The L 1 visa allows overseas companies to transfer executives, managers and specialised knowledge employees to a new or existing US office for up to seven years.
What is an L 1 visa?
The L 1 visa is designed to support businesses in expanding into the US with a minimal investment.
L 1 visas are available to employees of an international company with offices in both the United States and abroad. The visa allows such foreign workers to relocate to the organisation’s US office to deliver expansion, such as opening a new office.
To qualify for the L 1 visa, you must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of a US company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.
Spouses of L 1 visa holders are allowed to work without restriction in the US under the L 2 visa. In time, the L 1 holder may become eligible to apply for a green card.
The L 1 visa application process is intensive, requiring comprehensive supporting documentation to be submitted between 6 months and 45 days before the employee’s requested start date.
Given the complexity of the L 1 visa application, it is important to seek legal advice early on the application process to avoid delays and errors, and to ensure your case is effectively represented to the US Government.
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Our legal experts are highly experienced in all areas of US immigration, including L 1 visa applications. We have helped individuals from the UK, mainland Europe and across the globe secure entry to the US through the L 1 visa. For advice and guidance on your application, please get in touch.
Your questions answered
What is the L 1 visa?
The L 1 visa comprises two subcategories The L 1A visa is for executives and managers, and can be issued for up to seven years. The L 1B visa is for workers with specialised knowledge and is valid for up to five years.
What is the L 1 application process?
The ‘regular’ L1 visa must be applied for and approved for each individual by US authorities.
The ‘blanket’ L1 visa is available to employers that meet certain criteria. Under the blanket L1 visa, employers are issued a certain number of blank visas to distribute at discretion to their employees.
For a regular L 1 visa, the company must file a petition with the USCIS and each petition is evaluated on its own merits.
In the case of a blanket L-1 visa petition, individual visa applicants need only file a copy of the approved blanket petition, along with documents supporting their personal qualifications, with the U.S. consulate or embassy having jurisdiction over their place of residence proving the applicant’s qualifications.
Your employer must submit the L 1 application on your behalf. Each individual application will be evaluated by US authorities.
Your application will be assessed on the basis of your qualifications, and of the legitimacy of both the U.S. company and the foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch.
What are the time restrictions on the L 1 visa?
The L 1 is a short-term visa, valid from three months (for Iranian nationals) to five years (India, Japan, Germany). In total, with extensions, the maximum stay is seven years.
After your visa expiration, you can generally only qualify for L 1 status again by working abroad for at least one year for the parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch office of the US company.
Can I bring dependants with me on the L 1 visa?
Your dependants may apply under the L 2 visa.
Spouses gain an automatic right to work in the US, and children (up to the age of 21) are permitted to attend school and to study, though they are not permitted to take up paid employment.
Can I renew an L 1 visa?
L 1 status may be renewed and extended within the US. Renewal in the US applies to status only, not the actual visa in the passport.
For visa renewal, the applicant must go to a US consulate or embassy outside the US. You cannot leave the US and then re-enter without a valid L 1 visa, and you must appear personally before a consular officer for visa issuance.
Am I restricted to working with the same employer?
A person with L 1 status generally may only work for the petitioning company. If the L 1 worker enters based on an L 1 blanket, however, it generally is possible for the worker to be moved in the same capacity to any other related company listed on the blanket.