USA and the UK
- What is an L-1B visa?
- What is specialized knowledge?
- What are the requirements for an L-1B visa?
- What is the application process for an L-1B visa?
- What documents are needed with Form I-129?
- What documents are needed for the L-1B application?
- How long is the L-1B visa valid?
- Family Visas for L-1B visas holders
- How to apply under a blanket petition
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is an L-1B visa?
The L-1B visa (Intra-Company Transferee visa for workers with specialized knowledge) is a non-immigrant visa that allows employers to transfer foreign employees with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests to one of its affiliated offices in the United States. If a foreign company does not have an affiliated office in the United States, they can use the L-1B visa to send an employee who works in a specialized knowledge capacity to the U.S. in order to establish a new office.
The L-1B visa is the second visa in the L1 classification. The other visa, L-1A, is meant for intra-company transferees of employees who work in either an executive or managerial capacity. Both visas allow the foreign employee to live and work in the United States at an affiliated office of their parent company. Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) of the L-1B visa holder are also allowed to join their family member in the United States under an L2 (Dependents Visa).
What is specialized knowledge?
In order to qualify for an L-1B visa, both the petitioning employer and foreign employee must demonstrate that he or she has specialized knowledge relating to the interests of the organization. This means that the employee has extensive knowledge of the company’s products, services, techniques, management, or other interests whose knowledge is specific to that individual.
For example, eligible transferees will need to possess specialized knowledge of the following in order to qualify for an L-1B visa:
- The company’s services
- The role of the company in international markets
- Extensive knowledge of the processes and procedures of the company
What are the requirements for an L-1B visa?
To be eligible for an L-1B visa, both the petitioning organization along with the foreign employee must meet the following requirements:
- The employer has a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (qualifying organizations are a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate)
- The employer is currently or will be doing business in the United States and in at least one other country as an employer. In addition, this business must be done either directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the L-1B visa recipient’s stay in the United States
- The foreign employee has worked for a qualifying organization abroad for at least 1 year within the past 3 years
- The foreign employee has worked in a role for the non-U.S.-based organization that required specialized knowledge regarding the organization’s products, procedures, services, etc
- The foreign employee is coming to the United States for the purposes of continued specialized knowledge work for the same employer or qualifying organization
- If the foreign employee is coming to the United States for the purposes of establishing a new office, the petitioning employer must provide evidence that the employer has secured sufficient physical premises for the housing of the new office. In addition, they must also provide evidence that demonstrates that they have the financial ability to both compensate the employee and commence business in the United States
It should be noted that doing business, in this case, is defined as the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization.
What is the application process for an L-1B visa?
To apply for an L-1A visa, the petitioning employer will first need to submit Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with the L-classification supplement. Once this form is approved by USCIS, the employee can then begin their L-1B visa application.
Once Form I-129 is approved, the employer will then need to complete Form I-197 (Notice of Action). This will allow the employee the right to apply for an L-1B visa at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
The first step for the employee to begin their L-1B visa application is to complete Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) which can be completed and submitted online. This online form will ask the foreign employee questions regarding their background, education, work experience, and reasons for entry into the United States. After the form has been submitted, the visa applicant will be shown a confirmation page and number on the screen. The visa applicant must print out this confirmation page as it will need to be submitted later.
After Form DS-160 has been submitted online, the visa applicant will then need to schedule and attend a visa interview at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This is the last step of the application process.
At the visa interview, the applicant will be asked a series of questions regarding their application and reasons for wanting to come to the United States. In addition, the visa applicant will be asked to submit a number of supporting documents. The consular officer will use these documents and the interview to assess whether or not the applicant will be granted an L-1B visa.
If approved, the applicant will receive their visa and is free to travel to the United States within the designated amount of time. If the visa is rejected, the applicant will be informed of the reasons for the denial and if he/she is eligible to apply again.
What documents are needed with Form I-129?
In addition to Form I-129, the petitioning employer will also need to submit supporting documentation that shows that the employer meets the criteria for sponsorship. These documents can include the following:
- Any evidence showing that the petitioner and the organization which will employ the applicant in the United States are qualifying organizations
- Any evidence that verifies the capital structure of the company
- Any evidence that shows that the employee’s education, training, and employment qualifies him or her to perform the intended services in the United States
- Any evidence which shows that the employee has had one continuous year of full-time employment abroad with a qualifying organization within three years preceding the filing of the petition
- Any evidence which shows that the employee’s prior year of employment abroad was in a position that required specialized knowledge
- Copies of business permits, licenses, and registrations (where applicable)
- An organizational chart that shows the foreign employee’s position in both the foreign and U.S. company
- Annual reports of both the foreign and U.S. company which demonstrate both the type of business and its financial stability
- Any evidence that the company is establishing a new office such as lease agreements, etc (if the employee is being transferred to establish a new office)
What documents are needed for the L-1B application?
