L-1 Visa: Everything You Need to Know

May 18, 2021
L1 Visa

What is an L-1 Intracompany Visa?

The L-1 visa enables a US employer to transfer an executive, manager or specialized knowledge employee from a qualifying foreign entity to the US entity. There are two types of L-1 Visa. The L-1A Visa is for executives and managers and the L-1B is for employees with specialized knowledge.

What are the benefits of an L-1 Visa?

  • No Quotas. Unlike some other visa categories there are no annual limits on the number of visas available to certain countries.
  • Fast Processing Times. Average processing time is between 3-6 months. Premium Processing is also available by paying an additional fee of $2,500. With the premium processing, USCIS is required to respond with 15 business days.
  • Family. L-1 Visa holders are permitted to take their spouses and dependent children with them to the United States on the L-2 visa.
  • Work Authorization. Spouses are permitted to apply for work authorization once they enter the US to work for any US employer.
  • Tax Advantages. The L-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa, which means it does not offer permanent residency (Green Card). While Green Card holders may be taxed on worldwide income, non-immigrant visa holders are generally not. (You should still consult a tax professional if you want to make sure that you will not be considered a US tax resident)
  • Transition to Green Card. It is possible to transition to a Green Card through the L-1A visa category. The criteria for L-1A is very similar with the criteria for EB-1C category for Multinational Managers or Executives, which makes it easier for L-1A visa holders to become permanent residents. The L-1 category is also considered a dual intent visa.

How long is an L-1 Visa Valid For?

The initial validity of an L-1 visa is determined by something called the “Reciprocity Schedule”. Each country has its own reciprocity schedule for the L-1 visa. Some countries have longer than others, some examples are given below. You can find your country on the State Department’s website.

The reciprocity schedule determines the maximum length of validity for the initial visa. After this time period, an applicant can renew their L-1 visa up to a maximum of seven (7) years for an L-1A visa and five (5) years for an L-1B visa.

Applicants for “New Office” L-1 Visas are all granted a one-year visa initially. This allows the authorities to check the progress of the establishment of the new U.S. office. If sufficient progress has been granted, it is possible to renew in increments of two years up to the standard maximum of five or seven years for L-1A and L-1B respectively.

How long does it take to apply for an L-1 Visa?

In general, preparing an L-1 petition may take 1-2 months on the average depending on the responsiveness of the clients and the availability of required documents. The petition is then filed USCIS. On the average, it could take USCIS between 3-6 months to decide on a petition, but with premium processing, USCIS could decide in as fast as 15 business days.

How can an L-1 Visa holder apply for a Green Card?

To obtain a Green Card (U.S. permanent residency), most L-1A visa holders opt to transition to the EB-1C visa for multinational managers or executives. However, success will still largely depend on whether the US company is in a good position to support the multinational manager or executive.

How can I take my family to the US on an L-1 Visa?

A successful L-1 visa applicant can take their spouse to the United States, as well as any dependent children under the age of 21. Spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization to work in the United States. They are not restricted to working in the same L-1 business as their spouse.

What is a "New Office" L-1 Visa?

The L-1 visa also enables a foreign company that does not yet have a qualifying U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one. The foreign company must have been in operation for at least a year. The new US office and the foreign company must have a qualifying relationship (parent-subisidiary, affiliate, branch or joint venture partner) but do not necessarily need to operate in the same market or industry. New-office L-1s are initially granted for up to one year and extendible in increments of two years.

What materials do I need to prepare my L-1 Visa Application?

The following is generally expected (however this is entirely dependent on your specific case)

U.S. Company Documentation

The following is generally expected from the petitioning U.S. employer:

  • Description of company business
  • Articles of incorporation or association
  • Application for Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4)
  • Stock certificates
  • Lease of business location
  • Bank statement or wire transfer evidencing initial investment
  • Audited accounting reports (e.g., balance sheets, profit and loss statements, cash flow reports, etc.)
  • Corporate income tax return (Form 1120), if any
  • Employer's quarterly tax filings (Form 941), if any
  • Documentation of business transactions (e.g., commercial contracts, invoices, bills of lading, letters of credit, etc.)
  • Company letterhead with company logo, name, and address (several sheets)
  • Company structure and plan for acquiring and maintaining new employees
  • Interior and exterior photographs of the main office

Foreign Company Documentation

The following is generally expected from the overseas business entity:

  • Articles of incorporation
  • Business license
  • Income tax filings for the past three years
  • Audited accounting reports (e.g., balance sheets, profit and loss statements, cash flow reports, etc.)
  • Organizational chart, which should include the total number of employees and indicate the position held by the transferee
  • Company brochure or product introduction
  • Documentation of business transactions (e.g., commercial contracts, invoices, bills of lading, letters of credit, etc.)
  • Bank statements or transactional records
  • Company letterhead with company logo, name, and address (several sheets)
  • Pictures of company's main office, factories, or buildings (disregard if already included in company brochure or product introduction)

L-1 Beneficiary Documentation

The following is generally expected from the alien beneficiary:

  • Resume
  • Diploma
  • Employment verification letter from the foreign company
  • Board resolution or appointment documents verifying the transfer of the alien to the U.S.
  • Any other documents showing transferee's ability to conduct business in the executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity

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