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What is the L-1B?

L-1B is a nonimmigrant classification that allows a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge from a foreign office to an office in the U.S. It can also be used to send a specialized knowledge employee to set up a new office in the U.S. 

What employer qualifies for L-1B?

The employer must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, meaning a parent, a subsidiary, a branch, an affiliate or a sister company; and 
  • Will be doing business in both the U.S. and at least one other country for the duration of the employee’s stay in the U.S. as an L-1.

Is there any difference between the L-1B granted to work for an established office in the U.S. and the L-1B sent to open a new office in the U.S.?

Yes. The L-1B employee who is sent to open a new office in the U.S. is allowed a maximum initial stay of one year only, whereas other L-1B employees are allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. 

What employee qualifies for L-1B?

To qualify for L-1B, the employee:

  • Must have been working for the company abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately before admission to the U.S.; and
  • Will work in a specialized knowledge capacity for the same company in the U.S.

If you are applying with the employer’s blanket petition approval, you must also be a specialized knowledge professional, meaning that you have at least the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree. 

What is specialized knowledge?

Specialized knowledge means you have special knowledge about the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or its application in the international market, or advanced knowledge about the company’s processes and procedures.

For example:

  • Your knowledge is valuable to the company’s competitiveness in the market;
  • You can contribute uniquely to the company’s knowledge of foreign operations;
  • You are a key employee abroad and you have been given significant assignment to enhance the company’s productivity, competitiveness, image or financial position;
  • Your knowledge can only be gained through extensive prior experience with the employer;
  • Your knowledge is not easily transferable; and
  • Your knowledge is sophisticated, complex and highly technical.

A good candidate for L-1B could be a Sr. Software Engineer who led the development of a proprietary and patented software for the company. 

What is a blanket petition?

A blanket petition allows the employer to seek L-1B classification for multiple professional employees quickly and eliminates the need for individual petitions. The blanket petition can list multiple qualifying organizations. 

How can an employer be eligible for a blanket L certification?

The employer must:

  • Engage in commercial trade or services;
  • Have an office in the U.S. that has been doing business for more than one year;
  • Have three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
  • Meet one of the following criteria:
    • Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals in the last 12 months;
    • Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
    • Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees

How do I apply for L-1B?

Individual petitions: If the employee is abroad, the employer should first file an L-1B petition for the employee with USCIS. Once approved, the employee may present the approval notice with supporting documents at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an L-1B visa stamp, following which he/she may seek admission into the U.S. in L-1B status. If the employee resides in the U.S.,the employer should file a change-of-status L-1B petition for the employee with USCIS. 

Blanket Petition: If abroad, the employee may present the company’s blanket petition approval notice, a completed and employer-signed I-129S and supporting documents at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an L-1B visa stamp, following which he/she may seek admission into the U.S. in L-1B. 

Canadian citizens. Exempt from L-1 visa requirements, a Canadian citizen may present a completed and employer-signed L-1B petition, along with supporting documents and a blanket petition approval, if applicable, at port of entry to seek initial admission in L-1B. 

Is L-1B eligible for premium processing?

Yes. Premium processing is an expedited service which allows you to receive a final decision within 15 days of filing for eligible case types, unless a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) is issued. L-1B petitions filed with USCIS are eligible for premium processing. 

How long can I stay in the U.S. in L-1B status?

For initial entry, an L-1B employee can stay up to one year to open a new office or stay up to three years to work at an established office. Afterwards, all L-1B employees can request extension of stay in two-year increments, not exceeding five years in total.

Can I change from L-1B to L-1A?

Yes, if you are promoted in the U.S to take a managerial or executive position, you could be eligible for L-1A. You could then seek a change of status from L-1B and L-1A and stay in the U.S. up to seven years, counting the time you previously spent in L-1B status. The L-1A request must be filed at least 6 months before the L-1B maximum. Check out Legalpad L-1A FAQ here.

Can I go to school in L-1B? 

Yes. You may attend school provided that it is incidental to your employment in the U.S. In other words, study cannot be your primary purpose for staying in the U.S.

Can I work for multiple employers or change an employer?

No. L-1B is an intracompany transfer, and you must only work for your L-1B employer in L-1B status. For example, if you are in L-1B status sponsored by Google, you cannot work for a startup you just founded on the side. Nor can you change L-1B sponsor from Google to your startup.

What if I take up a different role with the same employer in L-1B status?

If there is a material change in your role, such as significant changes to your job duties, your employer must file an L-1B “Amendment” to amend your job with the same employer. 

What if I am terminated in L-1B status?

If this happens, you have a 60-day grace period or until the end of your authorized validity period, whichever is shorter, to find a new job, change status, or depart the U.S.

Can I change from L-1B to O1 status?

Yes, you may file an O-1 change-of-status petition with USCIS. You dependents should seek to change status to O-3 by filing I-539 with USCIS. 

Can my family join me in the U.S.?

Yes. Your spouse and unmarried children under age of 21 are eligible for L-2 nonimmigrant classification. They could either apply for L-2 at a U.S. embassy or consulate if abroad or file I-539 with USCIS for a change of status to L-2 if within the U.S. 

Can my dependents work or study in the U.S.?

Before April 2022, L-2 spouses could apply for work authorization once physically present in the U.S and begin work once the Employment Authorization Document is approved. As a result of a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit based on processing delays, starting in April 2022, L-2 spouses will benefit from automatic work authorization without needing an EAD, with some limitations. EADs will also automatically renew. There are no specific restrictions on how or where your spouse may work in the U.S. Both your spouse and children can go to school in the U.S.

Can I file an immigrant petition while in L-1B status?

Yes, you may file an immigrant petition while in L-1B status. You have options! Generally, you would need your employer to sponsor you for an PERM-based EB-2 or EB-3 immigrant petition. Depending on your qualifications, you may also be eligible for an EB-1 or EB-2 National Interest Waiver, which would not require the long PERM process of testing the U.S. labor market. Please reach out to Legalpad if you want to learn more about EB-1 or EB-2 NIW. 

Can I apply for a green card in L-1B status?

Yes. An L-1B nonimmigrant classification comes with dual intent, which allows you to be temporarily present in the U.S. with lawful status and have an immigrant intent. If you have an approved immigrant petition, you may file an I-485 “green card” application when your priority date is current. You can still travel internationally while your green card application is pending. 

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