L-1B Visa

What is the L-1B visa?

The L-1B is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that allows United States employers to transfer professional 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 to qualify for the L-1B Visa?

In order to qualify for an L-1B visa, both the employer and the employee must meet certain requirements.

General Employer Qualifications for the L-1B Visa

The L-1B visa requires the employer applicant to have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company. Some examples of a qualifying relationship include:

  • Affiliate
  • Parent company
  • Branch
  • Subsidiary

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.

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 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.

Employee Qualifications: Specialized Knowledge

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.

What is the process for obtaining a L-1B Visa?

The application process for L visas is primarily employer driven, though the employee will need to provide information and documentation during the process. The steps to apply for the L-1B visa are described below:

Step One: Employer Files Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker

To apply for the L-1B 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 professional employee with specialized knowledge 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 L-1B 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 L-1B visa, including about the applicant’s employment with their employer. The L-1B 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 L-1B visa applicant to the interview:

  • Completed Form DS-160 and confirmation page;
  • Copy of of Form I-797;
  • A copy of the L-1B visa applicant’s passport;
  • A copy of the L-1B visa applicant’s petition approval notice from USCIS;
  • The L-1B 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;
    • Resume;
    • 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 L-1B 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 L-1B visa.

How long is the L-1B visa valid?

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 seven years.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.