Work visas

Work Visas L-1

L-1 Visas: Transferred Employees

Who is Eligible

The L-1 visa is required for employees being transferred from a foreign company to a U.S. company. To qualify, the employee must be an executive, a manager, or a person with specialized knowledge, and must have worked for at least one year at the foreign company. The documentary requirements for this visa include proof of one year s continuous employment at the foreign firm, and this must fall within the three years immediately preceding the application. If an L-1 beneficiary enters the U.S. on some other type of visa, in his or her capacity as an employee of the foreign company, the interval spent working in the U.S. does not count in assessing the one-year requirement. However, it is not counted toward the one-year previous foreign employment either.

L-1B Visas: Employees with Specialized Knowledge

Who is Eligible?

Work Visas L-1To qualify as a specialized knowledge employee, a worker must have special knowledge of the potential employer s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests; and of its application in the international markets. An employee may also qualify based on an advanced level of expertise in the firm s processes or procedures. In addition, the L-1B classification does not apply in certain situations where the worker is stationed primarily at a worksite other than that of the petitioning firm. However, offsite location alone does not necessarily disqualify the petitioner; disqualification also requires either of two conditions:

  1. The employee must be principally under the control or supervision of the unaffiliated worksite employer; or
  2. The offsite placement work duties comprise ordinary hired labor, rather than requiring any specialized knowledge about the petitioning firm s product or service.

Note that these ineligibility provisions apply only to workers engaged in offsite employment, and do not apply if the L-1B beneficiary will be working at the sponsoring employer s physical location. Where the L-1B visa holder s responsibilities spans both locations, the USCIS will examine what the worker does when he or she is at each location and will make its own determination as to where the work is primarily performed. The provisions apply to all L-1B cases, including both first-time petitions L-1B extensions.

L-1 Employers

Petitioning employers must be a subsidiary, affiliate or branch office of the foreign firm, and the foreign and U.S. companies must be related by either a more than 50% stock control, or a 50/50 joint venture with joint veto power. The petitioning company must demonstrate that it is either the same as the foreign firm, or is a subsidiary, affiliate or branch office of the foreign firm.

Visa Duration

Visa L1For workers at startup businesses, L-1 visas are valid for one year. At businesses operating in the United States for a year or longer, the initial L-1 is valid for up to three years. It can be extended to five years for an employee with special knowledge, and to seven years for an executive or manager. Applicants must file L-1 extensions at the USCIS Regional Service Center for the area where the business is located.

Where Do I Apply?

All L-1 visa applications must be sent to one of the USCIS s Regional Service Centers. Once the application is approved, the USCIS sends the approval notice to a U.S. consulate, where the applicant can pick up the visa.

Spouses and Minor Children

Spouses or unmarried minor children of foreign workers who obtain L-1 visas are entitled to the same non-immigrant classification, for the same length of residence, as the worker. Spouses and children are admitted with L-2 visas. Spouses may seek employment authorization from USCIS, but minor children are not eligible for employment in the United States.

Domestic workers of an L-1 visa holder can be eligible to continue working for their employer, under the terms of a B-1 visa. 

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