Employment Laws

The Visa Series Part 2: The L1 Visa

This is the second part in a three-part series about work visas. Read here to better understand the L1 visas.

Blog Author - Julia Averbuck
Julia Averbuck
Mar 10, 20156 minutes
Blog Author - Julia Averbuck
Julia Averbuck
9 postsAuthor's posts
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jpmatth / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND This is second part in a three-part series about work visas for the US. At Justworks, we're in the business of making it easy and affordable to take care of your employees and sometimes, taking care of your employees involves getting them a visa. If you are in the process of hiring your first non-American employee, we recommend reading the entire series and starting with Part 1 - The H1B and ending with Part 3 - E3s, TNs and O1s.

As a quick recap though, every non-American needs permission to work in the US. This permission can come in the form of a temporary or permanent worker visa (like a Greencard). temporary work visas are more commonly sought out by employers because they are faster and easier to get.

Although there are many types of temporary work visas (20 to be precise), they all have a two key elements in common. All temporary work visas, as the name would suggest, are given for fixed periods of time. This period can be extended to different amounts depending on the category, but they are never indefinite. Additionally, they all also require that a US-based employer file the petition on behalf of the employee.

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As we mentioned above, there are 20 kinds of temporary work visas you can seek for your employee but you're probably only able to take advantage of a few types. The reason for that is that these categories include visas for temporary agricultural workers (H2A), other seasonal workers (H2B), athletes (P1), artists (P2 or P3), or participating in cultural exchange program (Q1), none of which are likely to apply to your engineer/sales person/designer/marketer/fill in the blank.

The visas you can possibly seek for your employee include the H1B, the H1B1, the L1, the O1, the TN or the E3. visas. Today we'll discuss the L1 visas.

The L1 Visa 101

The L1 visa's main purposes is to allow a company with offices around the world to transfer workers from their other locations to the US. The USCIS calls the L1 visa holders as intracompany transfers. To qualify for an L1, a worker has to have been working at the company for at least one continuous year of the past 3 years. The L1 can be renewed for up to seven years.

This means that you cannot seek out an L1 visa for your foreign hire unless you: 1) have an office abroad AND 2) this specific hire was working at the office already.

Step 1: Determining if your employee qualifies

For an employee to qualify for an L1 visa, they need to either be in a managerial or executive position (L1A) or work in a position that requires specialized knowledge (L1B). The requirements are pretty strict when it comes to one of your employees qualifying for an L1A: they have to explicitly have managed other professional or a subdivision of the company.

The requirements for specialized knowledge L1B visa however, are a little bit more laidback and can be as simple as demonstrated knowledge of your service offering. What's nice about the L1 visas is that regardless of whether your employee comes as an L1A or an L1B, they can work in either the capacity of a manager or a specialized worker.

Step 2: Determining if you (the employer) meet all the requirements

There are a few regulations around which companies qualify to bring in L1 workers, they are:

1. The petitioning US entity must have a qualifying relationship with your entity abroad.

This means that the US office must have a corporate relationship with the office your employee is coming from. The US office must either by the parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch of some kind of the foreign entity.

2. Sufficient physical space must be secured for the US office.

This means that your business must have a physical space in the US, through rent, leasing or purchasing. This is additional proof that the US business is legitimate.

3. A new office must be active and operating within one year after the L1’s admission to the United States if requesting an extension of stay.

This is only applicable when an L1 is moving to the US to open your new office. Businesses have one year to get the office going. After this period they need to prove that they have an active office by hiring additional employees, fulfilling contract orders, having a revenue stream, or holding inventory, in order to extend their L1 visas.

4. After 1 year the new office must support a managerial or executive position if you are requesting an extension of stay in the L-1A classification.

If after one year, you would like to extend an L1A visa, then you need to prove that there is a need for a managerial or executive role at the US office. For the first year, your L1A worker can be in a non-managerial position, since it is expected that they'd be the only or one of very few workers as you build out the office.

