The Advantages and Key Features of L-1 Visa and Other Important Issues
1. The General Advantages of L-1 Visa
The L-1 visa category offers several advantages over other types of work visas. No annual limit exists on the number of visas issued, and L-1 visa holders may pursue permanent U.S. residency. Some L-1 managers and executives may petition for a U.S. Green Card without the need for Labor Certification.
While in L-1 visa status, you may:
1) live in the United States and work legally for a U.S. company that is a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the company that employed you abroad;
2) travel within and outside of the United States;
3) obtain visas for your spouse, and for your children who are under 21 years old;
4) need no annual quota on the number of L-1 visas available each year.
5) apply for U.S. permanent residency (a green card) without jeopardizing your L-1 status;
6) not need education degree for L-1 eligibility, because an applicant's general educational qualifications are not relevant to this visa category.
7) L-1 dependents receive L2 status. L2 spouses may obtain authorization to work in the United States in any type of employment.
2. The Key Features of the L-1 Visa
Here are some of the pluses, minuses, and other things to know about the L-1 visa:
- An L-1 visa allows its holder to work legally in the U.S. for the L-1 sponsor for up to three years on the first visa. Extensions of up to two years at a time are available, with a maximum time in the U.S. of seven years for a manager or executive, or five years for a person with specialized knowledge. If someone has previously held an H visa, however, that time spent in the U.S. counts toward the five-year or seven-year maximum.
- Although the visa holder is generally expected to work full-time in the U.S., the person can work somewhat less if dedicating a significant portion of time to the job on a regular and systematic basis.
- The L-1 visa holder may work only for the U.S. employer that served as visa sponsor, and the employer must be a parent, branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or joint venture partner of the company that currently employs the person outside the United States.
- An accompanying spouse and minor children may also obtain visas to the U.S., in category L-2.
- The spouse may apply for employment authorization in the United States.
- The L-1 visa holder may, if desired, take trips in and out of the U.S. until the L-1 status expires.
- If the person has an L-1 visa based on an executive or managerial level position in the U.S. company, and the employer, or some other employer, wishes to sponsor the person for a U.S. Green Card, the law allows him or her to go ahead and pursue it. The L-1 visa is dual intent, which means that applying for a Green Card does not raise questions about the applicant's truthfulness in also claiming to qualify for a visa that involves showing that the person intends to remain in the U.S. only temporarily.
3. The Dual Intent, L-1 Holder May Pursue U.S. Permanent Residency
Many foreign nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas are unclear about the “presumption of immigrant intent” and suffer visa denials because they are unable to prove their temporary intent to remain in the U.S. But the H-1B visa and L visa are nonimmigrant visa, and they are the only employment based non-immigrant visa categories where the "dual intent" is recognized by immigration law.
The U.S. immigration regulations recognize the "immigrant intent" for H-1B visa and L visa (including L1A visa and L1B visa). Therefore, H-1B visa holders and L visa holders can apply for immigration visa inside United States, such as:
1) the labor certification application;
2) an immigrant visa application;
3) adjustment of status application;
4) application for H-1B visa or L visa extension after an immigrant visa application.
While dual intent is recognized for H-1B visa, similar exemptions are not available to foreign nationals in or seeking H-2A, H-2B, H-3 or TN visa classifications.
Generally, the alien must intend to depart the United States when his/her stay is over. However, the alien may pursue permanent residency while holding an L-1 visa without negatively affecting its status. In other words, the dual intent applies to L-1 visas, just as for H-1B visas. Unlike the H-1B visa, employers are not required to show that the employee meets the prevailing wage of similarly employed U.S. workers. Income in the United States must only be sufficient to prevent the employee from requiring public assistance.
4. The Dual Intent for H-1B Visa and L-1 Visa Application
If a U.S. consular officer finds you are not eligible to receive a nonimmigrant visa under U.S. law, your visa application will be denied, and you will be provided a reason for the denial. There are many reasons a visa applicant could be found ineligible for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa.
