L Visa Overview
L visas are for intra-company transferees who, within the preceding three years, have been employed abroad continuously for one year, and who will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate or subsidiary of that same employer in the US.
There are two types of L-1 visas. The L-1A visa allows multinational businesses to transfer managerial and executive personnel from foreign countries to the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.
The L-1B visa allows a US employer to bring in a foreign worker who has specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated US office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help establish one.
Advantages and Limitations of an L-1A
An advantage of the L-1A visa over work visas like H-1B is that it does not require any specific educational background. After all, some of the most successful and talented CEOs have no educational degrees at all. L-1A is also considered a “dual intent” visa, meaning that you may have immigrant visa petitions (green card) pending, and still have no problem in applying for L-1A extensions. Another advantage is that your dependents, which would be in the US on L-2 status, are able to obtain work authorization. Employers on a tight budget can also be assured that they are not required to pay the worker prevailing wage. Also, as previously mentioned, L-1A visas are available year-round.
The disadvantage of L-1A is that you have a strict 7-year limit as to how long you can extend your status. Those who initially enter the US in L-1A status, may opt to change status to H-1B to take advantage of indefinite extensions based on having a pending employment based immigration petition (green card). Changing status to H-1B may not be necessary, however, because there is potential for an L-1A worker’s employer to file for an EB-1C Multinational Executive/Manager immigration petition, which is of the highest priority (generally, there is no waiting period for the “priority date” to become current).
Attorney’s Role in an L-1A Petition
L-1A visa petitions are one of the most complex visa petitions to properly document. A professional understanding of the legal definitions relating to the US organization and the candidate is necessary in order to present an effective case. In cases where a “new office” is being established, particular attention to detail is necessary. First-hand knowledge of what the immigration service expects to receive from the petitioner is essential to success.
Blanket L Petitions
Certain organizations may establish the required intra-company relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition.
Criteria for establishing eligibility for Blanket L Certification:
- The employer and each of the qualifying organizations must be engaged in commercial trade or services, and
- The employer must have an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more, and
- The employer must have three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries and affiliates, and
- The employer must meet one of the following criteria:
- Along with the other qualifying organizations, have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period; or
- Have US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least 25 millions; or
- Have a US work force of at least 1,000 employees.
The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1 classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States quickly and on short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. In most cases, once the blanket petition has been approved, the employer need only complete Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and send it abroad to the employee, along with a copy of the Blanket Petition Approval Notice and other required evidence so that the employee may present it to a consular officer.
The process for obtaining an L-1 visa is similar to the process for an H-1B.
The US employer must file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, with the appropriate L Supplement to the Vermont Service Center. Included with the petition, must be evidence that the beneficiary has been employed overseas by the transferring organization for at least one (1) year within the past three (3) years, and that the beneficiary will be working for the same organization in the US. The petitioner must show that the beneficiary will be filling an executive/managerial position or possesses specialized knowledge.
After approval, the USCIS notifies the prospective employer and the relevant US Embassy. The beneficiary may then submit his/her visa application to a US Embassy or Consulate.
Spouses and children (under the age of 21) of L visa holders may apply for an L-2 visa in order to accompany or follow the principal applicant to the United States. Derivative applicants are generally granted L-2 status for the duration of the principal applicant’s L-1 status.
To discuss L-1A visa petitions and other alternatives with an experienced immigration lawyer from the Huang Law LLC, feel free to contact us, call our Wilmington office at (302) 478-2900, or Philadelphia Office at (267) 908-5060.