Of all the US work-based visas, the L1 is one of the more interesting to those looking to move to the US to work. As there is no annual visa cap or restriction on the applicant's country of origin, the visa is ideal for those who are restricted from entering via an alternative route, though stringent eligibility criteria can be a barrier.
USCIS aims the L1 visa scheme at those who have worked abroad for a company that has common ownership with a US firm. For many, this is a significant benefit of working for a foreign arm of a US company and allows them the large potential benefit of applying to move to the US for work.
To apply for an L1 visa, you will need to establish which of the two routes is the right one for you. The L1A (executives and managers) and L1B (specialized knowledge employees) are aimed at those in different levels of businesses that have common ownership in the US such as branches or subsidiaries. Below, we have outlined the differences:
The general criteria for the visa are the same: you must have worked for the company for at least one year out of the last three outside of the US. Any time spent in the US cannot count, so extra time may be needed abroad to prove eligibility. You will also need to provide significant proof to USCIS on either the L1A or L1B visa that you are eligible to use the route.
The process of applying for an L1 visa begins with the intended employer offering a position to the applicant, this is known as a transfer offer. After this, the employer will then need to file a petition for your visa. This is done using either form I-129 or I-129S. The difference between the two petitions is whether they intend to transfer one employee (you) or several. If they intend to bring several, it will be beneficial to apply using I-129S as this is for blanket applications and makes the process easy for multiple employee transfers.
After your employer has done their application, it is time to file your petition. For your application, you will need to use form DS-160. This form notifies USCIS of your intention to move to the US. When you lodge this application, you will also need to pay the L1 visa application fee of $190. This fee may also be in addition to others that are levied to those from your country.
At the next stage, you will need to schedule an interview with your local US embassy. It is worth scheduling this as soon as possible due to the potential for a lack of appointments being available.
You will also need to file specific documents that relate to your L1 visa application, these include:
The last step in the process is to attend your L1 interview at your local embassy. Once this takes place, your application will be processed and you will be notified of the outcome in due course. The process generally takes 3-4 months for individual petitions (slightly less for blanket petitions) and can be sped up using premium processing options.
The L1 visa is similar to some other US work-based visas such as the H-1B visa in that it is classed as a dual intent visa. This means that those who use the route can intend to settle in the US at the end of their visa period.
If your wish is to settle in the US at the end of your visa period (or perhaps even earlier), you will need to meet the Green Card eligibility criteria. Luckily for those who have L1B status, this is normally quite straightforward as they already meet many of the requirements laid out. Generally, people working in L1B professions have the level of skill that is required and can prove their skills. Many also have degree-level qualifications that can be used to support their application.
If you wish to discuss moving from an L1 visa to Green Card, then please get in touch. Our expert team of immigration solicitors can help you with the process by collating the information required and submitting it to USCIS on your behalf. Our team are experts in helping with US visa queries, so if you need help please get in touch.
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