What is an L-1A visa?
An L-1A visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows multinational companies to transfer executives or managers from a foreign office to a branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company in the United States.
This visa is designed to facilitate the temporary intracompany transfer of individuals with specialized knowledge or in leadership roles to help manage and oversee operations in the U.S.
In L-1A visa applications, the multinational company transferring the employees to the U.S. office is called “Petitioner”, and the foreign executive or manager is called “Beneficiary”.
Here are some key features of the L-1A visa:
- Qualifying Relationship: To be eligible for an L-1A visa, there must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the U.S. company. This typically means that the U.S. entity must be a parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch of the foreign company.
- Employee’s role: The visa is primarily for executives and managers. Executives are those who primarily direct the management of the organization or a major component or function. Managers are individuals who manage a department, function, or a significant part of the company.
- Specialized Knowledge: While the L-1A visa is mainly for executives and managers, there is also an L-1B visa for individuals with specialized knowledge. The L-1B visa allows employees with specialized knowledge of the company’s products, services, procedures, or processes to be transferred to a U.S. office.
- Duration: L-1A visas are initially granted for a maximum of three years and can be extended up to a total of seven years for managers and executives.
- Dual Intent: L-1A visa holders are allowed to pursue lawful permanent residency (green card) in the U.S., and the L-1 visa is considered a “dual intent” visa.
- Spouse and Dependents: L-1A visa holders can bring their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the U.S. under L-2 visas. Spouses may also seek employment authorization while in the U.S.
Who is eligible to apply for an L-1A visa?
To be eligible to apply for an L-1A visa, an applicant must meet certain criteria, and the U.S. employer and the foreign company must meet specific requirements to establish the necessary relationship.
Here are the key eligibility requirements for L-1A visa applicants:
- Qualifying Relationship: The U.S. company and the foreign company must have a qualifying relationship. This typically means that the U.S. company must be a parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch of the foreign company. Evidence that the U.S. and foreign companies are related should be submitted with the L-1A petition (organizational charts, formation and corporate documents, evidence of the purchase or transfer of the relevant affiliate or subsidiary).
- Employer-employee relationship: The U.S. company must have control and authority over the employee. The L-1A petitioner must submit evidence that the petitioner itself (not a third company) will control or supervise the beneficiary.
- Employment Abroad: The L-1A visa applicant must have been employed by the foreign company for at least one continuous year (out of the past three years prior to filing L-1A petition) in an executive or managerial capacity. This means they must have been in a senior position, involved in the decision-making process, and responsible for managing a significant part of the company’s operations.
- Employment in the U.S.: The L-1A visa applicant must be coming to the United States to work for the U.S. company in an executive or managerial role. They will be responsible for overseeing a significant part of the U.S. company’s operations or managing a department or function.
- Maximum duration of stay: L-1A visa holders can stay in the U.S. for up to seven years.
- Specific Job Duties: The job duties of the L-1A visa applicant in the U.S. must be consistent with an executive or managerial role. Executives typically direct the management of the organization or a major component or function, while managers manage a department, function, or a significant part of the company. L-1A duties will be discussed in more detail below.
- Temporary Assignment: The L-1A visa is for temporary intracompany transfers, and the applicant must intend to return to their foreign job and continue to work for the foreign company once their U.S. assignment is completed. However, the L-1 visa is considered a “dual intent” visa, meaning the visa holder can pursue lawful permanent residency (a green card) in the U.S. without jeopardizing their L-1 status.
- Company Size: There are no specific size requirements for the U.S. or foreign company, but both companies must be actively doing business and have a genuine business relationship.
- New Office L-1A: For individuals seeking to open a new office in the United States, the requirements are slightly different. In this case, the U.S. company must demonstrate the ability to support the employee’s executive or managerial role, and the office must have the physical space and resources to operate.
L-1A manager or executive duties
The L-1A beneficiary’s duties must meet the “managerial capacity” or “executive capacity” terms.
The term “managerial capacity” applies to employees who primarily perform the following duties:
- Managing the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
- Supervising and controlling the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or managing an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
- Authority to hire and fire personnel, or recommending employees for promotion and leave authorizations (if another employee or other employees are directly supervised);
- If no other employees are directly supervised, functioning at a senior level within the organization hierarchy or with respect to the function being managed;
- Exercising discretion over the daily operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.
