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Understanding L-1 Work Visas: What You Need to Know About US Intracompany Transfers

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

So, you’ve heard of an L-1 work visa but you’re not quite sure if it’s the right solution to solving your current business needs?

In this article, we will try to help you figure that out by covering the basics of the L-1 work visa including:

1. What is an L-1?;

2. The Process and Timeline for Seeking an L-1 work Visa; and

3. Important Things to Keep in Mind

What is an L-1?

The L-1 work visa is a temporary work visa is a tool for by large multinational companies to transfer employees currently working at their related entities abroad to the U.S. The employee you intend to transfer must be employed in a managerial/executive position or have specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests and must be entering the U.S. to provide service in that capacity.

To qualify for an L-1 work visa, you must show that:

• The foreign company and the U.S. company have a qualifying relationship i.e. parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate;

• The foreign company and the U.S. company are doing business, defined as regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services, and will continue to do business through the transferee’s stay; and

• The employee you intend to transfer must have been working for the qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding their admission to the U.S.

Whether the intended transferee is working in a managerial or executive position, or whether they have specialized knowledge of the organization’s products, techniques, services, etc. will determine whether you want to pursue an L-1A or L-1B work visa. The difference between these two visas is discussed in greater detail in one of our other articles in this series.

Process and Timeline for Seeking L-1 Work Visa

The L-1 process, like all other business/work visas, is driven by the employer. The employer provides direction to attorneys, pays the fees, and files an I-129 petition with USCIS (or CBP if transferee is Canadian national).

Processing times of the I-129 petition vary depending on the USCIS service you’re working with and can frequently change throughout the year. Currently, it is taking several months for L-1 petitions to be adjudicated. However, you can elect to speed up the process by paying a premium processing fee of $2,500 to have your petition adjudicated within 15 days.

If the L-1 is approved, the foreign national will make an application with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate near their home for an L-1 work Visa in their passport. If approved, they will be allowed to enter the U.S. to work in the capacity listed on the visa. The U.S. employer should furnish the transferee with an employer consular package containing all the details a consular official will need to make a favorable decision.

Things to Keep in Mind

Getting an L-1 petition approved isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Statistics from USCIS show that on average, 46% of petitions seeking L-1 classification received a Request for Evidence. This means USCIS needed more information and documentation on those cases before they could approve or deny them. Of those petitions, only half were later approved. See link.

The L-1 work visa petition lays a substantial evidentiary burden on the employer to demonstrate that they meet all the required qualifications. It means gathering documentation on both the U.S. employer and the foreign entity in addition to evidence of the employee’s work at the foreign organization, including evidence demonstrating they work in a managerial/executive position or have specialized knowledge. Oftentimes, this evidence will need to span over the space of a year.

Frequently communicating with your attorneys is key to moving the process along and increasing your odds of approval from USCIS.

For more information on the L-1 work visa, please see our other articles.

Hadley Bybee

Business Immigration Lawyer

Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm

NOT LEGAL ADVICE: This article is for educational purposes only, it is not legal advice that may be applicable to your situation

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is general information regarding law and policy that may be applicable to your particular HR issue or legal problem. Information provided in this blog, or any of our other public posts, does not create an attorney-client relationship. For specific advice you can rely upon, please contact your attorney.

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