What is an L-1A visa?
An L-1A visa allows a multinational to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliates to its office in the United States, either to continue existing operations or to establish the office in the first place, in an executive or managerial capacity. L-1A visa holders are granted a three-year period of stay, extendable in two-year increments up to a maximum of seven years., but are only granted an initial period of stay of one year to open a new office. L-1 status will not be extended beyond seven years.
What is an L-1B visa?
An L-1B visa allows employers to transfer specialized knowledge employees from a foreign company to a US affiliate. Specialized knowledge employees are often viewed as executive or managerial positions without subordinates.
The head of a company’s R&D department might qualify as a specialized knowledge employee, for example. An L-1B visa holder is typically allowed an initial stay of three years or one year to help open a new office. The L-1B can be extended up to only five years, as opposed to seven years for an L-1A visa.
What is a “specialized knowledge” capacity?
An L-1 employee working in a specialized knowledge capacity must possess:
- Deep knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets,
- An advanced level of knowledge that is so unique that the employee is unlikely to be easily replaced either within the company or through a lateral hire from a competitor;
- The knowledge is uncommon and critically important to the employer’s US operations.
What is “managerial capacity” for L-1A purposes?
For L-1A purposes, an L-1 employee working in a managerial capacity must:
- Supervise at least three workers in managerial, supervisory, or professional roles (or heads a key department such as R&D);
- Have the authority to hire, fire, and recommend; and
- Manage a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization representing at least a portion of the company’s day-to-day operations.
What is “executive capacity” for L-1A purposes?
For L-1A purposes, an “executive” is someone who:
- Directs at least a portion of the company’s day-to-day operations;
- Sits at least two tiers of authority above rank-and-file workers (executive–lower-level managers–rank-and-file workers).
- Participates in the establishment of company policies, guidelines, procedures, and goals.
- Is empowered to make discretionary, executive-level decisions, both inside the company (top-down) or as a representative of the company with third parties (relationships with suppliers, etc.).
- Supervises senior company employees, but is himself subject only to close supervision from his own superiors (company directors, for example).
What is “dual intent”?
Dual intent means the intention to both come to the United States on a temporary nonimmigrant visa as well as the intention to eventually obtain permanent residence. For many types of US visas, you will be required to demonstrate an intent to return to your home country when your visa expires, and you will be expected to maintain ties to your home country while you are in the US.
This is not the case with L-1 visas or with H-1B visas. Since both of these are dual intent visas, it is perfectly acceptable to intend to eventually seek permanent residence in the US while holding one of the visa statuses. You can even petition for permanent residence while holding L-1 or H-1B status, an action that could get you into trouble if you hold, say, a J-1 visa.
How long does L-1 visa processing take?
L-1 visa processing typically takes two to four months, but only one to three weeks if a blanket petition has already been approved. If you select Premium Processing for an extra $1,225 fee, however, the USCIS guarantees processing (not necessarily approval) within 15 days.
What is the best way to obtain a green card starting from an L-1 visa?
Most L-1A visa holders who seek a green card go for the EB-1C visa category. The qualification standards for the EB-1 visa in the “multinational manager or executive” category are very similar to the qualification standards for the L-1A visa, and no labor certification is required. The qualification standards are more competitive, of course, since acceptance will get you a green card rather than just a few years living in the United States.
Remember that just because you qualified for L status doesn’t mean you will qualify for a green card, even if the stated qualification standards (“multinational manager or executive”, for example) are virtually identical — it is naturally more difficult to qualify for a green card than to qualify for a nonimmigrant visa such as the L-1 visa.