A multi-national employer who needs, temporarily, the expertise of one or more of their foreign managers or executives to oversee a project in the United States should consider using an L-1A visa to bring those foreign workers into the United States. An L-1A visa is often suited to the needs of foreign executives and their employers. Consult with an experienced immigration attorney to help make the process easier.
What Exactly Is an L-1A Visa?
The L-1A visa is a temporary work authorization visa. It allows certain foreign managers and executives of international companies with offices in a foreign country and in the United States to work in the company’s U.S. office. It is an intracompany transfer visa that allows companies to transfer their employees to the United States for business purposes. A commonly used business purpose is developing the company’s United States office.
Categories L-1 Visas
The L-1A visa is one of the categories of visas available under the L-1 visa authority. As noted above, the L-1 visa category is available for employers to bring their executives and managers into the United States on temporary basis. The L-1A visa duration is granted in increments. For new, start-up companies, the visa may initially be granted for a period of 1 year. For existing companies, it is initially granted for 3 years. Extensions are possible in 2- year increments for up to a total duration of 7 years.
The other category of L-1 visa is the L-1B visa. The L-1B visa is available for foreign workers with specialized knowledge. It may be valid for up to five years.
Advantage of Using L-1A Visa
Spouses of L-1A visa holders may work in the United States without restriction. Also, children under 21 may accompany the L-1A visa holder and work in the United States with appropriate documentation.
An L-1A visa may be used as a springboard to a green card. L-1A visa holders may file for a Green Card in the E-B1 category and avoid completing the Permanent Labor Certification. An experienced immigration attorney can help you with this process.
Who Is Eligible for an L-1A Visa?
Any foreign executive or manager is eligible for an L-1A visa if the individual:
- Manages an organization, subdivision, department or component of the organization;
- Controls and supervises the work of other professional, managerial, or supervisory employees, or manages essential functions with the company, department or subdivision;
- Has the authority to fire and hire, recommend promotions; if no employee supervision is required, then the individual must function at the senior level within the organization’s hierarchy; and
- Exercises discretion over daily operations and establishes policies and goals.
What Is the Process for Obtaining an L-1A Visa?
To obtain an L-1A visa, an employer has two different avenues to do it:
- Regular L-1A visa; or
- Blanket L-1A visa.
Regular L-1A visa
Applying for a regular L-1A visa involves a two-part process:
1. The employer must first file a petition on behalf of the employee with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-129 along with the filing fee and supporting documentation showing that both the U.S. company and the foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch meet the qualifying factors set forth in the law and regulations. It should be filed at least 45 days before the employees start date and cannot be filed more than six months before employment begins.
The employer must show that it has a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and is currently, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1. The business must be viable, but there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade. Notice of approval of the Form I-129 is given by the USCIS on a Notice of Action.
2. Once the employer receives the USCIS Notice of approval, the individual employee may apply for visa issuance at a consulate or embassy of the United States in the country having jurisdiction over the employee’s residence. Alternatively, the employee may complete and submit a non-immigrant visa application Form DS-160 to the State Department online. Along with the application the employee will need to submit two current and identical passport-sized full-face photographs and a passport valid for 6 months beyond the intended visit.
L-1 visas are normally approved if the consular officer concludes that the individual is qualified and that the United States company and its foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch are legitimate.
Blanket L-1 visas
Blanket L-1 visas may be available to employers that meet certain criteria.
Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:
- The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;
- The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
- The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations, collectively, meets one of the following criteria:
- Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
- Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
- Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
Once the blanket petition has been approved, the employer need only complete a Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and send it to the employee along with a copy of the blanket petition Approval Notice and other required evidence, so that the employee may present it to a consular officer in connection with an application for an L-1 visa.
How Long Will the Process Take?
Normally, the L-1 visa process can take from one to five months. If using the USCIS “premium processing” program, the visa petition may be expedited. It reduces the processing time to 15 days. To use the premium processing program, the petitioner must complete Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, along with Form I-129, Petition for a nonimmigrant Worker. The fee must be submitted in a separate check or money order.
Requesting an L-1A visa can be complicated. Get the help of expert counsel to ensure applications succeed the first time, quickly, smoothly.