Are you looking to expand your India-based company into the U.S.? If so, you’ll want to learn about the L-1 visa. Specifically designed to help foreign companies transfer workers to a related U.S. company, it’s no surprise that the L-1 visa is a top choice for multinational Indian companies.
General L-1 Information for Founders and Employees of Indian Companies
The L-1 is a U.S. work visa that allows employers to transfer employees from an Indian (or international) office to a U.S. office.
The L-1 is commonly filed to transfer employees at large tech companies with an international presence, like Microsoft, Apple, and Google. It is also a popular option for smaller companies wanting to bring operations to the U.S. for the first time.
Advantages of the L-1 Visa for Indian Companies and Employees
In another article, we go into more details about the advantages of the L-1 visa, but here is a general summary of why you might want to consider the L-1 visa:
- Easy work authorization for spouses of L-1 employees: Many startup founders and other employees are drawn to the L-1 visa because of how easy it is for their spouse to work in the U.S.
- Relatively simple qualifications: Each work visa has different qualifications, but the L-1 visa qualifications are fairly straightforward.
- No wage requirement: Unlike the H-1B, the L-1 has no wage requirements, making it easier for companies that are just getting started and might not be able to pay the prevailing wage.
- No lottery: Unlike the H-1B, there is no limit on the number of L-1 visas issued and no lottery system.
- Dual intent: It is easy to file a green card application on the L-1 visa because it is one of the only dual intent work visas. This is appealing to many Indian nationals who want to travel in and out of the U.S. while their green card is processing.
- Premium processing: L-1 applicants can pay an extra fee to the U.S. government to guarantee that their visa is reviewed in only 15 calendar days, as opposed to several months.
- Blanket petitions for larger employers: Companies that employ over 1,000 U.S. workers or a combined revenue of $25 million can file a single petition for numerous employees, making employee transfers more efficient.
Downsides to the L-1 Visa for Indian Companies and Employees:
- High RFE rates for new office L-1s: If your company has never filed an L-1 before, you’ll be required to start with filing what is called a “new office L-1”. New office L-1s unfortunately have fairly high Request for Additional Evidence (RFE) rates. Thankfully, an RFE does not guarantee a denial, but it can slow down the overall process by a few months.
- Limited validity: The L-1A can only be valid for a maximum of seven years, and the L-1B can only be valid for a maximum of five years.
General L-1 Visa Qualifications for Indian Companies
In general, the L-1 visa might be a good fit for employees at your company if:
- Your Indian (or foreign) company has been established for at least one year.
- There is a U.S. company with a qualifying relationship (parent, subsidiary, brand, affiliate, or sister company of your foreign company) or you can establish one.
- The U.S. company has a physical office space, or you are willing to set one up.
- You plan to continue business operations in the U.S., and in at least one other country throughout the duration of the L-1(s) you want to file (usually 1 year to start).
- As a company, you are dedicated to seeing your U.S. company grow.
- You have employees that you’d like to transfer to the U.S. who meet the L-1A or L-1B qualifications (see below).
L-1A vs L-1B
There are two types of L-1 visas: L-1As for managers and executives and L-1Bs for specialized knowledge workers. While the requirements for the petitioning employer remain the same, the type of employee who qualifies varies between the L-1A and L-1B.
L-1A Visa Qualifications for Managers and Executives at Indian Companies
The L-1A work visa is for managers and executives who have worked for their employer for at least one continuous year within the past three years.
With an approved L-1A visa, qualified employees can transfer to the company’s U.S. office to work in an executive or managerial position.
So, who is considered a manager or executive?
Manager: The most obvious type of manager is a people manager who has direct reports. However, people managers are not the only type of managers who qualify! Functional managers—employees who manage critical functions within the company—are also considered managers for the L-1A.
Executive: An executive is someone who has a wide latitude to make decisions. For example, a Vice President of Finance or Director of Operations.
It is also important to note that L-1A applicants’ qualifications are not necessarily based on their job title, but instead on their job duties. Although it may help to have “manager” in the job title, the applicant’s job duties will be used to evaluate whether they are in a manager or executive role.
L-1B Visa Qualifications for Specialized Knowledge Workers at Indian Companies
The L-1B work visa is for specialized knowledge workers who have worked at their employer for at least one continuous year within the past three years.
With an approved L-1B visa, qualified employees can transfer to the company’s U.S. office to work in a role that relates to their specialized knowledge.
So, who is considered a “specialized knowledge worker”? Let’s break it down!
According to USCIS, someone who is a “specialized knowledge worker” has special knowledge of the company’s: product, service, research, equipment, techniques, and/or management. They should also have specialized knowledge about the company’s application in international markets or expertise in the company’s processes and procedures.
In other words, specialized knowledge workers could include employees important to the company’s success who would be difficult to replace because of their level of organizational knowledge and expertise.
Which Visa Solution Is Best For Your Company?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to U.S. immigration. Each U.S. work visa is different, just as each company and employee is. While the L-1 visa is one of the most highly sought-after work visas for founders and employees of Indian companies, it is certainly not the only visa that Indian companies should consider. Legalpad can help you figure out the best immigration solutions for you, your employees, and your company. Be sure to check out the rest of our resources or reach out to our team to get personalized help.