(1) What is the L Visa?
The L-Visa is a visa by which multi-national companies are able to bring skilled employees into the United States as intracompany transferees. While many companies employ the H1B Visa to sponsor foreign workers, those that have both foreign and domestic offices may want to consider utilizing the L visa instead as an alternative, which in many ways is arguably not as subject to as many requirements. The L-1A allows for managers and executives to be moved from a foreign office to the US one, while the L-1B allows the same for employees who may not be executives or managers but do possess “specialized knowledge.”
(2) Applying for the L-1A Visa
When applying for an L-1A Visa, the applicant must ordinarily prove that the foreign national (1) has a managerial or executive role in the organization, (2) supervises and controls the work of other employees who have professional or managerial responsibilities, (3) has the authority to hire, fire or recommend personnel for promotion, (4) can exercise discretion over day-to-day activities, and (5) has been working for the organization for at least one continuous year within the past three years of his or her admission to the United States.
Once the application has been approved, the employee will be granted a visa that is good for either one or three years. If the employee is being moved to a new office, then he or she will be allowed to stay for a single year. At the end of the year, the company must prove that the office in which the executive/manager is stationed has a sufficient and continued need of his/her presence. If the office is not new, then the executive/manager may usually stay for three years. Following this, extensions may be requested in two year increments, with a maximum stay of seven years.
(3) Applying for the L-1B Visa
When applying for an L-1B visa, the applicant must show that the employee will provide services using his/her specialized knowledge for the employer. Specialized knowledge is defined as a “special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge in the organization’s processes and procedures.” Examples of occupations in which specialized knowledge have been demonstrated include engineers, lawyers, physicians and teachers.
Once the application has been approved, the visa holder will be allowed to stay and work for one year in a new office or three years in an established one. Requests for extensions may be granted in two year increments, up to a maximum of five years.
(4) Changing locations
L-Visa holders of either variety are permitted to change locations within the same company. To do this, the company will need to file an amended petition with USCIS and show that the employee’s job duties will remain the same.
(5) Dependent Family Members of the Visa holder
In addition to the visa holder, his or her spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21) may accompany him or her. This provides them with an L-2 visa, and they will ordinarily be admitted for the same duration as the principal employee. Once an L-2 visa or status is obtained, the spouse holder of it will be permitted to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) which will allow him/her to work. This EAD will be valid for two years and can be renewed in two year increments. While held, it allows the visa holder to work in any capacity that he or she can find employment in.
If the holder of an L-1 visa is laid off, then there is no grace period. Instead, the individual will fall out of status. Should this be forseeable, the alien may want to consider changing status (to B-1/B-2); finding new employment; or returning to his or her home country before status is lost or violated.
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