The term “executive capacity” applies to employees who primarily perform the following duties:
- Directing the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
- Establishing the goals and policies of the organization, component or function;
- Exercising discretion in decision-making;
- Receiving only general supervision or direction from high level managers, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
To prove that the beneficiary’s meets the “managerial” or “executive” capacity, the following documents must be submitted to USCIS:
- Detailed description of job duties (duties to be performed, managerial or executive capacity)
- Proof that the beneficiary will devote more than half of his/her time to managerial duties
Managing/directing a major function. A beneficiary who manages or directs the management of a major function of the organization can be eligible for an L-1A visa. The following factors will be considered by USCIS when reviewing the L-1A petition:
- Nature and scope of the petitioner’s business;
- Beneficiary’s position within the organizational hierarchy;
- Staffing levels;
- Petitioner’s organizational structure;
- Scope of beneficiary’s authority;
- Impact of beneficiary’s authority on the petitioner’s operations;
- Indirect supervision of employees within the function;
- Value of the products and services being managed by the beneficiary;
- The work performed by other staff within the petitioner’s organization;
- If the function is essential to the core of the organization;
- Beneficiary will primarily manage rather than perform the function.
The petitioner must submit a detailed description of the beneficiary duties, including:
- Function being managed by the beneficiary
- The function’s place within the organization
- List of employees who will carry out the function
- Percentage of time being allocated to each duty (documentation must be clear that the beneficiary will spend more than 50% of his/her time performing managerial duties
L-1A visa duration
The duration of an L-1A visa can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the initial approval by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Here are the typical periods associated with an L-1A visa:
- Initial L-1A Visa: When initially approved, the L-1A visa is usually granted for a maximum period of one year for a new office in the United States or for three years if the U.S. office is an established one.
- Extensions: L-1A visa holders can apply for extensions of their status to continue working in the United States. Extensions are typically granted in two-year increments. There is a maximum total period of stay permitted for L-1A visa holders, which is seven years for managers and executives.
- New Office L-1A: If the L-1A visa holder is coming to the U.S. to open a new office, their initial visa may only be for one year. However, they can request extensions in two-year increments, and the maximum duration is still limited to seven years.
Only periods of time during which the L-1A visa holder is lawfully admitted and physically present in the U.S. will be counted towards the 7-year cap.
An exception to the 7-year cap applies to L-1A visa holders who do not reside continuously in the U.S. and whose employment in the U.S. office is seasonal, intermittent, or 6 months and less per year in aggregate.
The 7-year cap also doesn’t apply to L-1A visa holders who reside abroad and regularly commute to the U.S. to engage in part-time employment.
Periods of time spent in the U.S. under L-2 visa do not count against the 7-year cap. A new L-1A petition cannot be approved if the beneficiary has exhausted the time available.
To reapply for a new L-1A visa, the beneficiary must reside and be physically present outside the U.S for at least 1 year immediately prior to a new L-1A petition filing. Brief trips to the U.S. (tourist visits, for example) do not interrupt the one-year requirement and do not count toward fulfillment of the one-year requirement.
How to apply for an L-1A visa?
Applying for an L-1A visa involves several steps, and it’s essential to carefully follow the process to ensure a successful application. Here’s a general overview of how to apply for an L-1A visa:
Step 1. Confirm L-1A Eligibility:
- Ensure that the applicant meets the eligibility criteria for the L-1A visa, including having worked in an executive or managerial capacity for the foreign company and the U.S. company having a qualifying relationship with the foreign company.
Step 2. Establish the U.S. Entity (if applicable):
- If the U.S. office is a new office, you’ll need to demonstrate that it has the physical space and resources to operate. This requirement can be more flexible if the U.S. office has been in operation for some time.
Step 3. File a Petition with USCIS:
- The U.S. employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the L-1A visa applicant. This form must be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Include Form I-129 Supporting Documentation. Along with the Form I-129, you’ll need to submit supporting documentation, which typically includes:
- Proof of the qualifying relationship between the foreign and U.S. companies.
- Evidence of the applicant’s employment abroad in an executive or managerial role.
- Detailed job descriptions for the position in the U.S.
- An organizational chart showing the applicant’s position in both the foreign and U.S. companies.
- Any other relevant documentation to establish eligibility.
- Pay Government Filing Fees:
- There are filing fees associated with the Form I-129, and the U.S. employer is responsible for paying these fees.
Step 4. Wait for USCIS Processing:
- USCIS will review the petition and supporting documents. Processing times can vary, so it’s essential to check the USCIS website for current processing times.
- Petitioners can pay a Premium Processing Fee of $2,500 to expedite the USCIS processing time down to 2 weeks (optional fee).
Step 5.A. Attend a Consular Interview (only if beneficiary is abroad):
- If you are outside the United States when the petition is approved, you will need to attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. You will be required to pay the visa application fee and submit additional documentation to the consular officer.
