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The L1A visa allows United States employers to transfer an executive or manager or employee with specialized knowledge from an affiliated foreign office to an office in the United States. It is a temporary nonimmigrant visa. Foreign companies without a United States office may also use an L1A visa to send an executive or manager to the United States in order to establish a United States office.
What are the Eligibility Requirements for the L1A Visa?
In order to qualify for an L1A visa, both the employer and the employee must meet certain requirements. The requirements for each are listed below.
General Employer Qualifications for the L1A Visa
The L1A visa requires the employer applicant to have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company. Some examples of a qualifying relationship include:
- Parent company
The employer must also currently, or will in the future, be doing business as an employer in the United States in at least one other country. This must be done through a qualifying organization for the duration of the L1A visa holder’s stay in the United States. The business must be viable, but need not be engaged in international trade.
Employer Qualifications: Doing Business
In order for an employer to qualify as “doing business” in the United States, it must participate in the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization. The mere presence of an agent or office of the employer in the United States and abroad is insufficient to qualify as doing business.
Employers That Establish a New United States Office
Employers that seek to send an executive or managerial employee to the United States to establish a new office must show:
- The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office; and
- The intended United States office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the visa petition
General Employee Qualifications for the L1A visa
To qualify as an L1A visa holder, an employee must:
- Have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately prior to the employee’s admission to the United States; and
- Be seeking entrance to the United States to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
Employee Qualifications: Executive Capacity
Executive capacity means that the employee visa holder has the ability to make decisions of wide latitude and with little oversight within the company or business.
Employee Qualifications: Managerial Capacity
Managerial capacity means that the employee visa holder has the ability to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. Managerial capacity may also apply to employees who manage an essential function of the organization at a high level without directly supervising others.
What is the process for obtaining an L1A visa?
The application process for L visas is primarily employer driven, though the employee will need to provide information and documentation during the process.
Step One: Employer Files Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
To apply for the L1A visa for an executive or manager, the employer must first review the instructions for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and file Form I-129 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
When submitting the Form I-129, the employer must pay any applicable filing fee and provide all required evidence and supporting documentation.
Step Two: USCIS Processes Form I-129
After the USCIS receives and processes Form I-129, the employer will receive the following in return:
- A receipt notice confirming the petition was received;
- A notice to appear for an interview, if required;
- A biometric services notice, if applicable; and
- A notice of decision.
Step Three: Employee Files Online Form DS-160
The executive or managerial employee who will be working for their employer in the United States must complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. Once Form DS-160 is submitted, the employee must download and print the confirmation page showing Form DS-160 was completed and the filing fee paid. The confirmation page will need to be brought to the visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
Step Four: Schedule Interview and Biometrics Appointment
When Form I-129 is approved, the USCIS will send Form I-797, Notice of Action. This may include with it a notice to appear for an interview and a biometric services appointment. The employee is responsible for scheduling and appearing for his or her interview and biometrics appointment.
Step Five: Attend Interview and Biometrics Appointment
The L1A applicant (employee) must attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate where an official will evaluate the applicant’s documentation and ask questions pertaining to why the applicant is seeking a L1A visa, including about the applicant’s employment with their employer. The L1A visa applicant may be able to schedule the biometrics appointment to take place at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate when the visa interview is scheduled.
Before attending the interview, the applicant should compile certain documentation to bring with them to the interview.
The documents listed below must be brought with the L1A visa applicant to the interview:
- Completed Form DS-160 and confirmation page;
- Copy of of Form I-797;
- A copy of the L1A visa applicant’s passport;
- A copy of the L1A visa applicant’s petition approval notice from USCIS;
- The L1A visa applicant’s valid passport;
- A photograph that conforms to U.S. visa photo requirements;
- Receipts showing the applicant paid all fees;
- The interview confirmation letter;
- Evidence of employers status:
- Proof of lease or property ownership for business location in U.S.;
- Bank statements or wire transfer showing initial investment;
- Income tax returns, if any;
- Description of business;
- Employer’s quarterly reports, if any;
- Business licence;
- Employer letterhead with company name, logo, and address;
- Articles of incorporation;
- Description of employee’s executive or managerial position within company;
- Employer organizational chart, including total number of employees;
- Income tax filings for past three years;
- Audited accounting reports;
- Company brochure, product description, and website information;
- Transactional records;
- Evidence of employee’s status:
- Income tax records;
- Payment statements (pay stubs, etc.);
- Diploma and degrees;
- Employer organizational chart showing employee’s position within company;
- Description of employee’s executive or managerial position and duties within company;
- Letter from foreign employer verifying employee’s employment;
- Letter of reference from supervisors, colleagues, etc.;
- Documentation verifying or approving of the employee’s transfer to the U.S.;
- Evidence of employee’s specialized knowledge, if applicable.
How much does it cost to get an L1A visa?
The cost to file Form I-129 is $460. The cost to file DS-160 is $160.
An additional $2,500 may be paid for premium processing, which will expedite the approval process for receiving the L1A visa.
How long is the L1A visa valid?
If the L1A visa holder is only coming to the United States to establish a new office, the initial maximum stay in the United States is one year.
If the L1A visa holder is transferring to work at a United States affiliate office, the initial maximum stay in the United States is three years.
Extensions of stay may be granted for any L1A visa holder for an additional two years and until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.