IMMIGRATION

L-1 VISA

Businesses that function both in the United States and in their home country gain the benefits of the best of both areas. The L-1 visa is open to international organizations with offices in the U.S., and who transfer employees to the U.S. office for temporary periods of time. This visa is sometimes referred to as the 'intra-company transferee' visa.

To obtain an L-1 visa, you must be able to prove that you have worked for the non-U.S. company for at least one full year within the last three years as an executive, manager or employee with specialized knowledge.

The L-1 visa enables the transfer of managers, executives and specialized knowledge personnel to a U.S. office, subsidiary or affiliated company. This visa comes in the following categories:

  1. L-1A visas – for executives and managers
  2. L-1B visas – for personnel with specialized knowledge

Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are allowed to join you in the U.S., under L-2 status. They are not allowed to work, but can attend school or college. Servants may be eligible for a B-1 visa with work authorization.

Steps

The employer must file a petition with the INS Regional Service Center with jurisdiction over the location of the position. These documents should be photocopies of the oiriginals. The INS will inform you of acceptance or denial of the petition within 30 days.

Upon approval, the INS will forward the petition to the U.S. Consulate nearest your place of residence for review. If you are not in the U.S. when your petition is approved, you must get your visa stamped at the U.S. consulate before being allowed to enter the U.S. Your employer will recieve Form I-797.

After receipt of the I-797, you must then file-in Form OF-156 at the Consulate. If your petition is not approved due to missing documents, INS will request further documentation. You will have 12 weeks to respond. If approved, your visa will be valid for 3 years.

Blanket Petition: A blanket petition eases the process of gettign the L-1 visa. If a company has been defined as a blanket petition entity by INS, the company can directly authorize L-1 visas to eligible employees.

Documents

To apply for an L-1 Visa, you must supply the following documents:

  1. A filled-in visa application Form OF-156.
  2. One recent photograph 1 & 1/2 inches square (37mm x 37mm) of each applicant, with the entire face visible. The picture should be taken before a light background and without head covering.
  3. A passport, valid for travel to the United States for at least six months longer than your intended visit.
  4. The employee copy of Form I-797. The Notice of Action, this petition is filed-in to the INS by your employer.
  5. INS Form I-129, and the L Supplement.

Your petition should show that both the U.S. and foreign-based company meet INS requirements for L-1 status. The U.S. entity should be a branch office, subsidiary or affiliate of the foreign enterprise, and both companies should be actively engaged in business.

The following documents may also be required:

  1. A letter from your prospective U.S. employer on company letterhead detailing your position and the U.S. operation's status.
  2. Letters proving that the U.S. and foreign entities are engaged in business. These can be from attornies, bankers or accountants.
  3. Proof of the size and status of the U.S. and foreign entities.
  4. Documents that detail the value of the applicant's skills in regards to the U.S. entity.

You, the employee, should provide the following documents:

  1. A resume or curriculum vitae. 
  2. Copies of passports for family members joining you. 
  3. Proof of education: degrees, transcripts, etc. 
  4. Reference letters from former employers. 
  5. Professional licenses, if applicable. 

If you are coming to the U.S. to start a new office, you should also provide the following documents:

  1. Proof of a building or location for the new office. A lease will work for this.
  2. Proof of your relationship with the foreign entity.
  3. Proof of financial resoluteness. You must show that you can pay your U.S. employees and handle any other business costs.