The Complete Guide For L-1A Visas and L-1B Visas
Transferring employees to different branches of a company is typically a simple, straightforward process – but what if you want to bring an executive, manager or specialist to the United States from a branch that’s on foreign soil? You’ll need an L-1A or L-1B visa, which enables companies to transfer employees internally, either to work at U.S.-based locations or to start new locations in the United States. Here’s what you need to know.
What is an L-1A Visa?
An L-1A visa is for intracompany transfers for executives and managers. Plainly, that means that this type of visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from a foreign office to an office in the United States. Likewise, this visa is available to executives and managers who are part of a company that wants to set up an office in the U.S. because one doesn’t yet exist. In order to use this visa program, employers must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and pay the appropriate fee on the employee’s behalf.
Who Qualifies for an L-1A Visa?
The employer must petition the U.S. government for this type of visa – and employee can’t petition on his or her own behalf. The beneficiary (the employee who’s coming to the U.S.) must meet admissibility criteria and must:
- Have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding admission to the U.S.
- Enter the U.S. to provide services for his or her company, and provide those services in an executive or managerial capacity
Executive capacity means that the worker can make decisions without much oversight, and managerial capacity means that the employee has the ability to supervise and control the work of professional employees, as well as manage the organization (or a department, function or component of it).
The employer must meet certain requirements to qualify, too. It must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as a parent company, ranch, subsidiary or affiliate
- Currently be, or plan to be, doing business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country directly
What About Establishing New Offices?
In order to bring employees to the U.S. to establish a new office, the employer must prove that:
- It has sufficient physical premises for the new office
- The employee has been an executive or manager for at least one continuous year in the three years before filing the petition
- The U.S. office will support the employee’s position within a year of the petition’s approval
How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. on an L-1A Visa?
The maximum initial stay on an L-1 visa is one year if the company is establishing a new office. However, if the office is already established, the maximum initial stay is three years. In both cases, employers can request an extension of stay for up to two additional years – but the absolute maximum limit is seven years.
Can Your Family Come to the United States With You on an L-1A Visa?
Spouses of L-1A visa holders and their unmarried children under the age of 21 can come to the U.S. in the L-2 nonimmigrant category. Typically, they get the same period of stay that the employee gets.
What is an L-1B Visa?
The L-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to professional employees with specialized knowledge who work for a company that has an office – or wants to set up an office – in the United States. It’s very similar to the L-1A visa, but it’s for employees with specialized knowledge, whereas the L-1A visa is for managers and executives.
Who Qualifies for an L-1B Visa?
Employees can only qualify for an L-1B visa if they:
- Are seeking to enter the U.S. to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity for the same company they currently work for.
- Have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for at least one continuous year within the three years before admission into the U.S.
Specialized knowledge means special knowledge about the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interest, as well as that knowledge’s application in international markets. It can also mean an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.
The employer has to meet certain criteria to use an L-1B visa for its employees, too. It must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (like a parent company, subsidiary, branch or affiliate)
- Currently be – or plan to be – doing business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country (the source country counts) during the beneficiary’s stay
For the purposes of the L-1B visa, doing business means “the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.” However, although the business must be viable, it does not have to be engaged in international trade.
Can You Use L-1B Visas to Set Up New Offices in the United States?
Organizations can use L-1B visas to set up new offices in the U.S., as long as the employer can prove that it has sufficient physical premises to house the new office and has enough money (or the ability) to compensate the employee and begin conducting business.
How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. on an L-1B Visa?
The maximum initial stay for opening a new business on an L-1B visa is one year, but for all other L-1B visa holders, it’s three years. Employers can request extensions for two years at a time, but the maximum period of stay is five years.
Can Your Family Come to the United States With You on an L-1B Visa?
Spouses and children of L-1B visa holders can come to the U.S. (provided the children are unmarried and are under the age of 21). These family members come to the U.S. under the L-2 nonimmigrant classification.
Can You File Blanket Petitions for L-1A and L-1B Visas?
Some businesses and organizations can file blanket petitions for L-1A and L-1B visas. If you’re not sure whether your organization qualifies, it’s a good idea to talk to an Austin immigration attorney for help.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About L-1A or L-1B Visas for Your Company?
If your company needs to open an office in the United States, or if you need to send talent to the United States to work in already-established offices, we may be able to help you. Call our offices today to speak to a talented, knowledgeable Austin immigration attorney. We’ll answer all your questions and point you in the right direction. We serve surrounding communities, as well, and if your organization qualifies for immigration benefits, we’ll be happy to help.