THE “L” VISA – Intra-Company Transfer
As discussed in the previous issue, L visa is the Non–Im migrant visa category available to individuals who either own or are employees of a foreign corporation in which they have worked for at least one of the prior three years, in an executive, managerial, or specialized-knowledge capacity. The employer must be a U.S. corporation related directly or in any one of a variety of ways, to the foreign company.
In this issue we look into the following three L visa related issues:
- Blanket L petition
- Extension of the L visa
- The L visa dependants
Blanket L petition
Blanket “L” is a simplified procedure available only to organizations which have been doing business in the United States for a minimum of one year. The other requirements are as follows:
- The organization must be engaged in commercial trade or service. It can not be a charitable or non-profit organization;
- Must have at least three offices in the United States and overseas; and
- Must have (one of the following):
- Sponsored at least 10 successful individual L1 petitions in the last one year (12 months);
- US annual sales exceeding $25,000,000; or
- A US work force of at least 1000 employees.
In the Blanket L petition the petitioning organization can include an unlimited number of qualifying foreign parents, subsidiaries, affiliates or branch offices in a ‘blanket’ petition. Once the L-1 Blanket petition gets approved by the USCIS, the petitioner does not have to prove eligibility every time. This helps in reduction in the processing timings from the four to six weeks time frame to one to two weeks. Furthermore no processing at USCIS is required for individual cases.
The beneficiary employee receives a copy of the I-797 approval notice and has to take it to the nearest American Consulate. The beneficiary has to prove his or her eligibility to qualify for the L-1 visa at the US consulate (Refer to the previous issue for eligibility requirements). If eligible the L-1 visa is stamped in the beneficiary’s passport.
Extension of the L visa
Visa extension applications for L-1 status should be filed during the six-month period prior to expiration of validity of the current stay. Supporting documentation should be submitted with the extension application to demonstrate that the employing company in the United States has engaged in a regular, systematic and continuous provision of goods or services for at least one year. Extensions are generally granted in two-year increments up to a maximum of five years for specialized knowledge employees (L-1B) and seven years for managers and executives (L-1A). This time is cumulative of all U.S. stay in L-1 status for any employer.
Once the maximum duration for the L-1 visa has been reached, the individual on theL-1 (and all his dependents on L-2 status) must leave the United States. If the person wants to return to the United States, the person must reside abroad for at least one year, an d then he or she may again return to the U.S on L-1 status. This would be a new L1 petition.
If an L-1 visa holder transfers status to an H visa then it is important to note that the times spent in L-1 status and H status are added together and counted toward the total. Thus, if a specialized worker had spent two years in H status and then spent three years in L status, he will not be able to obtain an extension.
Note: When the extension application is filed prior to expiration of the current authorized stay, the individual has continued work authorization for up to 240 days while the application is pending. There may be restrictions on international travel while the extension application is pending. Thus, it is recommended that the extension be filed approximately five months prior to expiration of current stay for those individuals with international travel plans.
The L visa dependants
The L-1 visa holder’s spouse and children receive the L-2 visa. To receive the L-2 visa, the spouse and children take a copy of the I-797 approval notice and proof of relationship to the nearest American Consulate (You need to get an appointment to go to the American Consulate). The beneficiary has to prove his or her eligibility to qualify for the L-2 visa at the US consulate. On reaching the United States the spouse of L-1 visa holder (not dependent children) can get employment authorization that allows them to work freely.
- To maintain a valid L status, the L-1 visa holder may not engage in unlawful employment i.e. he or she has to work only for the employer/petitioner
- The L-1 visa holder has to work in the capacity specified in the petition letter, such as managerial, executive (L-1A) or special knowledge employee. (L-1B).
- A person in L status may attend an academic institution without getting an approval from the USCIS.
- One clear advantage of the L-1 visa is that L-1 visa holders who are managers and executives (i.e. L-1A) are eligible for the “priority workers” category when applying for permanent residency. Persons falling under this category may apply for permanent residency without having to undergo the time consuming labor certification rocess. The eligibility to be qualified as a priority worker is established by submitting documents and other materials. The L-1B visa holders who wish to become permanent residents have to undergo the labor certification process like other permanent residency applicants.
Disclaimer: The information provided is not legal advice. Reading this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers must not act upon any information without first seeking advice from a qualified attorney.