L-1 Visa

The L visa applies to intracompany transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed outside of the U.S. continuously for at least one year in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity, and who will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. The L-1 visa requires clear documentation of the ownership and qualifying corporate relationship between the U.S. and foreign office. Notably, any time spent in the U.S. during the qualifying year is not counted in calculating the requisite one-year of overseas employment. Candidates who will be working in the U.S. in a “specialized knowledge” role will receive L-1B status. Candidates who will be working in the U.S. in a managerial or executive role will receive L-1A status.

Certain multinational companies are eligible to process L-1 applications under the “Blanket L” program. As with the general L-1, the qualifying period of employment with an overseas branch, parent, affiliate or subsidiary is also one full year. Once the organization is approved for the “Blanket L” program, the USCIS stage of petition processing is bypassed, allowing candidates to apply directly for an L visa at the U.S. Consulate using the Blanket L Approval Notice and a Blanket application package. It is important to note that if the candidate will be working in a “specialized knowledge” role in the U.S. and wishes to apply through the Blanket L program, the candidate must also be a “professional.” The definition of professional is borrowed from the H-1B requirements, generally requiring a university degree, although candidates without full university degrees can at times benefit from an academic evaluation by professional evaluators.

Initial L-1 visa status may usually be approved for up to three years, and can be extended for up to a total of seven years for an L-1A (manager or executive) or five years for an L-1B (“specialized knowledge”). After the end of the maximum L-1 period of stay in the U.S., the candidate must reside outside of the U.S. for a full year before becoming eligible for another five or seven years of L -1 time.

Spouses and children of L-1 workers are eligible for dependent visas in the L-2 classification. L-2 spouses can apply for employment authorization once they enter the U.S. in L-2 status.

Since June 2005, the law prohibits the issuance of L-1B “specialized knowledge” visas when the U.S. employment is primarily at third party client sites if (1) the employee will be principally controlled and supervised by the client; or (2) the work does not involve the provision of a product or service that requires specialized knowledge specific to the L-1 sponsoring employer. Thus, the rules still allow L-1 employees to accomplish work at client sites when the employees remain under the L-1 employer’s full control and when the employer is implementing or using its own specialized product, service or knowledge at that client site.

Employers are responsible for paying a one-time Fraud Detection and Prevention fee ($500) for each initial L-1 application.