L Visas: A Brief Overview and Comparison to other Visa Options
Anish Parikh, Partner
L Visas have become increasingly popular in over the last decade as corporate globalization has changed the way businesses are organized and where employees are located. Here is some helpful information about this unique visa category and how it may benefit you and your business.
What is an L Visa?
The United States has an L Visa category which allows overseas companies to transfer employees under two types of visas, the L1-A or L1-B. For transfers of executives and managers including business owners, the L1A visa would apply and allows for temporary residence in the United States for up to 7 years. For employees of the company who are not holding executive or managerial positions, but who possess specialized knowledge of the company, the L1B visa category would apply and allow for entry for up to 5 years in the US working in a new or existing US-based office of the company. In order to qualify for either L1A or L1B visas, all employees, which includes business owners, managers, or specialized knowledge workers, must work for a subsidiary, affiliate, branch office or for the parent company of the sponsoring business at a location outside of the United States for a minimum of 1 consecutive year out of the last 3 years prior to filing the application.
L1A executives and managers are defined as those individuals with significant supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or a key function of the department or subdivision of the employer. If supervising other employees, they must demonstrate that they have the ability to hire, fire, promote, grant leave, and make other key decisions with regards to the employees they manage. If they do not have supervision or management over others, they must show in their application that they operate at a senior level within the company and possess broad control over major organizational and/or policy decisions of the company, department or subdivision in which they are employed. These individuals should be at a high professional level and receive only general supervision from higher executives, board members or shareholders of the company and should have a great deal of discretion and authority over operational and decision making for either the company, their department or subdivision.
L1B visas apply to employees of a company who are not at a senior level but who have specific knowledge of the company’s procedures, products, services, data systems, proprietary techniques, management or other day-to-day operational matters.
How does an L Visa compare to other USCIS visa categories?
One of the biggest draws for the L1 Visa category is that there is no quota, meaning an unlimited number of these types of visas may be issued. This is a huge differentiating factor from H1B visas which are subject to an annual cap by USCIS and also strict filing timeline requirements. Historically speaking, the chances of obtaining an H1B visa are unfortunately low for foreign nationals who are hopeful to come to the US through employment-based grounds. Exploring the L visa category may be a better option for those who would like to expand their existing businesses into the US market, or those who may have the option to transfer as senior-level or specialized knowledge employee. Unlike the E1 and E2 Visa categories which are limited to only certain nationalities and require significant investment, individuals of Indian and Chinese nationality may apply for L1 visas. Further, L1 visas are a good option for business owners to set up and expand their existing companies into the US with minimal investment, in stark contrast to the EB5 immigrant investor visa which requires significant investment often upwards of $1 million US dollars in addition to other strict requirements.
Similar to other visa categories, the L1 visa allows for dual intent, meaning holders of this type of visa may apply for permanent residence (green card) without jeopardizing their L1 status. Spouses and dependents may also accompany the L1 visa holder and may apply for work permits while staying in the US. Lastly, because L1 visas qualify for premium processing, the processing of these cases can be handled rapidly.
For more information on how an L visa may be a good option for you or your business, feel free to reach out to the immigration attorneys at Parikh Law Group in Chicago at (312) 725-3476. Our firm has served hundreds of businesses and individuals in filing L1 Visas over the years and our highly experienced and knowledgeable team will diligently navigate the process on your behalf.