What is a L1 Visa
Are you looking for opportunities to expand your business? Interested in working in the United States? The L1 Visa might be able to help you do that. Also known as the intra-company transferee, this Visa allows an eligible foreign worker to continue their employment in another branch of their company located in the United States.
Who is eligible to apply for L1 Visa?
In order to apply, you must be a manager, executive, or worker with specialized knowledge who is employed by a foreign company. Note that there are specific definitions of each category; you may only apply if you meet the American definition. For example:
Note that there is no requirement that the specialized knowledge be something that is unique; rather, it must be at an advanced level that is imperative to the smooth operation of your specific business.
- A manager refers to someone that supervises and controls the work of other employees. The L1 Visa will also accept managers of an essential function within the organization
- An executive refers to someone that directs the organization, or someone that directs an essential component of the organization
- A specialized knowledge worker is someone with special knowledge/skills that are specifically relevant to the services offered by the organization
L1 Visa Qualification Criteria
Other qualifications you must have in order to apply include work experience; you must have been working abroad for at least one full year within the 3 years preceding the time you apply. Your company abroad must be related to the business you will establish in the US, and both branches of the company must continue to do business after you have started your business in the United States.
If you meet this criteria, you will be able to apply for the L1 Visa. This is essentially a temporary nonimmigrant visa, which allows you to enter the US and work for the company you specified in your application.
I applied for L1 Visa can my family join me?
If you have been granted an L1 visa, your spouse will also be able to receive an L2 Visa. This is a dependent visa that allows the holder to accompany an individual with an L1 Visa to the United States. It will be valid for as long as the L1 Visa is. Furthermore, an L2 Visa holder will be able to work in the United States after they apply for and obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). As an L2 Visa holder, your application for the EAD will be approved and you will be able to work part-time or full-time in any legal job in the United States. Before working, however, you will need ensure that you have received both an EAD and Social Security Number (if you did not already have one).
If you are a holder of the L1 Visa, your minor (under the age of 21) children who are unmarried will also be given an L2 Visa. However, dependent children will not be able to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and thus cannot work in the United States.
What documents do I include in my L1 Visa application?
Proving Qualifying Relationship
Your application must demonstrate certain elements that are necessary to obtain the L1 Visa. To begin, you must prove that the new US office will have a business relationship with the foreign company you originally worked at. In other words, you must demonstrate that the new US office will be a parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch of the original office and that both offices will continue to share common ownership and control. This is called demonstrating a Qualifying Relationship between the two business entities. You can do this by providing additional documents that evidence the relationship between the two. This includes business licenses, article of incorporation, annual reports related to the business, contracts, corporate filings, or other documents that clearly state the business name and relationship between the two entities.
Proving Secured Office Space
The second thing you will need to demonstrate is that you have secured physical space for the new office. This can be done through a lease, purchase, etc. The amount of physical space will vary depending on the nature of the business, but an appropriate amount to safely run your business should be secured. You can prove that this physical space has been allocated by including your signed lease agreement, mortgage, business plan connecting activity and space required, or other real estate documents within your application.
Proving you Work Full Time Abroad
You also would need to demonstrate that you meet the requirement of working abroad for one full year within the last three years. You can do this by including documents such as: pay stubs, payroll records, tax returns demonstrating employment, or evidence of work products. The other requirement you will need to fulfill is the job type (managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge). You can prove your job type by including documents such as organization charts, performance reviews, resumes, organizational job descriptions, patents, or loans/financing on behalf of the company.
L1 Visa Documents
Note that there is no limit to the amount of documents you can include. In general, the more documents you include that clearly demonstrate your eligibility, the stronger your application will be. However, you will need to ensure that you submit proper documents; some documents require photocopies while others require originals. Refer to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to confirm whether your documents are acceptable.
How long will the L1 Visa be valid for?
Your initial L1 Visa will be valid for a maximum of one year. After this point, however, you will be permitted to apply to extend your L1 Visa. These extensions can be granted at 2 year increments and you may only apply for 3 extensions. This is because the limit of extensions is 7 years.
