible for the extensions just like intracompany transferees are, as long as the employee and the new U.S. office continue to meet the requirements. 

Is it possible to self-petition for an L visa?

Yes it is. Although the L visa is not normally used in this way, it can be used creatively for a foreign national entreprenuer to both simultaneously: bring their pre-existing business to the United States; and, to live and work in the United States while establishing their business presence here. To self-petition using an L visa the foreign entreprenuer will generally have to have their foreign business organized as a corporation in their home country, and then make sure that they have a plan in place that will allow their new office in the United States to meet all of the L visa requirements within a year of them being granted admission with their L visa status. Using the L visa in this creative way, can be an excellent alternative to investing in the EB-5 program, when a foreign national entreprenuer is unable or unwilling to meet the expensive capital investment requirements required by the EB-5 program. 

How long does the L visa application process take?

Generally, you should expect a response on your L visa application from USCIS, between three and four months after you apply. Premium Processing is available from USCIS for L visa applications, for an additional hefty fee. If you elect to have your application premium processed, then you are expected to hear back from USCIS within 15 days of filing your application. 

Can I get a Green Card with an L visa?

The L visa is a visa that allows its holders to pursue a Green Card in the United States, without affecting and without prejudice to their L visa nonimmigrant status. Typically, individuals that come in on an L visa as managers and executives are excellent candidates for pursuing and EB-1C Immigrant Visa (Green Card), as the requirements for the L-1A mirror those of the EB-1C. They can generally apply for their Green Card (adjust status) immediately, assuming they have been with the company abroad or in the U.S. in an executive or managerial capacity for at least one continuous year out of the last three years. There is no PERM labor certificate required, so generally getting a Green Card in this category is much easier than for other categories. If the employee was previously employed as an employee with specialized knowledge, and only got an executive or managerial role upon their start of employment in the U.S., then generally the employee will not be eligible for an EB-1C until they have worked in that new role for at least one continuous year in the United States. For L-1B visa holders (employees with specialized knowledge), they are eligible to pursue Green Cards too, but they won’t be eligible for an EB-1C. Thus, the process for them will typically be harder than for L-1A visa holders (managers and executives), and they will most likely have to pursue PERM Labor Processing (a long process), as well as be subjected to Immigrant Visa categories (such as EB-3), that have longer waiting and processing times. 

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