L-1 Visa Information & Application Process

The United States L1 visa is classified in the US Immigration system as a non-immigrant visa allowing companies situated in the US and overseas to transfer employees of certain types from its foreign operations to the US operations for up to seven years.

Companies operating in the US can apply to the relevant USCIS service center for an L1 visa to transfer someone to the US from their overseas operations. Employees in this category will, initially, be granted an L-1 visa for up to three years.
The employee must have worked for the company office of the US company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.

The 2 types of employees who are eligible for the L-1 visa;

1. Specialized Knowledge Employees
Employees with significant expertise in the company’s products or services, major systems or procedures, research and development or patentented techniques are issued an L-1B visa, initially for 3 years able to be extended to a maximum of 5 years.

2. Managers or Executives
The executive or manager  category can be strict and usually requires a detailed description of the role. The person should either have a supervisory responsibility for staff or a major demonstrated prominent rolw. The L-1A visa would be issued in this case, for a 3 year period initially and then able to be extended in two year increments up to a maximum of 7 years.

After completing the maximum period in L-1 visa status, the employee must be employed leave the US for at least a minimum of 1 year before a new application is made for the L-1 visa or even H-1B Visa status. The L-1 visa is a dual intent visa meaning you can apply for a green card while on L-1 visa status. L-1 visa applicants may not be denied a visa on the basis that they are an intending immigrant to the US or that they do not have a residence abroad which they do not intend to abandon. This is also common to the H-1B visa.

The L-1 Visa Application Process

An L-1 visa petition is filed with the USCIS on Form I-129, along with the Form I-129L supplement. These are the documents that are required to verify the application.

a)     A detailed job role description and requirements for the position for Managers. For the specialized knowledge position, detailed description of the unique knowledge to be used by the US branch company
b)     The corporate relationship between the U.S. company and the foreign company (can be a letter from the corporate secretary, and the Articles of Incorporation of US and Foreign Companies)
c)     Documentation verifying the capitalization structure of the company (i.e.. equity ownership documentation)
d)     Proof you have qorked at the foreign company for one of the last 3 years
e)     If coming to the US to setup a new office branch, evidence of establishment of new office (e.g. lease, sales contract, etc.)
f).     Annual report of both US and overseas company or other documents confirming financial stability
g).     An organizational chart indicating your role in the US company and the foreign company
h).     Copies of applicable business permits/licenses and registrations

For Canadian citizens applying for the L-1 visa under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the petition may be filed at the port of entry like the airport or land border when the person applies for admission.

There is no restriction on the types of business that can sponsor an L1 visa – corporations(S, C, LLC etc.), partnerships, government-owned entities and non-profit organizations are all eligible. There are four business entities in the United States that can offer employment to the alien – a parent company, a branch, a subsidiary, or an affiliate.  Sponsoring employer need not be US owned or incorporated. Ownership requirements are not as strict in the case of vary large corporations, where a substantial minority shareholding will be a qualifying relationship.

Some other corporate conditions for the L-1 visa include

i.     A US company must control half or more of the foreign subsidiary, and have ultimate decision making power.
ii.   The foreign company should control at least half of a US subsidiary, and also have decision making powers over the US branch
iii.  Branch US and Overseas companies must each be at least half owned by the same parent organization
iv.   US organization that employs sales people abroad can sponsor these employees for the L-1 Visa even in the absence of an Overseas Branch

I hope this helps answer your questions about the L-1 visa and how it works and whether you may be eligible now or in the future to apply for it.


18 thoughts on “L-1 Visa Information & Application Process

  1. Hi,

    If I apply for a role with my current company in the US, would I need to by law to apply for the L-1 even though the E-3 would be quicker and more cost effective. I wonder how strict the US would be on enforcing the L-1. Any advice on this subject would be grateful.


  2. Hi TD,
    It is irrelevant what visa you apply for in this circumstance and most companies (and individuals) would go for the most simple route to get a working visa that was suitable for the case. In the case of the E-3 visa this will happen where possible because it is cheaper and quicker than the L-1 visa, although the L-1 visa has other advantages. There is no worry from the USCIS or US government in your case.