Step 3: Applying for the visa

The L1 has many advantages. The first is that you can apply for the L1 at any time, unlike the H1B which is only issued on or after October 1st. The second is that there is no limit to the number of L1 visas, like there is with the H1B cap, so you will also not be limited by the number of visas.

In order to file a petition, you need to pay a few fees (outlined below) and gather a few documents. Depending on your and employee’s scenario, they will need different docs. All in all, your documents should serve to prove that you satisfy all the requirements outlined in Step 2 and that your employee meets the requirements outlined in Step 1.

There are some documents however that are required for all L1s, such as:

  • Form I-129 - This is the actual petition for a Nonimmigrant worker.

  • Special L supplement - This is a supplement to Form I-129 that is required for all L1 visas.

  • Letter from US employer - This should describe the job duties, talk about the applicants previous job experience and provide proof of managerial or specialized role.

We would highly recommend getting a lawyer to file your petition. While this will increase the fees associated with an application, it also normally increases the odds that the application will be approved. While all these documents might seem straightforward enough, immigration lawyers can often help you use the right language to help the USCIS understand your new employee’s value.

Step 4: Application Fees

There are a few fees associated with applying for an L1 visa.

  • Fee for filing the I-129 - $325

  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee - $500

Additionally, you could choose to Premium Process the application for an additional $1225. This list also does not include any additional fees your lawyer might charge. Different lawyers charge very different rates but we’ve seen petitions prepared for anywhere from $500-$5000 in legal fees.

Step 5: Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

Once you’ve filed the petition, there’s nothing to do but wait. The USCIS is actually pretty good about updating their applicants and will let you know when they’ve received your petition and whether your petition was accepted. They will mostly communicate via snail mail.

Step 6: Actually getting the visa

If your petition was accepted (hooray!), then the next step is getting the actual visa. The visa is the travel document that will allow your employee to travel to the US to start working and it has to be issued outside of the US.

The visa will be issued by the consulate at the employee's country of residence. The process of scheduling a visa appointment goes directly through that consulate's site and involves filling out an additional application (called DS-160) and paying a visa fee of usually $190.

The USCIS website warns you that although your petition was approved, it's still possible your visa will be denied. In our experience, this does not happen very often and if it does, it is normally tied to some suspicion that the initial job opportunity might not have been legitimate. You really should be in the clear at this point. The visa has a higher chance of being denied if a worker is seeking employment through a Blanket Petition.

The Mysterious Blanket Petition

If you're reading this blog, the Blanket Petition very likely does not apply to you. The Blanket Petition is one single petition that you file which multiple of your workers can use to transfer to your US entity. This is great because it reduces processing times and makes it much easier (less work) to bring foreign workers to the US on a last minute basis. Unfortunately, the Blanket Petition mostly applies to multinational corporations or other big companies due to its requirements.

To file a Blanket Petition you need to:

  1. All your offices have to be engaged in commercial trade or services;

  2. Your office in the US has to have been doing business for one year or more;

  3. You have 3 or more domestic and foreign branches; and

  4. You and your other branches have one of the following: gotten more than 10 L1 visas in the past previous months; OR your US subsidiaries have combined annual sales of at least $25M; OR you employ at least 1000 people in the US

Because there are lots of requirements, small businesses normally don't qualify for the Blanket Petition and have instead to file an Individual Petition for each employee they'd like to transfer.

All in all, the L1 visa is a great visa to help you transfer the talent you already have. It can also prove especially useful when you're looking to open a new office in the US and we have lots of customers that use it that way. However, it is not the visa to attract fresh talent to your company, since by definition the hire has to already have been working for your company in order to qualify.

In our next piece, we'll be talking Os, TNs and E3s. If you have any questions about the L1, please don't hesitate to reach out in the comments or if you're a customer, give us a call at 1-888-534-1711.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
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Written By
Blog Author - Julia Averbuck
Julia Averbuck
Mar 10, 20156 minutes

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