What is the L1 Visa

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.

If you are Canadian, you can apply for and obtain an L1 visa at a U.S. Port of Entry on the same day you apply.

How many times can I apply for an L1 visa?

If your initial L1 visa application has been denied, you can apply 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.

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. In some case you can extend beyond the 5 and 7 year limits.

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.

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