- If your petition is approved, and you pass the consular interview (if applicable), you will be issued an L-1A visa. The visa allows you to enter the United States for the purpose of working in an executive or managerial capacity for the U.S. company.
Step 5.B. Apply for Change of Status (only if beneficiary is in the U.S.):
- If you are physically present in the U.S. in other lawful nonimmigrant status, you will need to file Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) with USCIS to change your status.
Step 6. Travel to the United States (only if beneficiary is abroad):
- Once you have your L-1A visa, you can travel to the United States. Make sure to carry all relevant documentation with you, including the visa approval notice.
Step 7. Reporting to the U.S. Port of Entry (only if beneficiary is abroad):
- Upon arrival in the United States, you will go through customs and immigration at the port of entry. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will make the final determination about your admission and the length of stay in the U.S.
Step 8. Maintain Status:
- It’s important to maintain your L-1A visa status while in the United States. This includes complying with the terms of your visa, and if applicable, applying for extensions if you wish to stay beyond the initial visa period.
L-1A visa fees
The typical fees associated with an L-1A visa application include:
- Form I-129 Filing Fee: The primary fee associated with the L-1A visa application is for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, filed by the U.S. employer. This fee is $460.
- Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: An additional fee is required for initial L-1 applications or requests to change the employer, to support fraud prevention and detection efforts. This fee is $500.
- L-1 petitioners that employ 50 or more employees in the U.S. if more than 50 percent of these employees are in H-1B, L-1A or L-1B nonimmigrant status. This fee is $4,500. For exceptions, visit USCIS website.
- Premium Processing Fee (Optional): If the U.S. employer wishes to expedite the processing of the L-1A visa petition, they can opt for premium processing by paying an additional fee. This fee is $2,500. Premium processing aims to provide a decision on the petition within 15 calendar days.
- Each fees should be submitted in a separate check or money order
Please note that immigration fees can change, and it’s essential to check the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for the most current fee information:
L-1A visa checklist of required documents
When applying for an L-1A visa, it’s important to submit a comprehensive set of documents to support your application. Here’s a checklist of required documents for an L-1A visa application:
|Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
|Foreign company documentation||
|U.S. company documentation||
|Beneficiary’s position abroad||
|Beneficiary’s proposed U.S. position||
|Evidence of Beneficiary’s Qualifications||
|For new U.S. offices only||
|Consular Processing (only if beneficiary is abroad)||
L-1A visa processing time
The processing time for an L-1A visa can vary depending on several factors, including the workload of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the specific service center processing your petition, and whether you choose to expedite the process through premium processing. Here are some general guidelines for L-1A visa processing times:
- Regular Processing: Without premium processing, the processing times for an L-1A visa petition typically varied. It could take anywhere from 5 weeks to 1.5 months from the time the U.S. employer files Form I-129 until a decision is made. USCIS processing times can vary depending on the service center and the volume of applications they are handling. You can check the most current processing times on the USCIS website.
- Premium Processing: If you choose to use premium processing, USCIS guarantees a response within 15 calendar days from the date they receive the Form I-907 and associated fee. This expedited option can significantly reduce the waiting time for a decision. It’s essential to note that premium processing is only available for Form I-129, not for consular processing of the visa.
- Consular Processing (if applicable): If you are applying for the L-1A visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States, the processing time will depend on the specific embassy or consulate’s workload and procedures. Consular processing can add additional time to the overall processing timeline. The timing can vary by location and the time of year. In general, it can take anywhere from 1 month to 3-4 months to receive an interview appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate. If the L-1A visa is approved, the passports with stamped visas are generally returned in 1 week.
Is an L-1A visa a dual intent visa?
Yes, the L-1A visa is considered a “dual intent” visa. This means that L-1A visa holders are allowed to have both temporary intent and the intent to pursue lawful permanent residency (a green card) in the United States.
In other words, L-1A visa holders can come to the U.S. for a temporary period to work in an executive or managerial capacity for their U.S. employer, and at the same time, they can have the long-term goal of becoming a permanent resident.
The dual intent nature of the L-1A visa allows the beneficiaries with pending Adjustment of Status applications to travel outside the U.S. and be readmitted in L-1A status without the need to apply for an Advance Parole document (Form I-131).
This dual intent provision is advantageous for L-1A visa holders who may wish to transition to permanent residency status. They can apply for an employment-based immigrant visa (usually an EB-1C visa) or another employment-based green card category while in the United States on an L-1A visa.
Having dual intent does not affect the L-1A visa holder’s eligibility for an extension of their L-1A status or their ability to travel in and out of the United States.