  3. Looking and Need as soon as possible L1 visa useage listing (I-129, listing for companys with amounts of workers brought in under L1 blanket permits) for the state of Florida, any of these years 2003, 2004, 2005, especially 2004 & 2005.

    Will refund your efforts in helping me obtain this information. Contact @ eridge1@verizon.net

  4. Hi Mike,
    That depends on the company and the nature of your application. This is something you could easily get from the HR/Accounting department of your US office as it would be common knowledge for them.
    Good Luck,

  5. Hi
    I am a canadian permanent resident, not a citizen yet and have worked with my company for 3 months. Am i still eligible for a L1?

  6. Hi CJ,
    This is a great blog, its been very helpful. I would like to hear your thoughts.I work for a small Australian company who have just started up an US Entity. I am needing to arrange visa’s for myself and a collegue but I’m unsure if we should get the L-1B or and E3. We are looking at staying in the US for about a month but we may need to return later in the year. Im leaning towards L-1B but need some clarification on multiple entries and whether you think the 1 year min before re-appling for the visa will be an issue.


  7. Hi Arpan,
    L1 visa is open to citizens of all countries. However you have to have worked for a the multinational company in the foreign office to the US for at least 1 year prior to being eligible.

  8. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for your kind words.
    The L1 visa and E3 visa are multi entry visas, however if the new US company is small and just beginning there may be issues with the E3 visa. Although people have successfully gone through this process with a similar situation. Also there are rules about not being out of work on either of these 2 visa for more than 10 consecutive days. I would probably lean towards the L1 visa but would certainly consult Immigration specialists in your case as it may be trickier than the average applicant.
    Good Luck,

  9. Hi, My husband is the chief exec of an international charity that is about to have registered status in the US. He is planning to base himself there to develop contacts and network etc. Does it matter if he will be working from a home base and traveling rather than setting up a physical office in the US? Also does it matter that there is nothing there yet apart from the registered charity status? He wants to hire someone eventually to run it after he develops the links etc.

    Thanks so much for your help!

  10. Is it necessary to hire an Attorney to help with the document submittion for L1B visa? The company I work for will not be paying the fees or hiring the lawyer, but agreed to sign the papers. Please let me know!

  11. Hi CJ,
    I have an E3D visa. But I am now applying for an L1A through my company. If the consulate rejects my L1A petition, will they cancel my E3D as well.
    I am desperately waiting to join my husand who is in the US right now.


  12. Hi,
    My company is transferring me to our US office on a L1B visa. Am I able to apply for green card through a L1B visa?


  13. SF as a registered multi-national company he possibly has more chance on the L-1 visa than the E-3 visa given the company will have no history in the US when it commences. However the L-1 visa is becoming tougher to get. It would probably look better if the company was setup with a US employee already there so as not to look like self-employment.

  14. Zema it is not necessary to hire an Immigration lawyer for any visa, however it can be helpful especially if you are unsure albeit expensive. I find it very strange that for an L1 visa your employer won’t be more involved as this may result in other issues later on. In any case if you read many of the other post here on USCIS filing forms like I-129, etc. you can find out how to do it yourself.

  15. Shalini if you apply for an L-1A visa within the US (i.e. visa transfer) and it is denied then you current E-3D visa would still be valid. If this is happening outside the US via a US Consulate it would depend if they void your current E-3D visa. They may do this if suspect irregularities with your L-1 application but ultimately it is just at their discretion.

  16. Ritu if you are on an L-1 visa, your company can sponsor a Permanent Residency (i.e Green Card) application although bear in mind under current laws it will take a while. You can’t initiate this process yourself.

  17. Hi. I have a question, if you can help me. My husband is under L1 A visa, first time for 2 years and last month He got more 2 years. But the company doesn’t want to apply for greencard ( just sign the paper). My husband will work for this same company for more 2 years. Can he apply for greencard himself? Dual intent… He has everything to prove he still work there and a letter from company to the consulate that say he will work here more 2 years. Tks and sorry about my english.

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