Introduction to L1
The United States L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which
allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes
of employee from its foreign operations to the US operations for up to seven
years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or
branch office of your US company outside of the US for at least one year out of
the last three years.
Companies operating in the US for at least one year, may
apply to the relevant INS service center for an L1 visa to transfer someone to
the US from their overseas operations. Employees in this category will,
initially, be granted an L1 visa for up to three years.
There are two types of employee who may be sponsored for L1
The legal definition of management and executive roles for
these purposes is quite strict, and a detailed description of the duties
attached to the position will be required. In particular, the executive or
manager should have supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or for
a key function, department or subdivision of the employer. Such personnel are
issued an L1A visa, initially for a three year period extendible in 2 year
increments to a maximum of 7 years.
Specialist Knowledge Staff
This category covers those with knowledge of the company's
products/services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or
procedures. Staff in this category are issued an L1B visa, initially for three
years extendible to a maximum of five years.
On completing the maximum allowable period in L1 status, the
employee must be employed outside the United States for a minimum of one year
before a new application is made for L status.
Can my company make L1 visa applications?
Any organization which is ‘doing business’ (i.e. has more
than simply an agent or representative presence) in the United States can
sponsor an L1 visa, provided that the candidate qualifies in either L1A or
L1B category, and that the sponsoring organization continues to carries on
doing business outside the United States for the duration of the worker’s L1
status. There is no restriction on the types of business that can sponsor an L1
visa – corporations, partnerships, government-owned entities and non-profit
organizations are all eligible. Nor is it a requirement that the sponsoring
organization be United States-owned or incorporated. It is, however, a
requirement that there is some equity or ownership link between the transferor
organization and the transferee organization in the United States.
In order to sponsor an application for an L1 visa:-
- A foreign parent must own at least 50% of a US subsidiary, and have veto
powers over the subsidiary’s actions;
- A US parent must own must own at least 50% of the foreign subsidiary, and
have veto powers over the subsidiary’s actions;
- Affiliate US and foreign companies must each be at least 50% owned by the
same ultimate parent;
- A US organization with a branch office abroad qualifies, as does a foreign
organization with a US branch (though this must be more than simply an agent
- A US organization which employs e.g. sales personnel overseas can sponsor
such employees for L1’s even if there is no non-US office.
Note that the ownership requirements are not as strict in the
case of vary large corporations, where a substantial minority shareholding will
be a qualifying relationship.
The Blanket L1 visa Petition
Organizations which have been doing business in the United
States for a minimum of one year and:-
- Are engaged in commercial trade or services (i.e. charities, etc., do not
qualify for a ‘ blanket);
- Have at least 3 offices in the US and overseas; and
- Have either:
- Sponsored at least 10 successful individual L1 petitions in the last 12
- US annual sales exceeding $25,000,000; or
- A US work force of at least 1000 employees.
can include an unlimited number of qualifying foreign
parents, subsidiaries, affiliates or branch offices in a ‘blanket’ petition.
If approved, a blanket petition considerably speeds up subsequent L1 visa
applications (from 4-6 weeks to about 10 days), which are processed at the US
consulate in the employee’s own country rather than by the INS in the United
States. The transferring employee of a foreign organization covered by the
blanket petition merely has to prove his/her own eligibility as an
Executive/Manager or a Specialized Knowledge Worker, rather than both this and
the relationship between the US and foreign employers. However, note that a ‘specialized
knowledge worker coming to the US under a blanket L1 approval must be a
professional – i.e. qualify for an H1B ‘speciality occupation’.
Does the candidate qualify for an L1 visa?
All L1 employees must have been employed by the your company
outside of the USA for at least one of the three years preceding the transfer.
It does not matter if the worker was directly employed by the sponsor, or paid
through an agency or personal service company, or even on a freelance basis,
provided the sponsor had management and control over the worker during the
The employee must have been employed during the qualifying
year as an executive, manager, or specialized knowledge worker, though it
permissible for a specialized knowledge worker to come to the United States as a
Manager or Executive, and for a manager or executive to come as a specialized
knowledge worker, provided the US operation has been doing business for at least
As noted previously, the ‘standard of proof’ for managers
and executives is quite strict – they must generally supervise other
professional or managerial staff and/or direct and control the day-to-day
operations of a significant function, unit or subdivision of the employer.
Specialized knowledge workers, however, qualify relatively easily – any
employee with familiarity with the employer’s specific products, procedures or
methods may qualify.
L1 visa application process flowchart
complete our on-line appraisal form.
considers the application. If your company, the position and the
candidate are eligible for an L1 visa, workpermit.com e-mail to
- A formal instruction form to return
- Details of any additional data required, and
confirmation of which documents we need
post documents to workpermit.com at 11 Grafton Street, London W1X 4NP
compiles and submits your petition to the Immigration &
Naturalization Service at the appropriate Regional Service Center
- After 4 to 6 weeks the petition
is approved, and the Notice of Approval is returned to you, these are
then taken to the relevant US consulate by the candidate for issue of
the L1 visa. workpermit.com will provide full instructions and
forms, and in some instances can
arrange for visa issuance.
The L1 Visa – Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is there any limit on the number of L1 visas available
in a year?
Q. Can spouses and children of L1 visa-holders work in the
A. Dependants are issued L2 visas, which are not employment
authorised. In order to engage in employment, L2 visa-holders would have to
change or adjust status to another employment-authorised category. L-2 holders
can engage in study.
Q. Can I move L1 employees to different sites around the
A. Yes, provided they remain under your management and
Q. What are the filing fees?
Q. How long does it take to get an L1?
A. Usually 1-2 months for a normal L1, 1-10 working days for
an L1 covered by a blanket approval.
Q. Can the alien come to the USA on a visitor visa or
visa-waiver while the L1 petition is being processed?
A. This is possible but not advisable, and under no accounts
should the alien risk putting in jeopardy the issue of an L1 visa by engaging
in anything that might be construed as work, as this may lead to the alien being
accused of visa-fraud either on entry to the US with a visitor visa/visa-waiver
or when applying for an L1 visa at the US consulate in their own country.
Q. Can L1 employees work part-time?
Q. Is there a requirement that I pay L1 workers the ‘prevailing
A. No, but paying L1 workers significantly below the
prevailing wage and/or the wages of your US resident staff is likely to result
in the INS viewing your petition unfavourably, and may also result in
investigations by the INS or Department of Labor.