What is an L Visa?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government body that issues visas, which are then used to allow a citizen of another country entry into the United States temporarily. There are many different kinds of visas, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The “L visa,” or L-1 visa, is used specifically by an employer of a company to transfer high-level employees from a foreign country to work and live in the United States.

The L-1 visa comes in two categories: the L-1A and the L-1B. Each visa type has a specific use. The L-1A is used by employers to transfer executives or managers from a foreign office to a United States office. If the company does not have a U.S. office, then the employer could use the L-1A visa to send an executive or manager to set one up. Employer qualifications for an L-1A visa include:

  • Requires filing of an I-129 petition for non-immigrant workers with the USCIS.
  • The employer must have a relationship with the foreign company, such as a parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate.
  • The requested business must be functional during the employee’s stay.
  • If setting up a new office, the employer must prove that the new space is secured.

To qualify for an L-1A visa, an employee must:

  • The petitioning employee must have worked for employer for at least one year at a foreign office the previous three years.
  • The employee must work at the company’s offices or branches.
  • The employee must be a supervisor or manager, meaning that they either supervise staff or are not directly supervised by another.

If the L-1A visa is used to set up a new office in the United States, then the duration of the employee’s stay is initially one year; other employees under L-1A can stay for three years.

The petitioning employee’s family, their spouse, and children under the age of 21 years old, automatically qualify for the L2 non-immigrant visa. The employee’s family are also given the same duration of stay as the petitioning employee. The petitioning employee’s spouse is also able to work in the United States without restrictions by filling out the form I-765, which is an employment authorization document (EAD). 

What is a L-1B Visa?

There is also the L-1B visa, which is similar to L-1A as they both are used by employers of qualifying companies to transfer employees to the United States to work and live. However, there are differences in requirements for the L-1B compared to the L-1A, generally for the petitioning employee.

To qualify for the L-1B visa, an employee must have:

  • The petitioning employee must have specialized skills or knowledge for the petitioning company, rather than being a manager or an executive.
  • The employee must work at the petitioning employer’s offices or branches, or one of its qualified locations in the United States.
  • The specialized knowledge the petitioning employee must have, as per the USCIS, must be expertise involving the petitioning employer’s company, businesses, products, processes, or techniques.

The L-1B visa grants the petitioning employee to work and live in the United States for a minimum of one year if they are setting up their company’s office, which is the same for the L-1A visa. Other employees with specialized skills have a period of three years to live and work in the United States.  

The L-1B visa grants the same family privileges through the L2 visa for employee’s families as it does with the L-1A visa: spouses and children under the age of 21 automatically qualify for the L2 visa, and are able to apply for an EAD while living in the country, which allows a petitioning employee’s spouse to legally work.

The Benefits of the L-1 Visa

There are many other work visa classifications comparable to the L-1 visa, but the benefits of the L-1 visa far outweigh them. Many of the benefits include:

  • No job offer is needed: Unlike the H-1B or TN visa, where you have to find a sponsor for the visa, the L-1 visa does not require you to find a job offer, as you are already employed by a United States company.
  • Low requirements: Although there are many different work visas for foreign employees to work and live in the United States, they have requirements that are difficult and steep. For instance, the TN visa is only available to Canada or Mexico, while the O-1 visa requires workers to show their ability through awards or a significant salary. The L-1 visa simply needs you to be either an executive, manager, or specialized employee of a multinational company.  
  • No limit caps: Visas like the H-1B, which is similar to the L-1 visa, have a strict cap each year of how many visas the USCIS approves. The H-1B visa also are randomly selected in a pool of petitions, and that number is limited as well. The USCIS does not limit how many L-1 visas are approved annually. 
  • Education: To qualify for the L-1 visa, you do not need a degree, unlike the H-1B visa which does require an education. There are other visas that do not require an education as well, such as the TN or J-1 visa.
  • Stay period: The period of stay for L-1 visa holders is generally longer than other work visas. The L-1A visa gives an initial three years and can be extended to a maximum of seven years. However, the L-1B visa only is a maximum of five years, which is about a year or two lower than other work visas such as the H-1B or the J-1.
  • Family work: With the L-1 visa, workers are eligible to bring their spouses and children under the age of 21 to the United States, and they are allowed to work in the U.S. as well. They should be able to qualify for EAD documents and working can help the family with a secondary income.
  • Dual Intent: The L-1 visa, like other working nonimmigrant visas, is considered to be “dual intent”, meaning that the holder of the visa is eligible to pursue permanent residency in the United States.

The Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Assist Employers and Employees with L-1 Visas

Applying for a United States visa can be stressful. Let our experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. help you through the process. Our knowledgeable team has years of experience with immigration and can help you succeed in obtaining your visa. Call us today at 215-925-4435 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation. With our offices located in Philadelphia, we proudly serve all clients of Pennsylvania and nationwide.