L-1 Intracompany Transferees
L-1 visas are available to intracompany transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed continuously outside of the U.S. for at least one year (or six months for companies with approved Blanket L petitions), and who will be employed by a qualifying U.S. entity in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. An L-1 candidate cannot count any time spent visiting the U.S. as part of the six month or one year foreign employment requirement. To qualify, the U.S. entity must be a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary that has at least 50% common ownership with the foreign employer. The L-1 classification allows dual intent: L-1 workers are not required to maintain a foreign residence and may seek permanent residence in the U.S.
There are two categories of L-1 status. L-1A classification applies to candidates who will perform managerial or executive-level work in the U.S. L-1B classification applies to candidates who will perform work in the U.S. requiring specialized knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures.
L-1 sponsors can file individual L-1 petitions with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). L-1 petitions can be filed with a request for premium processing, which guarantees a response from USCIS within 15 days upon payment of an additional $1,000 fee and allows immigration counsel or the petitioner to make direct contact with USCIS concerning the case. Regular processing usually takes several months, although the time frame depends upon the current processing times for each USCIS Service Center. Multinational companies that have an approved Blanket L petition may sponsor new L-1A candidates, and L-1B candidates who are specialized knowledge professionals, without having to file a petition with USCIS. Such companies may have L-1 candidates present a visa application under the Blanket L petition directly to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
L-1 visa status may generally be approved for up to three years, and can be extended for up to a total of seven years for an L-1A (manager or executive) or five years for an L-1B (specialized knowledge). (L-1 applications for new offices in the U.S. are approved for only one year, initially.) After the end of the maximum L-1 period of stay, an individual must reside outside of the U.S. for a full year before becoming eligible to reapply for H or L status.
Dependent visas (L-2) are available for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of L-1 workers. L-2 spouses may apply for work authorization in the U.S.
Blanket L Application
The Blanket L classification affords established multinational employers the greatest flexibility and speed allowed for intracompany transfers. Each qualified employee’s L-1 visa petition is processed even faster than the premium processing procedures offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the company has an approved Blanket L petition, most candidates will qualify to present a visa application under the Blanket L petition directly to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, avoiding the L-1 petition stage above.