If you work for a company with a U.S. branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company, then you may be eligible for an L-1 visa. The L-1A visa is one of two types of visas. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about how to apply for the visa.
How Does the L-1A Visa Work?
First, the L-1A visa is designed specifically for employees in managerial or executive roles. To qualify for this visa, you must have received a transfer or promotion offer from your company. If you are not currently in a managerial or executive role, then your new position in the United States must be a managerial or executive position.
Your new position must be more than just a name. To qualify for the L-1A visa, you must actually serve as a manager or executive. You cannot receive some arbitrary title and qualify for the L-1A visa. U.S. immigration authorities will check your job description to determine whether or not your new position can accurately be called a managerial or executive position.
Is your position considered an executive or managerial position? Here are the questions U.S. immigration authorities may ask to verify:
Are You A Manager?
U.S. immigration authorities may ask the following questions to determine whether or not you are a manager:
- Does your position give you the authority to hire and fire employees? If your company has a human resources officer, does your position give you the power to recommend people to that human resources officer to be hired or fired?
- Are you in charge of the whole company or a specific division of the company? Do you have rights and responsibilities significantly beyond that of an ordinary employee?
- Do you have control over supervisors and lower level employees of the company or a specific division within the company?
As you can imagine, there are some “grey areas” to these requirements. Someone might be managing a specific division within the company, for example. But if that person only oversees day-to-day operations and reports to another supervisor, then the person may not be considered a manager or executive for the purposes of the L-1A visa.
Are You An Executive?
U.S. immigration authorities have different requirements for executives working in the United States with an L-1A visa. You may be considered an executive for immigration purposes if you answer yes to these questions:
- Are you supervised only by stakeholders and a board of directors and no others?
- Are you in charge of creating policy rules and regulations for your company?
- Do you have the ultimate decision-making power over the company aside from stakeholders and the board of directors?
If you report to anyone except the stakeholders and board of directors, then you may not meet the criteria for being an executive. Generally, immigration authorities will look at the amount of power and supervision you have within your company to determine if you are an executive. A CEO is an executive, for example, because the CEO reports only to the board of directors and stakeholders and has minimal supervision.
L-1A Visa Requirements
L-1A visa requirements are similar to L-1 visa requirements. They include all of the following:
- You must be offered a transfer or promotion to a position as a manager or executive
- You must currently be employed for a company that has an office, branch, affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company in the United States
- You must have been employed with the company for at least 1 year of the previous 3 years
How to Apply for the L-1A Visa
To apply for the L-1A visa to work in the United States, follow these steps:
Step 1) Receive a Transfer or Promotion
Your transfer or promotion must be to a position as an executive or manager.
Step 2) File Form I-129
Your employer must file form I-129 as part of an individual petition or blanket petition:
Individual Petitions: The individual petition allows one employee to file an application for the L-1 visa. The individual petition will include the company filing form I-129, Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker. The additional L supplement will also need to be filed. Both of these documents will be filed with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to constitute an official petition. Once the individual L-1 visa petition has been approved, your employer will receive form I-797.
Blanket Petitions: Blanket petitions allow larger companies to file petitions for multiple employees simultaneously, reducing paperwork and expenses. To qualify as a larger corporation, your company must have a certain amount of revenue or number of employees. You must have combined revenue of $25 million, for example, and at least 1,000 employees in the United States. If your corporation wants to transfer multiple employees to the United States, then your employer would file a form I-129S, Non-immigrant Petition Based on L-1 Blanket Petition. This form is filed to USCIS. Once the petition has been filed, the employer will receive form I-797, which can then be used for a number of different employee petitions over a three-year period. Any individuals seeking to enter the United States on an L-1 visa will refer to the company’s form I-797 on future immigration paperwork.
Step 3) Wait for your Employer to Pay All L-1A Visa Processing Fees
Work visas come with a number of different fees. Your company is required to pay all of these fees – your company cannot ask you to pay the fees. Fees that will need to be paid before you proceed include:
Form I-129 Filing Fee: $460
American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) Fee: $750 (for companies with 25 or fewer full-time employees in the U.S.) or $1500 (for companies with 26 or more full-time employees in the U.S.)
Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: $500
Fee for Employers with 50 or More Employees, with More than Half of Employees Being Foreign Workers: $4,000
Premium Processing Fee (For Expedited Visa Processing): $1,225
Step 4) File Form DS-160
Finally, it’s time to process your own part of the L-1A visa paperwork. At this point, you can submit form DS-160 with your local U.S. embassy or consulate. This form is the standard non-immigrant visa for foreign nationals. Upon completion of the form, you will receive a confirmation page and barcode.
Step 5) Schedule Your Embassy Interview
Schedule your embassy interview with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
Step 6) Submit and Collect Your Documents
Prior to your L-1A visa interview, you are required to submit or collect various documents proving the validity of your L-1A visa. Some of the typical required documents include:
- Valid passport that expires more than 6 months after your planned date of departure from the United States (your visa expiry date)
- A photograph that abides by U.S. visa photography requirements
- DS-160 confirmation page and barcode
- Visa interview appointment confirmation letter
- Form I-129 and form I-797 (for individual petitions)
- Form I-129S and form I-797 (for blanket petitions)
- A letter from your employer confirming your transfer or promotion, including the duties of your job and your salary and proof that you are serving in a managerial or executive role
- Proof that you have been employed with the employer for at least 1 year in the past three years
- References and contact information from previous co-workers, supervisors, and managers
- Photographs of your work premises
- A copy of your resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
Step 7) Attend your Interview
Your interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Arrive on-time. Have your fingerprints taken (if necessary). Then, complete the interview. The consular officer will ask questions to verify your role within the company. The officer may ask questions to ensure you meet the definition of a “manager” or “executive” in your current role with the company.
How Long Does It Take to Process the L-1A Visa?
The L-1A visa can take 1 to 3 weeks to process if your employer chooses to pay the premium processing fee of $1,400+.
Otherwise, a standard L-1A visa can take anywhere from 1 to 4 months to process from start to finish.
How Long Does My L-1A Visa Last?
The L-1A visa is typically granted for a 3 year period, although the visa can be extended another 2 years. You can apply for an extension twice, raising your maximum stay in the United States to a total of 7 years.
Once your L-1A visa expires, you will need to return to your home country. Alternatively, some L-1A visa holders seek to establish permanent residency or change their immigrant status.
Can I Change My Immigrant Status or Get a Green Card with an L-1A Visa?
The L-1A visa is considered a dual-intent visa, which means that many L-1A visa holders arrive in the United States intending to stay and pursue permanent residency.
As an L-1A visa holder, you may qualify for an employer-sponsored or family-sponsored green card. If you pursue permanent residency, then you can change your immigration status and move to the United States long-term.
Can I Bring Dependents to the United States With Me on an L-1A Visa?
The L-1A visa is similar to other L-1 visas and work visas: you can bring dependents with you to the United States. Dependents need to meet two key requirements to qualify for an L-2 dependent visa:
- Lawful spouse of an L-1A Visa holder
- Unmarried child under age 21 of an L-1A visa holder
If you or your family meet either of these two requirements, then you may qualify for an L-2 visa. The L-2 visa is typically granted for the duration of your L-1 visa. Your family is permitted to arrive in the United States with you or after you, although they cannot arrive before you.
An L-2 visa holder is permitted to work in certain circumstances. To work, the L-2 visa holder needs an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). L-2 visa holders can also study, open a bank account, and perform other functions while in the United States.