L-1 Visa

Work Visa for Multi-National Companies

L-1 Visa

L-1 visas are used by overseas companies to transfer owners and employees to their US offices. Foreign business owners also obtain L-1A visas to live and to start new businesses in the US.

Intra-company transferee visa

Basics of the L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa is used by large multinational companies to transfer employees to the US. It is also routinely used by smaller companies to transfer their owners and key personnel to the US. Many enter the US to open and run new offices for their companies.

L-1A visas are for managers and owners. L-1B visas are for key personnel.


The L-1 visa was created in 1970 to allow multinational companies to send employees to their US ...

... offices. By the late 1960s, companies had started selling their goods worldwide. These companies wanted branch offices in their market-countries and wanted their own employees to run these branch offices.

However, Congress had passed laws in 1965 that delayed employees of these multi-nationals from working in the US. Worried that other countries would retaliate by stopping US workers from entering their countries, US created the L-1 visa category.

The world has changed since the 1970s, when only a few large companies sold their wares internationally. Now even mom-and-pop shops sell to international customers through the world-wide-web. This exponential growth in international sales has resulted in a tremendous growth in the number of L-1 visas being filed.

L-1 visa has become very popular and is used by all sized businesses to establish their presence in the US, which is considered the world’s largest destination market.

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Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an L-1 visa, the foreign company must prove that:

  • It is related to the US company
  • Both the foreign and US companies are doing regular business in their countries
  • Both companies will continue to do regular business while the L-1 visa holder is in the US

  • For an L-1A, the employer must prove that:
    • The person being transferred is either a manager or an executive
    • The person has worked for the foreign company as a manager for over 1 year in the past 3 years before entering the US
    • The person is coming to the US to work as a manager or executive

  • For an L-1B, the employer must prove that:
    • The person has specialized knowledge about the company or its products
    • The employee has worked as a critical resource for over 1 year in the past 3 years before entering the US
    • The employee will continue to work in this capacity in the US
  • Starting a New Office

      If a business owner or manager is coming to the US to open a new office, they must first lease an office space, provide a business plan to show a well thought out plan of action, and also have sufficient funding to prove that the US office will be able to support a new manager within a year.

    For a more in-depth look at the criteria for L-1 visas, please visit the USCIS’ website.

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    The Filing Process & Duration of the Visa

    L-1 visas are filed by the US company with the USCIS, the government agency responsible for processing visas in the US.

    • If you have filed a L-1 petition for your inter-company transferee, and need to know when it will be approved, you can check status of the petition on the USCIS’ website.
    • To find out how long it will take the USCIS to process the L-1 petition, you can check the USCIS’s current processing time page as well.
    • After the L-1 is approved by the USCIS, the foreign national must go to the US consulate that is closest to his home to get a L-1 visa issued. If the foreign worker is already in the US on a different visa, he can request a change of status to start work. USCIS will issue a new I-94 to him along with the L-1 approval notice. This will allow him to start work after the “start date” listed on the approval notice without leaving the US.

    Duration of L-1Visa & Visas for Family Members

    • Initial L-1A visas are issued for 3 years and can be extended for a total of a 7-year stay.
    • When filing an L-1A through a new office, the initial period of stay is 1 year.
    • Initial L-1B visas are issued for 3 years and can be extended for a total of a 5-year stay.
    • If the person changes to an H1B visa, the L-1 period is counted in the total L-1 stay.
  • Family members enter the US on L2 visas, and the spouse is allowed to file for a work permit.
  • L-1 visas are dual intent visas. This means that the employee can also file for a green card for their L-1 visa holder employee.
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    How We Can Help

    Filing a successful L-1 petition requires careful planning and much documentation. Foreign businesses need to verify their corporate identity, prove that they have multiple employees, sufficient funds and a genuine need to transfer a worker to their US office.

    After practicing Business Immigration exclusively for 25 years, and with one of the highest visa approval rates year after year, Immigration Desk attorneys are adept at helping clients file for both L-1A and L-1B visas.

    Please read below for typical issues that occur while filing for L-1 petitions and how our experienced attorneys guide clients to obtain visa approvals.

    Problems When Filing the L-1 Visa

    Besides a thorough knowledge of the law, filing a successful L-1 petition requires experience with timing, planning options and organizing the plethora of translated and untranslated documents that our clients forward to us. Filing for a successful L-1 visa requires considerable documentation and a team that understands how business is done in other countries.

    If the business is transferring the manager or executive to the US, the USCIS will look very closely at their job duties overseas and in the US to decide whether they meet the definition of “manager or executive”. This is not as easy as it seems. The USCIS definition of "manager" and "executive" has changed several times in the past decade. Knowledge of what the law requires at the time of filing, and what evidence should be provided are crucial to getting the case approved.

    Similarly, for an L-1B visa, the employer must prove that the foreign national holds proprietary knowledge about the company. Newer or junior employees rarely hold proprietary knowledge. In these situations, most employers need to know that they can file a L-1A visa also. "Proprietary knowledge" itself also requires extensive documentation.

    If the owner of the foreign business is planning to enter the US, they must prove that the company overseas will continue to operate after they relocate to the US. As your attorney, we consider it is our responsibility to help you plan long-term, so when you file for your L-1 extension a year later, or when you want to file for a green card in a few years, you will continue to meet the visa requirements.

    The Immigration Desk Solution

    We believe that it is our responsibility as your attorneys to get you the L-1 approval in an efficient and cost-effective manner. But beyond this short-term goal, we believe it is also our responsibility to make both the company and the foreign national aware of any options, when they exist, and also to help you chart a pathway for eventual US permanent residency.

    At the first consultation, we review all your information to help you decide if an L-1 will suit both your short- and long-term goals.

    Many of our clients are overseas businesses transferring employees to their already established US offices. In these cases, we help the employer choose between L-1A and L-1B visas, depending on the company's long-term plan for the employee. Then we help ensure that we are able to obtain the right documents from the different offices and to make the process efficient and timely for our clients. Our trained paralegals -many of whom have business degrees - are experienced in handling corporate documents of overseas companies and easily and quickly create the right organizational paths to get the case approved.

    A growing number of our clients are also smaller and medium-sized companies who already have US customers and now want to either start, or to grow their operations in the US. Our skilled attorneys start by discussing your business, your funding, your ideal timeline and your professional and personal goals, to find the best solution for you. For new offices and for business owners who plan to move to the US, this includes helping you establish a timeline for the visa issuance and guiding you on where to incorporate a new business. As experienced and award-winning attorneys, we have taken the time to understand the reality of a foreign company doing business in the US market. The way the US market operates is very different from how business is done in other parts of the world.

    We also guide our business-owner-clients once they enter the US with regard to handling the myriad of complexities of starting a business in the United States.

    Above, we have described some of the common considerations while filing for a L-1 visa. As attorneys, we believe in helping our clients succeed. It is our privilege to help you and your employees in re-locating to the US.

    Please contact us to discuss how we can make the L-1 visa process easy for you and your employees.

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