The L1 Visa and its Different Categories

U.S. immigration laws have many different categories of workers. Each category is set aside for a specific type of work and a specific period of time.

The L1 visa category is used when a company based outside of the US sends one of their foreign workers to the US to either work in an established US office of the same or related company, or to open a new US office. The L1 visa is also called an “intra-company transferee” visa. Through this visa international companies can transfer their employees to the US for work within the same or related company. Such employees being transferred should have been employed by the foreign company for at least one year within the three years before filing for L-1 visa.

The L1 Visa Sub Categories

L1A Visa

L1A visas are granted to employees who come to the US under the managerial position. The employees manage either people or processes. Though it is not necessary for these employees to currently be managers to qualify under this visa category, the proposed US job must be a managerial position.

L1B Visa

L1B visas are granted to “specialized knowledge” employees. Employees who have knowledge about a particular product or process that cannot be learned in a reasonable amount of time fall under this category. Main developers of a new technology or employees who have long history with the company’s product line that is necessary for developing next generation products are examples.

An approved L-1 visa is valid for an initial three-year period. It can be renewed for two years at a time, up to a maximum of seven years for L-1A visa holders, and a maximum of five years for L1B visa holders. The maximum time limit refers to physical presence in the US. For example, if one comes to the US on an L1B visa and during their employment, they leave the US several times for vacation or business, the total amount of time spent outside the US can be added back to the total amount of time allowed in the US.

In plain terms, the maximum time in L1 status is limited to the time that someone is physically present in the US. Once an L-1A visa holder has completed the full seven years in the US, he/she will have reached the maximum time allowed. Similarly, once an L1B visa holder has completed the full five years of physical presence in the US, he/she will have reached the maximum time allowed. Unless the L1 visa holder is issued a Green Card before the maximum time limit has been reached, he/she will need to leave the US for one year (365 days) before he/she is eligible to receive another L-1 visa.

Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of the L1 visa holder are eligible for L2 visa status. L2 dependents are allowed to study in the US and L-2 spouses can apply for separate work authorization. The L1 visa is a Dual-intent visa that allows for simultaneous Green Card application while working under the L1 status.

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