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The L-1B visa allows United States employers to transfer employees with specialized knowledge to temporarily work in the United States from an affiliated foreign office to an office in the United States. Foreign companies without a United States office may also use an L-1B visa to send an executive or manager to the United States in order to establish a United States office.
How are the L-1B and the L-2 visas different?
- L-1B visa
The L-1B visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa specifically for United States employers to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge related to the employer’s work from one of the employer’s affiliated foreign offices to one of its United States offices. A foreign company may also use the L-1B visa to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the United States to help establish a United States office.
- L-2 visa
The L-2 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa specifically for the spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of a L-1B visa holder who wish to accompany the visa holder in the United States.
How to qualify for the L-1B & L-2 visa
- L-1B visa qualifications
In order to qualify for an L-1B visa, both the employer and the employee must meet certain requirements.
The L-1B 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 L-1B visa holder’s stay in the United States. The business must be viable, but need not be engaged in international trade.
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.
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
Employee Qualifications for the L-1B visa
To qualify as an L-1B 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 a specialized knowledge capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
An employee has specialized knowledge when he or she possesses special knowledge of the petitioning organization’s product, service, equipment, research, management, techniques, or other interests and its application in international markets. Specialized knowledge may also refer to an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.
L-1B visa holders at different worksites
L-1B employees who will be primarily stationed at a worksite of an employer that is different from the petitioning employer or its affiliate, subsidiary, or parent must show additional qualifications:
- The employee will not be principally controlled or supervised by the unaffiliated employer; and
- The work being provided by the employee is not considered to be labor for hire by the unaffiliated employer.
- L-2 visa qualifications
In order to qualify for the L-2 visa, an applicant must be married to, or the child of, a L-1B visa holder. Children of the L-1B visa holder must be under 21 years of age to qualify.
What is the process for obtaining a L-1B & L-2 visa?
The application process for L visas is primarily employer driven.
- L-1B visa process
To apply for the L-1B visa, the employer must first:
- Review the instructions for form I-129 and file form I-129 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
- Pay any applicable filing fees; and
- Provide all required evidence and supporting documentation.
Once the form I-129 is received and processed, the employer will receive:
- 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.
- L-2 visa process
Eligible family members who seek to join their L-1B visa holder relative in the U.S. must file form DS-160. This form asks for personal information and to explain the purpose of entry into the United States. It is available and may be filled out online. After submitting the form, you will receive a confirmation code that you will need throughout the rest of the process.
Interview & Biometrics Requirement
After submitting the form DS-160, a L-2 visa applicant will receive form I-797 and must then schedule an appointment for interview and a biometrics appointment.
Before attending the interview, L-2 visa applicants must schedule a biometrics appointment at the Visa Application center so that the applicant’s fingerprints, photos, and other information can be collected by United States immigration officials.
The L-2 visa applicant must schedule and attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate where an official will evaluate the applicant’s application and ask questions pertaining to why the applicant is seeking a L-2 visa, and the relationship between the L-2 applicant and the primary visa holder. If the L-2 applicant applies at the same time as the primary applicant, it may make the process more seamless, and both may be able to attend the interview.
At the interview, an applicant must bring:
- The L-1B visa holder’s form I-797;
- A copy of the L-1B visa holder’s passport;
- A copy of the L-1B visa holder’s visa and petition approval notice from USCIS;
- The applicant’s valid passport;
- A photograph that conforms to U.S. visa photo requirements;
- A copy of the DS-160 confirmation page;
- Receipts showing the applicant paid all fees;
- The interview confirmation letter;
- Proof of the applicant’s relationship with the L-1B visa holder:
- Valid marriage certificates for a spouse;
- Valid birth certificate for children
What are Blanket Petitions and how do they work?
In advance of filing L-1 (L-1A & L-1B) petitions for individual employees, an organization may establish the required intracompany relationship so that the employer has flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States without having to file an individual petition with the USCIS. In order for L-1B employees with specialized knowledge to qualify under the L-1 blanket process, the employee must also be a professional.
Blanket L certification may be established if the employer:
- Has three or more domestic (U.S.) and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates;
- Has an office in the United States that has been doing business for one year or more;
- The employer and each of its qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The employer and its other qualifying organizations collectively:
- Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
- Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
- Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
How much does it cost to get an L-1B & L-2 visa?
- L-1B Cost
The cost to apply for a L-1B visa is $460. An additional $2,500 may be paid for premium processing, which will expedite the approval process for receiving the L-1B visa.
- L-2 Cost
The cost to apply for a L-2 visa is $160. There may be additional charges depending on the applicant’s country of origin.
How long are L-1B & L-2 visas valid?
- L-1B Period of Stay
If the L-1B 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 L-1B 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 L-1B visa holder for an additional two years and until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years.
- L-2 Period of Stay
L-2 visa holders generally may stay in the United States for the same length of time as the L-1B visa holder.