These reasons or ineligibilities are listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and other U.S. immigration laws. Some ineligibilities can be overcome, either by you, the visa applicant, or the U.S. petitioner, in certain immigrant visa cases. Other ineligibilities are permanent. This means that every time when you apply for a visa, you will be found ineligible under the same section of law, unless a waiver of that ineligibility is authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Unlike most other nonimmigrant categories, H visa and L visa cetegories are not subject to immigrant intent provisions of INA section 214(b) - "Did not establish eligibility for the visa category being applied for or overcome the presumption of being an intending immigrant ." It is referred to as the "dual intent" doctrine. The dual intent doctrine is well known, and it is highly unusual for an H-1B or L-1 visa applicant to obtain an H or L visa denial on this basis alone.
The alien applicant applying for H-1B or L-1 visas in dual-intent categories are allowed to possess the intention to immigrate to U.S. in the future. Thus, the H-1B or L-1 visa application should not have been denied for his or her perceived lack of ties to the home country, or the expectation that he or she may eventually seek to become a lawful permanent resident in the United States. The following is an example of dual intent:
Question: I am currently working in the U.S. under L-1B status. My employer has already begun the Labor Certification process on my behalf as the first step of Green Card Application, making my intent to immigrate clear. Can I change my status from L-1B to O-1 because of the L-1B visa maximum limit of 5 years?
Answer: The L-1B status can apply for change of status to an O-1 visa, without any risk of denial based on the demonstrated intent to immigrate, since both O-1and L-1 visas allow for dual intent on the part of alien applicants.
The H-1B visa and L-1 visas allow dual intent, although for a set maximum duration. The usual duration of an L-1B worker’s stay in the U.S. is limited to 5 years. All qualified L-1B employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years, and extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years.
In contrast, there is no maximum period for O-1 status, it can theoretically be indefinite. For O-1 visas the length of the status is determined by the length of time needed for the alien to perform his duties or activities with the petitioner employer, but the period of stay may be extended indefinitely if the necessary qualifications can be met. Thus, O-1 status can present a viable way to maintain stable legal status in the U.S. and continue working, while waiting for the outcome of an immigration petition.
5. The Spouse of L-1 Holder Can Work in U.S.
Spouses and unmarried children of L-1 workers may receive L2 status. The immigration law allows spouse to obtain work authorization in the United States, and dependents may study at U.S. schools and universities.
The law provides work authorization to the spouses of L-1 non-immigrants. The USCIS explained that the spouse must obtain an employment authorization (EAD) by filing Form I-765 with the required fee and evidence of his or her relationship to the principal alien before being permitted to work.
6. Length of Stay of an L-1 Visa
The alien may obtain an extension of stay. The total period of stay may not exceed five years for aliens employed in a specialized knowledge capacity. The total period of stay for an alien employed in a managerial or executive capacity may not exceed seven years.
L-1 visas are granted for up to three year periods and are renewable, except L-1 visas to open a new office in the United States are only granted for an initial one year term. Executives and managers are granted L-1A status, and may remain in the United States for up to seven years. Employees with specialized knowledge are given L-1B visas, and may stay in the U.S. for up to five years.
L-1A status is granted initially for three years with two extensions of two years each being permitted. L-1B status is granted initially for three years with only one extension of two years being permitted. After a stay of seven years in the case of L-1A and five years in the case of L-1B, the foreign worker must live outside the United States for one year, before becoming eligible for L status again.
An alien who has spent five years in the United States in a specialized knowledge capacity or seven years in the United States in a managerial or executive capacity may not be readmitted to the United States as an intracompany transferee or in H-1status, unless the alien has resided and been physically present outside the United States for the immediate prior year, except for brief visits for business or pleasure.
