L1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

L1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

L1 Visa FAQ

What is the L1 visa?

The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant employment visa for an intra-company transferee – a foreign worker already employed by a US employer. This visa permits these employees to move to their US office temporarily. The American employer has to petition for this visa for their employee.

Who is eligible for L1 visa?

Only certain employees may qualify for an L1 visa. These are the general eligibility requirements:

  • The employee must be either:
    • An executive or managerial employee (L1A visa subcategory), OR
    • An employee with specialized knowledge for the company’s operation (L1B visa subcategory).
  • The employee must have worked in the company’s foreign office for at least one year in the three years prior to the transfer. (Time spent in the US is not counted towards this one-year requirement, even if the US trip was for the same company.)
  • The transfer must be within the same company, its subsidiary, or affiliate.
  • The employee must work in a similar capacity once transferred in the US.
  • The sponsor employer (also known as the petitioning employer) must be doing actual business in the foreign country. Merely having an office there would not qualify.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will demand thorough documentation from each petitioner and applicant to prove that the visa candidate qualifies for either the L1A or L1B visa.

What are travel restrictions for L1 visa holders?

Since the L-1 visa is for employees of multinational companies, many ask if L-1 visa holders are allowed to travel in and out of the US. The answer is yes, they can travel outside the US and then return while the visa is still valid. However, any time spent outside the US will be counted towards the visa’s stay period. In other words, the clock will not stop running if the visa holder takes a work trip or a vacation outside the US.

How long is the L1 visa processing time?

The entire L-1 visa process may take from six months to a year. The length of processing time largely depends on the embassy or consulate of the applicant’s home country.

USCIS premium processing is a faster visa application method. It expedites the process to just 15 calendar days. This option requires an additional fee of $1,440 (fee updated as of December 2019). If the USCIS fails to finish the processing within 15 days, the fee will be refunded but the processing will continue. Asof March 2020, however, the premium processing service has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How many times can I apply for an L1 visa?

If your initial L1 visa application has been denied, you can reapply as many times as needed. There is no limit on how many times an individual is allowed to reapply. Keep in mind, however, that visa officers will review the reasons for your prior rejections and scrutinize why they should overturn that decision in your favor this time.

If you already have an L1 visa and are wondering how many times you can renew or extend it, the answer depends on how close you are to the maximum length of stay. The L-1 visa may be extended by two-year increments until you reach the maximum duration. For the L-1A subcategory, the maximum total stay is seven years, while for the L-1B, five years. For example, if you were granted an L-1B visa for an initial period of three years, you may request to extend it once, adding two years for a total of five.

Can you apply for the L1 visa from the USA?

The L1 visa process has steps for both the US employer and the foreign visa candidate (the worker). The employer has to file the petition in the US on behalf of the foreign employee, and the foreign employee has to attend the interview at their home country’s US embassy or consulate.

Is L1 visa difficult to get?

On one hand, applying for an L1 visa may appear to be an easier option for some employers and workers. Unlike other work visas (such as the H1B), there is no quota on L1 visa approvals, so an unlimited number of L1 visas can be issued every year. The L1 application process is also quite straightforward if you look at step-by-step guides.

USCIS data shows, however, that fewer L1 applications have actually been approved in 2019. There is no official reason as to why the rejection rate has increased, but visa lawyers and advisors urge applicants to be thorough and well-prepared in their application.

One of the most common obstacles, for instance, is when visa officers question whether the candidate is really an “executive,” “managerial,” or “specialized” employee. The USCIS has some definitions of these terms, but these definitions still leave much to a visa officer’s discretion. (Here are L-1A definitions and L-1B definitions.) Petitioners and visa candidates must be ready to face strict questioning and prove the type of employee being transferred.

What is the minimum salary for L-1 visa?

There is no minimum wage requirement for an L1 visa. However, unreasonably low salaries are not recommended. Visa officers will likely examine whether the candidate’s salary is commensurate to their position and the company they work for.

Can you transfer an L1 visa?

An L1 visa cannot be ‘transferred’ to a different company. That is, an L1-holding employee cannot apply for another job other than the one they have on their visa application.

However, the L1 visa can be ‘converted’ to a different visa type via a “change of status.” For instance, an L1 holder may request a change of status to an H1B visa. The H1B is a type of work visa that allows the worker to move to a different job or employer.

How long can you stay on an L1 visa?

The L1A visa allows a maximum total stay of seven years, while the L1B visa has a maximum of five years. This is regardless of how many years you were initially granted. Typically, the initial duration granted is three years. Upon the ending of your stay period, you may request two-year extensions until you reach the maximum length of stay.

If you were granted an L-1A visa for an initial period of three years, for example, you may request to extend it by two years, and then later, request another two years, for a total of seven.

How much does an L1 visa cost?

There are several fees attached to an L1 visa application. Here is a basic breakdown:

  • I-129 filing fee: $460
    Form I-129 is the primary USCIS form that a US employer files to petition for a visa for their foreign worker.
  • Anti-Fraud Fee: $500
    This goes to the USCIS Fraud Prevention and Detection initiative.
  • Public Law 113-114 Fee: $4,500
    This fee applies only if the US employer has more than 50 employees and half of them have an L1A, L1B, or H1B status.
  • ACWIA Training and Education Fee:
    • $750 if the employer has 25 workers or less
    • $1,500 if the employer has 26 workers or more.
  • DS-160 filing fee: $190
    Form DS-160 is the primary form that a foreign worker files to apply for a visa at their home country’s embassy or consulate.

Can an L1 visa lead to green card?

Yes, but the paths are different for L-1A and L-1B holders. L-1A visa holders can apply directly for an EB-1C green card, which bypasses the US labor certification process. On the other hand, L-1B visa holders may apply for the EB3 green card (Bachelor’s Degree holders) or the EB2 green card (advanced degrees). Along with their application, they have to go through the PERM Labor Certification. The whole process for L-1B holders to get a green card may take as long as several years.

Do you have other questions or concerns regarding your L1 visa application? Consult with the experienced attorneys at Richards & Jurusik. We are ready to help you. Call us at 1-866-697-1832 today.

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