As an L1 visa holder, you may still eventually apply for a Green Card (Permanent Residency). This is the case for most L1 holders who have expended their ability to extend their L1 Visa. You may file for an Adjustment of Status or an Immigrant Visa. Note that if this is your intention, it will not be a reason for an initial denial of your L1 Visa application.
Are there any circumstances where I would not need to apply for an L1 Visa?
If your organization has already filed for a Blanket Petition, you may not need to file for an L1 Visa. The Blanket Petition will establish the intra-company relationship before you would need to file for your individual L1 Visa. However, only certain organizations are eligible to apply for a Blanket Petition. For example, one of the criteria includes that the petitioner must have an office in the United States which has been actively doing business for one year or more as well as have three or more domestic and foreign branches. For a full list of criteria to see if you are eligible for Blanket L Certification, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Blanket Petition Approved
If the Blanket Petition has been approved, the employer will need to send Form 129-S as well as the Blanket Petition Approval Notice to the employee for him/her to send along with just the application form for the L1 Visa. If you are a Canadian citizen, you are exempt from the L1 Visa requirement. You will only need to present the Blanket Petition Approval Notice and Form 129-S (which is to be completed by the employer) to the US Customs and Border Protection Officer to gain L1 status (after which you can work in the United States).
Contact Akrami & Associates
If you are seeking L1 status or have questions about your eligibility, consider the dedicated team at Akrami and Associates. We will be happy to assess your situation and answer further questions you may have. With Akrami and Associates, there is always a way!
What does it mean “Qualifying Relationship”?
Before starting the process of applying for an Intra-Company work permit there are qualifications you should determine that match your current situation.
There are a few qualification that you must have such as you must be a citizen of North America (Canada, the United States, and Mexico). You must hold the position of either a manager or an executive or have proven that you have specialized knowledge. The position must have been held for at least one continuous year. Your plans in Canada do not go outside the time frame of how long your work permit is valid for.
One of the most important qualifications is that the company you current work for must have a relationship with the company you are transferring into. It must be a qualifying relationship. This means that both companies have a connect somewhere in the ways of doing business with each other. There are a few different ways that both companies can have a qualifying relationship.
Both your company and the Canadian company must be legal businesses and be in connect by way of either one company is Parent, Subsidiary, Branch or Affiliate. To be considered as two companies doing business with each other both your company and the Canadian company must have evidence of business transactions, such as offices with actual employees, supplies being transferred, and tax returns. All communications between both companies must on regular and continuous.
In better detail the following types of business are considered to be qualifying:
One of the companies own more than one company. They have multiple subsidiaries.
means that one of the companies is owned by the parent company either directly, 50-50, or less than half but still has control over the other company.
both are the same company just with different offices in different locations
companies are own and operated under the same parent company or own by multiple individuals who each have about the same amount of control and ownership in the business.
If the relationship changes between your company and the one in Canada it may change in regards to whether it remains qualifying.
Qualifying relationships are focused most with the Intra-Company work permit. There are other options available if this particular work permit does not work. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement there are three other work permits you may qualify. There is the Professional work permit, Trader Status, and Investors permit. Take note, that both the Trader Status and the Investor work permits are complicated, are limited in their use, and are complex.
Contact us here at Akrami and Associates today and we will assist you in finding out which option is best for you.
L-1 Visa versus H-1B Visa
The United States offers many different types of temporary worker visas in order to assist employers in acquiring personnel. Some of the visas that fall within this category include L-1A, L-1B, TN, O-1, and OPT. Two of the most requested visas are the L-1 and H-1B.
The L-1 visa is used for Intra-company Transferees. An Intra-company Transferee is a foreign national who has been working for a non-U.S. company and is applying to be transferred to a U.S. company. This U.S. company is a branch, subsidiary, or joint venture partner of the non-U.S. company.
The H-1B visa is used for Temporary Workers in Specialty Occupations. This type of applicant must meet the educational and experience requirements of one of the specialty occupations listed on Form M-746 (Dictionary of Occupational Titles). U.S. employers can hire foreign workers that meet these specifications.
The L-1 and H-1B share some similarities, so it is easy to get confused about which one to pursue.