In order to apply for an L-1B visa, both the employer and employee will need to submit a variety of supporting documentation. This can include the following:
- A valid passport (valid for at least 6 months after intended travel)
- Their visa interview appointment letter
- DS-160 confirmation page
- A copy of their updated resume/CV
- A copy of the I-129 petition submitted by their employer to the USCIS
- The I-797 approval notice from USCIS
- A written letter from the employer to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate requesting the L1 visa on the applicant’s behalf (this should include the employee’s job descriptions and reason for transfer)
- 2 photographs of the applicant (shot in accordance with U.S. visa standards)
- Any evidence demonstrating that the employee has worked for the employer for at least 1 year within the past 3 years
- Any other business-related documents to support your eligibility as an employee with specialized knowledge
- Reference letters from supervisors, colleagues, and others
- Receipts of application fee payments
For more information on what specific documents should be included, consult with your immigration attorney for more details.
How long is the L-1B visa valid?
The L-1B visa is valid for an initial authorized stay of three years. The visa can be extended in an increment of 2 years. The maximum stay under an L-1B visa is five years.
L-1B visa holders who are coming to the United States for the purposes of establishing a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of 1 year.
After the visa holder has reached the maximum stay, he/she must return to their home country at least for one year before they can apply for a new L or H Visa status.
Family Visas for L-1B visa holders
An L-1B visa holder can sponsor immediate family members for an L2 Dependents visa. This visa will enable the spouse and/or dependent children (unmarried children under the age of 21) to live in the United States with the principal L-1B visa holder.
While in the United States, spouses and children can study either part-time or full-time. In addition, spouses are allowed to work under an L2 visa without needing to apply for an employment authorization document.
How to apply under a blanket petition
Eligible employers who would like to transfer their employees from one office to another more quickly may be able to sponsor their workers under Blanket L Petition Approval. Blanket petitions allow certain organizations to establish themselves as qualifying sponsors with the USCIS for intracompany transfers. Once established as a qualifying sponsor, foreign employees can simply apply at their nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy for an L-1 visa rather than wait for the USCIS to approve Form I-129.
It should be noted that blanket petitions do not guarantee that an employee will be automatically granted an L-1B visa. However, it does provide the employer with an expedited visa application process.
In order to qualify for a blanket petition, the organization must meet the following requirements:
- Both the petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations participate in commercial trade or services
- The petitioner has an office in the United States that has been doing business for at least 1 year
- The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates
- The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations has either obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period, has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million, or has a U.S. workforce of at least 1,000 employees
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Unless the employer and employee are filing under an L blanket petition, most L-1B visas will take around 6 months to 1 year to process.
First, the employer will need to wait around 3-6 months for Form I-129 approval from the USCIS. After which, the employee will then have to go through consular processing to finish their visa application which could take another 3-6 months for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to process.
If both the employer and employee would like to reduce the waiting time to only 15 days, they can apply for premium processing by filing Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) and paying the $2,500 processing fee.
If filing under an L blanket petition, the processing time is drastically reduced to 1-3 weeks.
To apply for an L-1B visa, both the employer and employee will need to pay for the following visa-related fees:
- Form I-129 application fee: $460 (Employer is responsible for this fee)
- DS-160 processing fee: $190 (Employee is responsible for this fee)
- Certified translations of documents not in English: costs will vary
- Biometrics: $85 (if applicable)
Our team of experienced immigration attorneys are experts in immigration law and are ready to assist you or your company in your L-1B visa application. We are here to provide you with the best assistance and guidance throughout your application journey.
Our legal services include:
- Ensuring your company has a qualifying relationship with a foreign company
- Checking if your role within your organization meets the L1 Visa requirements
- Liaising with your local business and its branch in the United States
- Guiding and assistance through the process of filing your I-129 Form
Get in touch today to arrange a consultation with one of our immigration experts. You can use our contact form or call us on +1 844 290 6312.