The L-1 visa is a temporary work and residence permit for the United States. This work visa category allows internal staff transfers within a company group from the current foreign location to a U.S. location.
Applicants often apply for an L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa as part of a standard international assignment. However, applicants may apply for this visa, for example, if they wish to participate in a long-term project or installation assignment at a U.S. site or U.S. customer facility.
Accompanying spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for an L-2 visa.
The L-1 visa is company-based, i.e. the U.S. company officially files the application for future employees. The proof of the existence of a U.S. location within a group of companies is therefore an indispensable prerequisite. The American company must already have been active on the market for at least one year ("doing business").
U.S. locations that have been operational for less than one year may qualify as L-1 applicants under separate provisions ("L-1 New Office"). With this visa, the foreign individual can only work for the U.S. company that filed the application. The only exception is so-called "off-site employment", which allows employees to work for clients under certain conditions.
Since L-1 visas refer to intracompany transfers of employees, proof must be provided that there is a qualifying connection between the foreign location where the employees are currently employed and the U.S. location (as the "receiving" company unit) so that the transfer of the employees can take place.
This can be demonstrated as follows:
Consequently, both companies must be majority-owned. This list is not exhaustive and other constellations are possible.
Employees who are to receive the L-1 visa must also have been employed (continuously) for at least 12 months within the last three years for a location of the group of companies (outside the United States). This must have been a regular employment relationship. Freelancers or consultants, for example, do not qualify for this category. The legislation is based on the assumption that the offered position in the United States is also a regular employment relationship ("regular employment").
During the employment phase of at least one year in the foreign company, employees must have worked as a manager, executive or specialist and also hold a position at the future US location. The US authorities distinguish between the L-1A visa for managers/executives and the L-1B visa for specialists. L-1B applications in particular are strictly reviewed by the relevant authorities.
Employees who receive an L-1 visa can either continue to be paid by the foreign company or by the US location. A US employment contract or a US assignment contract is not mandatory, but possible. Foreign employment contracts may also continue for the work assignment.
L-1 petitions are filed by mail at the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service center in the United States. This petition includes extensive documentation
After the L-1 petition is approved, the U.S. company receives a letter of approval (I-797, Approval Notice) by mail.
In the last step, future employees must go through the consular process in which the actual L-1 visa is issued (exceptions are only status extension or change of status procedures within the USA). The application is usually made during a personal interview at the responsible U.S. consulate in the home country.
Companies that meet certain admission requirements can obtain a so-called L-Blanket registration for the group of companies and thus apply for L-1 visas for their employees in a simplified procedure. See also: L-Blanket.
L-1A visas for managers / executives can be applied for in the initial application for a maximum of three years and can be extended in 2-year increments up to a maximum of seven years.
L-1B visas for specialists can be approved for a maximum of three years in the initial application process, but can only be extended for two additional years to a maximum of five years.
Companies that have been operating in the U.S. market for less than one year can apply for an L-1A or L-1B "New Office" visa for employees who are to establish the U.S. location, but these visas are only approved for a maximum of one year in the initial application. Extension applications for up to a maximum of five (L-1B) or seven years (L-1A) are, however, subsequently possible.
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for a derivative L-2 visa for the same period as the principal applicant. Once the children reach the U.S. age of majority (21), they must change their nonimmigrant status or leave the country.
Spouses can apply for their own work authorization, which is not (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) which is not tied to a specific US company.
Spouses and children can attend private and public educational institutions on the L-2 visa.
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