Qualifying for an L-1 Visa

Through the L-1 visa, international companies can transfer certain managerial and specialized knowledge employees from their foreign offices to their US offices. Foreign companies can also establish a new office in the US.

The L-1 visa is also referred as “intra-company transferee” visa. This visa classification allows international companies to transfer their employees to the US for work within the same or related company. Employees who are being transferred must have been employed by the foreign company for at least one year within the three years before filing under the L-1 category.

The L-1 visa category is divided into two parts:

  • L-1A visas are for employees who are coming to the US in a managerial position. Managing either people or processes are these employees’ responsibilities. Though not necessary for these employees to be managers at present to be eligible for L-1A visa, the proposed US job must be of a managerial level.
  • L-1B visas are issued to employees who have “specialized knowledge”, meaning ones who have knowledge about a particular product or process that cannot be learned in a reasonable period of time. Main developers of a new technology OR employees who have a long history with the company’s product line that is necessary for developing next generation products are a few examples.

Any L-1 visa comes with a validity of an initial three-year period. It can be renewed for two years at a time, going up to a maximum of seven years for L-1A visa holders, whereas restricting the maximum limit to five years for L-1B visa holders. The maximum time limit refers to the employee’s physical presence in the US.

If one comes to the US under the L-1B visa classification and during their US employment, they leave the US a few times for vacation or business, the total amount of time spent outside of the US can be added back to the total amount of time allowed in the US. Putting it plainly, the maximum time in L-1 status is limited to the time that someone is physically present in the US.

Unless the L-1 visa holder is granted U.S. permanent residency e.g. a Green Card before the maximum time limit (seven years for L-1A visa holders and five years for L-1B visa holders) is reached, he/she should leave the US for a full year (365 days) before he or she is eligible to receive another L-1 visa.

Features of the L-1 Visa Category

  • Used to transfer employees of international companies from a foreign office to a US office of the same or related company.
  • Divided into two sub categories, for managers and specialized knowledge employees.
  • L-1A visa holders are limited to a maximum stay of seven years. L-1B visa holders are limited to a maximum stay of five years. Time previously spent in H-1B status will be counted toward the L-1 maximum limit.
  • Dependent spouse and unmarried children below 21 years of age are eligible for L-2 status. L-2 dependents can study in the US and L-2 spouses can apply for separate work authorization.
  • Dual-intent visa which allows for simultaneous Green Card application while working in L-1 status.
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