The major similarities between the L-1 and H-1B visa are:
Beyond these similarities, the L-1 and H-1B visas have quite a few differences. A potential applicant should assess these differences carefully and choose the visa that best applies to his or her situation.
- They are both temporary work visas.
- Both of them qualify for Premium Processing.
- U.S. businesses can expedite the processing of certain types of non-immigrant visas by paying a fee of $1,225 to the USCIS. This guarantees a 15 calendar day processing time for visa petitions and applications. The other advantage of premium processing is that companies who participate in it get dedicated phone and email access to inquire about their applications and check on their status.
- Dual intent is possible.
- Dual intent is an immigration term which describes an applicant who has filed for both temporary and permanent visa status simultaneously. Due to this contradiction, applicants for L-1 and H-1B visas are not required to prove strong ties to their home country. It is largely because of this allowance of dual intent that the L-1 and H-1B visa categories are so popular, as it allows applicants to work temporarily in the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their permanent residence application (Green Card).
Differences Between L-1 and H-1B Visas
The U.S. company filing the petition for foreign workers must be multinational or have a relationship with a foreign company. The U.S. company applying could be the parent or subsidiary of a foreign company, or possibly an affiliate or branch. The applicant for an L-1 visa must have a minimum of 1 year work experience in a preceding 3 year period as a manager, executive, or have specialized knowledge.
Any U.S. employer can file a petition for a foreign worker. They must show that they are hiring a worker in one of the listed Specialty Occupations for an H-1B visa. Foreign workers must meet certain educational and experiential requirements in order to qualify under one of the chosen occupations.
There are no wage requirements specified for the L-1 visa. The lack of restrictions is due to the fact that the applicant is being transferred from a foreign company. Despite this, drastically lower wages can still be an issue. Therefore, wages are still expected to be reasonable.
Wage requirements are carefully regulated for the H-1B visa. The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a prevailing wage database for each of the listed Specialty Occupations. If the U.S. employer cannot offer the minimum prevailing wage, the H-1B visa petition will be rejected.
Currently, the L-1 Visa has no application caps in place.
There is annual application cap enforced on H-1B visas. The fiscal year begins on April 1 and the cap is set at 65,000. In recent years, this application cap has been met very quickly. For example, in the fiscal year for 2015, over 172,500 applications were received.
Exemptions to the cap are given to H-1B applicants employed by:
- A non-profit research organization
- A government research organization
- An institution of higher education
Due to the nature of the L-1 Visa, the payroll requirements are flexible. It is possible for an Intra-company Transferee to still be on a foreign payroll and only receive an allowance from the U.S. company.
In general, foreign workers on an H-1B visa are working directly for their U.S. employer. Therefore, the employer must have the H-1B visa holders on a payroll.
An L-1A visa has a maximum validity of up to 7 years, while an L-1B visa has a maximum validity of up to 5 years. It should also be noted that L-1 visa applicants who are transferring from an H visa must include that time. This means that if you were on an H-1B visa for 2 years and transferred over to an L-1A visa, you would only have 5 years left until the new L-1A visa expired.
The maximum duration of an H-1B visa is 6 years. If you transfer from an L visa to an H-1B visa, that previous time counts towards the maximum duration.
It is also possible to apply for an extension of an H-1B visa in some cases. This extension could grant the visa holder another 3 years, but must be applied for at least a year before the current H-1B visa expires.
Minimum Education Requirements
A degree is not a requirement for this type of visa. Naturally, many Intra-company Transferees do have degrees, but they do not have to be related to any predetermined specialized field.
There are strict minimum education requirements dictated by foreign workers under an H-1B visa. The occupation that the foreign worker will be performing must require at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. Furthermore, the job on offer must meet an industry standard for degree requirements, meaning that to do the duties of the job, the foreign worker must have specialized training or knowledge.
U.S. companies can file for a blanket petition which means that multiple non-immigrant workers can be hired under one petition. In order to be eligible to file a blanket petition, the U.S. company should meet one of the following conditions:
- Employer must have received a minimum of 10 L-1 visa approvals during the previous year
- Employer has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with a combined revenue of $25 million or more
- Company has a minimum of 1,000 employees in the U.S.
