The petitioner/qualifying employer should first file a preliminary petition with the USCIS to request approval for L-1 visa classification. Once approved, it serves as authorization from the USCIS that the person is allowed to work in the US. As soon as the preliminary L-1 petition is approved, the employee can apply for an L-1 visa at a US consulate. A visa allows a person to be admitted into the US for a particular purpose and time. Upon arrival to the US, the designated employee will present both the L-1 approval notice and the L-1 visa for entry to the US.
Steps To Be Taken By the Petitioner/Employer
The petitioner generally is the company requesting L-1 classification for the employee. Except for a New Office L-1, the petitioner is usually the US company because it is the US company that is requesting the services of the foreign employee.
Preparing and Submitting L-1 Visa Petition
The petitioner (employer) should file an L-1 petition with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the intended place of employment. The L-1 petition is submitted through Form I-129 and Supplement L. The form should be submitted along with the appropriate fee and should also include a company letter detailing the relationship with the foreign company, the nature of the proposed position, and the employee’s qualifications. If the petitioner is being represented by an attorney or representative, Form G-28 should be filed.
The specific supporting documents required for an L-1 visa petition will vary according to the type of petitioner. Large, well-known companies are generally required to submit less documentation to evidence their business whereas smaller companies will be required to submit more complete documentation concerning the financial stability of their business activities. Documentation generally required are official records of the company’s business including, but not limited to, records of stock ownership, profit and loss statements or other audited financial statements, tax returns, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and minutes of board meetings.
L-1 visa petitions, immaterial of whether it is for an initial request or an amendment, change of status, or extension request, should be filed in duplicate. As a security measure, US consulates verify the approval of all H, L, O, P, and Q petitions through the Petition Information Management System (PIMS) before issuing visas to all foreign nationals. Since the petition is filed in duplicate, a copy is sent to the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) for entry into PIMS. If a copy is not sent to the KCC, visa issuance at the consular post will be delayed considerably. So it is best advised to submit duplicate forms and supporting documents with original signatures on all copies. The government has confirmed that duplicate copies with photocopied signatures are acceptable.
Initial L-1 Petitions – If Employee is Outside of the U.S.
For initial L-1 petitions where the prospective employee is outside of the US, the dependent family members are automatically included. Additional paperwork is not needed. After the initial petition is approved, the family members can apply for L-2 visas at the consulate, at the same time that the employee is applying for the L-1 visa.
Change of Status to L-1/Extension of L-1 Status
When an employee is changing to L-1 status from another status, or while requesting to extend L-1 status, and the dependent family members are currently in the US, Form I-539 must be filed with Form I-129.