The L non-immigrant work visa category is a very useful tool for international companies needing to bring foreign employees to the United States. If your company is related to a foreign company located overseas in one of several specified types of qualifying business relationships; if your company is a “qualifying organization”; if you have worked abroad for the overseas company for a continuous period of one year in the preceding three years in a “managerial”, “executive” or “specialized knowledge” capacity and are coming to the U.S. to perform in one of those capacities; and if you are qualified for the position, then the L-1 visa option might be a good option for transferring you and your family to the U.S., or locally to the San Francisco or San Jose areas.
Duration of Stay
If you are entering the U.S. to manage a new office for the overseas employer, special rules apply allowing an initial maximum stay of one year, subject to extension based upon proof of the success of the initial start-up efforts. If you are entering the U.S. to take up a position with an established U.S. office, the L-1 visa status can be initially granted for up to three years, with the possibility of two additional extensions of two years each for an “executive” or “manager” (L-1A status), or just one additional two year extension for L-1B “specialized knowledge” personnel.
Obtaining L-1 Status
- Department of Homeland Security – United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) Generally, the U.S. employer files the L-1A or L-1B petition with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center for the office that will be employing the foreign national. It is the employer who is the petitioner filing on behalf of the foreign national beneficiary. The petition is comprised of forms, and supported by evidentiary documentation which should include information about the petitioner and its overseas operations; proof of the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign operations; documentation of the foreign national’s required one year of overseas employment and the nature of that employment; and a detailed description of the work the foreign national will be performing in the United States.
- Department of Homeland Security – Department of State – Consular Post overseas In most cases, the foreign national will be overseas, requiring you to first apply for a visa at the consular post abroad prior to entering the U.S, once the petition is approved. To make your L-1 visa application, you must appear at the consulate or embassy for a personal interview; you must be able to show an original Notice of Approval, Form I-797 issued by USCIS; and you must submit the necessary forms and supporting documentation. Spouses and children are included in the L-1 visa petition, and can enter the U.S. under L-2 visa status that permits employment and enrollment in U.S. schools. L-2 visa holders must first obtain an Employment Authorization Document prior to their eligibility to accept employment.