L-1 Nonimmigrant Work Visa

The L-1 visa is a special type of nonimmigrant work visa created by the U.S. government to encourage foreign companies to build and develop companies in the United States. It is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa, meaning it is for temporary living and work in the U.S., however it is also a dual-intent visa, meaning that the hiring company in the United States may petition permanent residence (the "green card") for the worker. There are two main categories for the L-1 visa: L-1A and L-1B.

Overview

L-1 classification allows the individual to work in the U.S. for the petitioning employer. Additionally, the worker may bring his or her spouse and dependent children under 21 years of age. The spouse of the L-1 worker may also request employment authorization, and once it is approved, may work with any employer.

Being a dual-intent visa, the worker may exit and enter the U.S. even as the beneficiary of a permanent resident application. The employer or qualifying relatives may petition for permanent residence.

General requirements

The L-1 visa is requested by the employer - a U.S. company - on behalf of the worker, known as the beneficiary. To be able to request the visa, the employer must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as parent company, branch office, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company. The companies may be corporations, LLCs, non-profits, religious or charitable organizations, and more.
  • Be or will be doing business as an employer in the U.S. and the foreign company must be doing business in another country.

L-1A classification

To be an L-1A beneficiary, the worker must:

  • Have worked abroad at the foreign company for a continuous period of one year within the last three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the U.S. Any time spent working in the U.S. will not count towards the one year requirement.
  • Have been employed abroad in an executive or managerial position for the foreign company.
  • Be coming the U.S. to work in an executive or managerial position for the employer.
  • Be qualified for the position by virtue of past education or experience.
  • Have the intent to depart the U.S. once the assignment is over. However, since this is a dual intent visa, it is not incompatible for the employer to request permanent residence for the employee.

The maximum period of stay for the L-1A classification is seven years. Time spent on the H classification is counted towards this period. Note that the duration of the visa itself is less than the maximum seven years, usually lasting for one, two, or three years.

An L-1A executive or manager does not have to undergo the labor certification process in the event the employer petitions for permanent residence if he or she can demonstrate one year of employment in the executive or managerial position. This means that in theory, there is a permanent visa available to the employee "immediately," although the process itself may take many months to over a year.

L-1B classification

To be an L-1B beneficiary, the worker must:

  • Have worked abroad at the foreign company for a continuous period of one year within the last three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the U.S. Any time spent working in the U.S. will not count towards the one year requirement.
  • Be coming to the U.S. to render services that require specialized knowledge.
  • Have the intent to depart the U.S. once the assignment is over. However, since this is a dual intent visa, it is not incompatible for the employer to request permanent residence for the employee.

The L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004 placed restrictions on the employment for the foreign worker. The employer must show for an L-1B employee that:

  • The employee will not be principally controlled or supervised by an unaffiliated employer; and
  • The work being provided by the employee is not considered to be labor for hire by such an unaffiliated employer.

The maximum period of stay for the L-1B classification is five years. Time spent on the H classification is counted towards this period. Note that the duration of the visa itself is less than the maximum five years, usually lasting for one, two, or three years.

Unlike the L-1A classification, the employer of an L-1B worker needs to go through the labor certification process to determine the eligibility of the position for the immigrant visa. The process is arduous and may take years.