Currently, the H-1B visa does not allow the filing of blanket petitions. Only individual petitions are possible.
Family Members of Applicant Seeking Employment
One of the key advantages of the L-1 visa is that immediate family members of an L-1 visa holder may seek employment in the U.S. Immediate family would be defined as a spouse or unmarried minors dependent on the L-1 visa holder. These family members can receive an L2 visa which allows them to work legally in the U.S.
While immediate family members of an H-1B visa holder are allowed to live in the U.S. for the duration of the visa, they are not allowed to be paid employees. If they wish to work, they must apply for and obtain their own separate work visa.
Contact Akrami and Associates
As you can see, the L-1 visa and H-1B visa have quite a few differences. What visa is right for you largely depends on your background. You might want to consider these questions when considering a temporary worker application for U.S. non-immigrant status:
If you have more questions or are unsure how to proceed with your U.S. temporary work visa, our firm is here to help. Our team of U.S. immigration lawyers and consultants has the knowledge and skills necessary to set you on the right path. Let us help to assess which non-immigrant visa works best for you and to put together the most professional application possible.
- Does my education background meet the requirements of a Specialty Occupation?
- Do I have the necessary work experience?
- Will my immediate family accompany me to the U.S.?
- Will my accompanying immediate family need to work?
- How long do I want to stay in the U.S.?
- Does my U.S. employer meet the qualifications for the type of visa I wish to apply for?
Specialized knowledge means that the individual holds special knowledge of the products, service, research, equipment, techniques, processes, procedures, management or other interests of the organization. The employee must have more than the simple skilled knowledge of the employer’s business. It must be beyond the ordinary knowledge that any other worker would have of the company. The person has to have expert knowledge of the company’s interests to be considered under this category. This requirement is to target the main key personnel in order to distinguish them from normal personnel. These key individuals carry much more knowledge than any other ordinary person. The visa requires evidence of how the individual holds specialized knowledge which distinguishes him/her from others.
L1B visa is a category for individuals who hold socialized knowledge of the organization’s business looking to enter USA under the intra company transfer program.
L1B visa is similar to Canadian intra company transfer visa. The USA L1 visa is a non immigrant visa that allows companies with branch in America and foreign countries to transfer employees with specialized knowledge of the company’s business from its foreign location to the location in USA. The time limit on this visa is for total of five years. The employee must have worked as a specialized knowledge staff. The employee must have had worked in the transferring company for at least one year out of the last three years.
For specialized knowledge holders, the workers must possess knowledge at an advanced level of expertise and propriety knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques or management.
In order to qualify for specialized knowledge and applicant is required to show a high degree of propriety and advanced expertise. Propriety knowledge refers to expertise that are specifically related to the company’s product or services. In order to show advanced knowledge the applicant must show that he/she hold uncommon knowledge of the company’s products or services and its application in international markets. This advanced knowledge can be through the research for the company, or its equipments, techniques or management.
Advanced expertise are required through significant and recent experience within the last 5 years which contributed greatly to the company. In order to consider specialized knowledge officers consider the following:
The evidence that an applicant can provide to show his/her specialized knowledge can be through a resume, references, letters of verification from company, years of experience, degrees or certifications related to the company’s work, list of awards or accomplishments, and the work required to perform in the company in Canada.
The officers assess all the information provided and make a decision based on that information. If the officer is not satisfied by the information provided then the application would be rejected. Usually specialized knowledge applicants are exempt from LMIA however if the officer finds the applicant ineligible for LMIA exemption then the application would be rejected.
Specialized knowledge workers can renew their work permits for up to a maximum of 5 years. After the maximum period is over the worker must leave Canada and the Canadian labour market for at least one year before re-applying and begin the cycle again.
- Abilities that are different from others in the same industry and are not easily transferable
- The knowledge or the expertise has to be highly unusual
- It must be critical to the company’s business of the Canadian branch and without it there would be disruption in the business
- The applicant’s proprietary knowledge of the business must be unusual and not widespread