7. The Limitations of L-1 Visa Status
For the limitations of L-1 visa status, while in L-1 visa status, you may:
1) work only for the employer who filed your L-1 petition;
2) receive visa approval for a three year term;
3) extend your stay for up to seven years if you are a manager or executive (in L-1A status), or five years if you are a specialized knowledge employee (in L-1B status).
8. L-1 Visa Application Procedure, Documents, and Processing Time
For L-1 visa application, the petitioning U.S. organization needs to show that it is a branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of an overseas company in which the person to be sponsored has been working during one of the past three years in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge position. The application required forms are form I-129 petition for a nonimmigrant worker, and form I-129L classification supplement to form I-129.Processing times for L-1 petitions depend on the USCIS Service Center's case load, which can vary greatly over time. The processing times are estimated by all of the Service Centers, but those are just estimates. Because it can take some time for your case to be adjudicated, you want to make sure that your case is carefully prepared before filing.
The materials accompanying an L-1 visa application for an established company can include annual reports, proof of affiliation, stock share certificates, and a company letter describing the company, the position to be fulfilled, and the position that the beneficiary has or is presently fulfilling in the overseas organization.
If the organization is sufficiently large, it can obtain a blanket L-1 petition approval from the USCIS service center, and only file further paperwork at the consulates for its employees rather than having each petition approved by the USCIS.
9. The L-1 Petitions for Multiple Employees by the Same Employer
USCIS has announced in that it will be allowable to "bundle" together L-1 petitions for multiple employees when filed for identical positions by the same employer. The L-1 petitions may be bundled in order to streamline and improve the adjudication process. It is helpful that the USCIS recognizes that businesses often need to transfer multiple employees with specialized knowledge to the U.S. for the same project at the same time.
It is still necessary to prepare a separate petition with separate filing fee for each foreign national beneficiary. However, it now is possible to identify certain groups of essentially identical petitions as L-1 bundles. The requirements for bundling are as follows:
1) The petitions grouped in a bundle must be filed by a single petitioner. These petitions must be filed on behalf of beneficiaries employed at the same foreign entity who will seek initial L-1 status or an extension of their L-1 status.
2) In order to file several petitions as a single bundle, the U.S. employment must be for the same project, at the same location, with each L1B employee performing the same specialized knowledge duties.
3) The petitions for L1A managers who will manage the bundled group of L1B beneficiaries working on the project can also be included in the bundle. All of the petitions must be filed either as non-premium processing or premium processing cases in a group.
4) The application to change / extend nonimmigrant status (Form I-539) filed for dependents of these L-1 beneficiaries can also be filed in the same bundle.
10. No Official Grace Period for L1 Visa Holder After Employment Terminated
There is no official grace period for L1 visa holder. However, it is reasonable for a L1 person to stay for an additional week or so to wrap-up things or sell stuff. It may be a question for how much time is "reasonable".
Once your employment ends, the L1 employer has right to inform USCIS about the decision. Even though your L-1 visa and Form I-94 may be still valid.
The employment in U.S. is "at will". The employer can terminate an employment after giving reasonable notice period, which can be as less as one day. So the length of notice period will not impact reasonable grace period. The following is an example of changing to other visa yype after being laid off:
Question: As a L1 visa holder for 2 years, I was laid off recently. Am I out of status? Can I change to other visa type such as F1 visa?
Answer: Similar to H-1B visa holders, the L1 visa and O1 visa holders are no longer considered to be maintaining valid status as of the day the employment has been terminated. The U.S. immigration regulations do not provide a grace period for H, L, O, and P nonimmigrants whose employment has been terminated, thus once the nonimmigrant visa holder is no longer in a lawful nonimmigrant status, he or she usually should depart from the U.S.
Depending on each person's circumstances, the nonimmigrant visa holder may be eligible to remain in U.S. due to a request for a change of status, such as Form I-485 application or change to other visa, that is filed while the alien is maintaining status.
In deciding whether to approve a change or extension of status for any nonimmigrant who has fallen out of status, USCIS may exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis to grant the extension or change status, despite the failure to maintain status.
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