If you’ve worked for your employer for at least one year out of the past three years, you may be able to transfer to your company’s U.S. entity via the L-1 visa. However, whether you qualify for the L-1 depends on your job title.
Introduction to the L-1 Visa for Intracompany Transfers
The L-1 is a nonimmigrant visa allowing international companies to transfer employees from a foreign office to a U.S. office. Most L-1 visas are filed for employees at companies with an existing presence in the U.S., but the L-1 can also be used to establish a new base in the U.S. via a new office L-1.
There are many advantages to the L-1 visa, both for employees and employers. Employees favor the L-1 because it is one of the few U.S. visas with employment authorization for spouses. The L-1 is also great for employers since larger companies can easily file blanket petitions. Without a lottery or cap, the L-1 process is predictable and smooth for both employees and employers.
Overview of the L-1 Visa Requirements
There are specific requirements that a company must meet to sponsor an L-1 visa. Likewise, the employee must qualify under the L-1A or L-1B visa criteria.
- The company must have (1) a foreign entity that has been established for at least a year and (2) a U.S. company with a qualifying relationship (parent, subsidiary, brand, affiliate, or sister company of your foreign company).
- The U.S. company must have a physical office space or be willing to set one up.
- The company must be able and willing to continue business operations in the U.S. and at least one other country throughout the duration of the L-1(s) you want to file (usually one year to start).
L-1 Criteria for Employees:
There are two types of L-1 visas: L-1As for managers and executives and L-1Bs for specialized knowledge workers. The company requirements are the same for L-1A and L-1B, but the employee criteria differ.
L-1A Visa for Managers and Executives
To qualify for the L-1A, an employee must:
- Have worked in an executive position or managerial role at the foreign entity for at least one continuous year within the past three years; and
- Have a job offer as a manager or executive at the company’s U.S. entity.
L-1B Visa for Specialized Knowledge Workers
To qualify for the L-1B, an employee must:
- Have worked in a specialized knowledge capacity at the foreign entity for at least one continuous year within the past three years; and
- Have a job offer at the company’s U.S. entity in a role related to their specialized knowledge area.
L-1 Visa Job Titles
Let’s explore examples of job titles that satisfy the L-1 requirements. What types of positions count as managerial or executive? What constitutes specialized knowledge?
L-1A: How to Qualify & Example Job Titles
Even if you don’t have a traditional manager or executive job title, you can still qualify for the L-1 if your job description indicates you hold an executive or managerial position.
An L-1A manager supervises and controls people or critical functions within the company. An L-1A executive is someone who works in an executive capacity.
Examples of L-1A managers and executives include:
- C-suite executives: CEO, COO, CFO, etc.
- V.P.s: V.P. of Sales, V.P. of Operations, V.P. or Product, etc.
- Directors: Director of Engineering, Director of Marketing, Managing Director, etc.
- Managers who control the work of 10+ employees
- Functional managers who do not manage people but oversee essential company functions
L-1B: How to Qualify & Example Job Titles
An L-1B specialized knowledge employee is someone who:
- Has a unique level of knowledge about the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or its application in the international market; or
- Has advanced knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures.
Examples of L-1 specialized knowledge worker roles include:
- A Brand Strategist with a high level of knowledge of the company’s brand and marketing strategies.
- A Senior level Software Engineer who invented the company’s patented software.
- A researcher with an advanced knowledge of critical aspects of the company’s research processes.
L-1 Frequently Asked Questions
Can I bring my dependents to the USA on the L-1 visa?
L-1 visa holders can bring their dependents to the U.S., including a spouse and unmarried children under 21. Their dependents will enter the U.S. on L-2 visa status.
What is the L-1 visa application process?
Most L-1 visa applicants work with an immigration attorney throughout the visa process, but you can apply for a visa without an attorney.
First, you must compile an L-1 petition with supporting documentation showing you meet the L-1 requirements. Once the petition is complete, you must mail it directly to a USCIS service center for review.
Upon approval of your visa petition, you may be able to begin working for your U.S. employer right away if you filed as change of status and have a current start date.
If you applied for your visa from outside the U.S. via consular processing, you’ll be required to attend a visa interview appointment before traveling to the U.S. to begin employment.
Does the L-1 visa need to be sponsored by a U.S. company?
Yes. A qualifying U.S. employer must sponsor your L-1 visa. L-1 visas are not eligible for self-sponsorship.
What are the required filing fees for the L-1 visa category?
A $460 filing fee is required for an L-1 visa application.
Is the L-1 a dual intent visa?
Yes. The L-1 is a dual intent visa, which makes it easier for L-1 visa holders to become U.S. permanent residents.
Is the L-1 eligible for premium processing?
Yes. You can pay extra for quicker processing by filing your L-1 visa with premium processing.
Can I apply for a green card on the L-1 visa?
Yes. One of the most common paths to a green card for L-1 visa holders is the EB-1C, but several other options exist.
Is there a minimum salary for the L-1 visa?
No. Unlike the H-1B visa, there is no salary requirement for the L-1.
Can I work two jobs on an L-1?
No. You can only work for one employer at a time on L-1 status. If you want to work for numerous companies simultaneously, explore the O-1 visa.
What is the maximum time allowed for an L-1 visa?
L-1As are valid for up to a total of seven years. L-1Bs are valid for up to a total of five years.
What is the difference between the L-1 visa and H-1B visa?
The L-1 and H-1B are temporary work visas issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There are many differences between these two visas. The H-1B is subject to a cap and lottery, but the L-1 is not.
The H-1B has minimum salary and education requirements, but the L-1 requirements are based on their job title and past employment at the sponsoring company’s office abroad.
L-1 Visa Resources
Everything You Need to Know About New Office L-1s
How to Transition from an L-1 Work Visa to Permanent Residency in the U.S.
Expand into the U.S. Market with the L-1A Visa
7 Advantages of the L-1 Nonimmigrant Visa
L1 vs. H1B: Which Visa is Right For You?