L-1 Visas for Intracompany Transferees
To qualify for L-1 approval, the employee and the sponsoring company in the US must meet certain requirements, as follows.
L-1 Immigration Benefits
L-1 work permit
The L-1 classification is a US immigration temporary work permit for individuals who have been employed abroad for one year in a qualifying capacity and who are coming to perform qualifying work for a related company in the United States.
L-2 Spouse Work Permit
Dependents of L-1 employees are given L-2 status. A spouse holding L-2 status is eligible to obtain a work permit. A child holding L-2 status is not eligible to obtain a work permit. An L-1 employee may only work for the sponsoring employer.
Expedited Permanent Residence
A managerial or executive L-1 visa holder can be approved for permanent residence through a streamlined process. To qualify under this special process, called First Preference immigration, the employee must have been a manager or executive overseas and hold a similar position in the US. The US company must have been operating for one year before the first preference immigrant petition can be filed. A first preference immigrant is approved without the company showing any test of the US labor market. For most nationalities, this process takes about one year to complete.
Sponsoring Company Requirements. The sponsoring company in the US and employee’s overseas employer must have at least 50% common ownership. The overseas company must be a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the sponsoring US company. The overseas company must have been actively conducting business for at least one year. The US company may be either an existing business or a new business.
Employee Qualifications. The employee’s one-year overseas employment must be within the last three years and in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. First-line supervisors are not considered managers unless they supervise college graduate professionals. The US job must be in managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. The employee must be qualified for work in the US (education, experience, English language capacity, etc.)
The L-1 process involves two steps. The first step is obtaining approval of the L-1 petition from the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). A second step, obtaining an L-1 visa stamp in the employee’s passport from an American Consulate or Embassy, is taken if the employee will enter the US from abroad.
1. The L-1 Petition. The L-1 petition (Form I 129 with the L supplement) is submitted to the USCIS. An L-1 petition may be approved for up to three years, and extensions are available up to a maximum of five to seven years. If the sponsoring company in the US has been operating less than one year, the initial L-1 approval will be valid only for one year. The processing time for an L-1 petition varies between 4 to 12 weeks. The USCIS offers 15-day processing for an additional fee of $1000.
If the employee is present in the US in lawful temporary status, upon approval of the L-1 petition, the USCIS will issue the employee and eligible dependent family members new I-94 cards as evidence of L status. L-1 extensions are filed with the USCIS and processed within a few months. There is no annual limit on the number of L-1 workers. The USCIS cannot issue an L-1 visa stamp in one’s passport.
2. The L-1 Visa Stamp. After the L-1 petition has been approved by the USCIS, the employee may go to an American Embassy or Consulate overseas to obtain an L-1 visa stamp. The visa stamp in the passport is required for entry into the United States in L-1 status. Dependent family members may receive L-2 visas through the same process. The L-1 visa is normally valid for multiple entries for the duration of the L-1 petition. Extensions of the L-1 visa stamp in the passport are filed with the American Embassy or Consulate overseas.
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