An L1 visa is used to transfer from working at a companies offices outside the usa - to the same companies offices in the USA.
The L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, and is typically valid for up to 7 years. However employees in this category will initially be granted an L1 visa for up to three years.
L1 visas are available to certain classes of employee of an international company with offices in both a home country and the United States, or which intend to open a new office in the United States while maintaining their home country interests.
The visa allows such foreign workers to relocate to the corporation's US office after having worked abroad for the company for at least one year prior to being granted L1 status. The US office must be a parent company, child company, or sister company to the foreign company.
Spouses of L1 visa holders are allowed to work after obtaining work authorization, without restriction, in the US.
The L1 visa is a ‘dual intent’ visa allowing the holder to apply for a Green Card
There are two types of employees who may be sponsored for L1 Visas:
1) Managers/Executives (L1A) 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 two year increments to a maximum of seven years. 2) Specialized Knowledge Staff (L1B) 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 Statesfor a minimum of one year before a new application is made for L or H status.
Types of L1 visas: The L1 visa has two subcategories: L1A for executives and managers, and L1B for workers with specialized knowledge.
An L1A status is valid for up to seven years; L1B status is good for up to five years. After the expiration of the seven or five years, respectively, the alien must leave the United States for an aggregate of 365 days, and must work for a parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch of the U.S. company during that time before becoming eligible to reapply for an L1 visa.
There are two types of L1 procedures: 1) Regular L1 visas, which must be applied for and approved for each individual by the USCIS; and
2) Blanket L1 visas which are available to employers who hire large numbers of Intracompany Transferee's every year.
For a regular L1 visa, the company must file a petition with the USCIS and each petition is evaluated on its own merits.
In the case of a blanket L1 visa petition, it has already been determined by USCIS that the company qualifies for the issuance of Intracompany Transferee visa, so the individual visa applicant need only file a copy of the approved blanket petition, along with documents supporting their personal qualifications, with the US consulate or embassy having jurisdiction over their place of residence proving the applicant's qualifications.
L1 Visa Application process: application for an L1 visa begins with the filing of a petition with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-129, along with supporting documentation showing that both the US company and the foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch meet the qualifying factors set forth in the law and regulations.
Notice of approval of the Form I-129 is given by the USCIS on a Notice of Action,Form I-797, and using this as the basis of the application, the alien may apply for visa issuance at a consulate or embassy of the United States in the country having jurisdiction over their residence.
Applicants who are in the United States at the time of the filing of the I-129 can request a change of status from their present immigration status (i.e. visitor, student, etc.), so long as they are in status at the time of the filing of the I-129. If they go out of status after the filing, but before approval, there is no negative consequence, and the person does not accrue unlawful presence.
Upon application at the consulate or embassy, the spouse and children of the primary applicant who are under the age of 21 may be issued L2 visas. Children of the primary L1 can attend school. The spouse of the primary L1 can apply with the USCIS for employment authorization after arriving in the United States and, after issuance of the Employment Authorization Document(EAD, Form I-765), may thereafter work for any employer.
An I-797 Notice of Action showing the approval of the visa petition does not guarantee that a visa will be issued at the U.S. consulate or embassy, but L1 visas are normally approved if the consular officer concludes that the individual is qualified and that both the US company and the foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch are legitimate.
Basis for visa denial: A consular officer may deny the issuance of an L-1 visa in cases where the officer determines the USA company that filed the L-1 petition may not be qualified, or that the parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch outside the United States is not qualified or does not intend to continue in business after L1 visa issuance, or that USCIS approved the petition based on a fraud committed by the company or the visa applicant, or that the applicant is ineligible for that class of visa under section 212(a) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. In addition, the consular officer may request that the underlying petition be reconsidered by USCIS.
"Dual Intent" allowed: Unlike some classes of non-immigrant visas, L1 applicants may not be denied a visa on the basis that they are an intending immigrant to the United States, or that they do not have a residence abroad which they do not intend to abandon.
Renewing an L1 visa
L1 status may be renewed and extended within the United States. Except in the case of blanket petitions, a new I-129 petition must be filed. Renewal in the United States applies to status only, not the actual visa in the passport. For visa renewal, the applicant must go to a US consulate or embassy outside the United States. An alien cannot leave the United States and then reenter without a valid L1 visa, and must appear personally before a consular officer for visa issuance. This often leads to difficulties for applicants, because it means leaving their adopted home in the United States for as long as it takes the embassy to issue their new visa. In particularly busy times of year, or at some consulates or embassies, this can take several weeks or more.