L-1B Visa: Visa for Specialized Employees

Specialized important workers within one company can go to the U.S by obtaining an L-1B visa.

The L-1 visas are part of the U.S nonimmigrant visa category within the U.S. This visa allows foreign citizen workers from a certain company to come to the U.S as transfers to where a certain branch, subsidiary, affiliate or parent is located in the U.S. According to this visa they can work in the U.S, but the job positions they can take up is limited. The L-1 visa only allows a few job positions, and according to that there are two subcategories of visas as follows:

  • L-1A visa which gives its holders the right to transfer to the U.S and work as managers or executives
  • L-1B visa which gives its holders the right to transfer to the U.S and work in a specialized knowledge position

In the following article, we go through everything you need to know about this particular visa, what it is, its requirements, the application, etc.

What is the L-1B Visa?

This visa is meant for people who have specialized knowledge. The U.S Immigration services have an explanation of what this particularly means.

Specialized knowledge workers are employees of a company, and they represent key employees. This means they have a great amount of knowledge of the company’s services and products. This knowledge is very hard to transfer to another person, and in turn, will require a lot of work time and resources. This knowledge has been gained through years of work and experience, and this means that without these employees the product or services will not be of the same value or quality.

Immigration services have not specified how many people are key employees within a company, they expect the company to distinguish which are the most important employees who have truly an impact of its performance. Moreover, companies can claim how many key employees they want, but in turn, they need to prove that these employees are a vital part of the company and that their knowledge cannot be transferred onto other people without time and resources.

Companies in many industries can claim key personnel to be eligible for an L-1B visa, many of them are surgeons and physicians, lawyers, teachers, professors, etc. So, this visa is given out to companies who prove that their workers are a vital part of the company’s functions.

What Are the L-1B Visa Requirements?

The following requirements are set for this visa:

  • The company must have an affiliate, parent, subsidiary or branch in the U.S
  • The applicant must have worked in the company in their home country for at least 1 year in the past 3 years
  • The applicant must have specialized knowledge that is indispensable to company functions regarding its products, services, or management
  • The applicant must have an offer from the company to transfer to the U.S affiliated company

If these requirements are met, you can start the L-1B visa process.

How to Apply for an L-1B Visa?

All steps for this visa need to be taken cautiously and carefully. The process is very long and requires your full attention so that nothing can get overlooked.

Filing Form I-129

Same as the other nonimmigrant visas, a form must be submitted to start the process. This is the first step and needs to be sent by the employer, so, the employee can be allowed to apply for this visa. This form must be sent by the employer and there are two ways that this can be done:

  1. Individual Petitions

If the company only has one key employee that needs to be transferred to the U.S to ensure better functioning for the company, an individual petition needs to be sent. This is done by sending Form I-129 and the L Supplement to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Office (USCIS). This petition needs to be approved by the USCIS so that the applicant can continue with the other steps. When this petition is approved, the employer gets Form I-797 as proof.

  1. L-1 Blanket Petitions

If there is more than one key employee that needs to be transferred to the U.S, or the company feels that they will need to send more people in the next 3 years, they need to send a blanket petition. This can be done with filing Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on L-1 Blanket Petition to USCIS. Like the individual petition, you get Form I-797 as proof when the petition gets approved.

This petition is only valid for 3 years, but it can be extended if the company feels that is necessary. Keep in mind that they need to apply for an extension, and if this is not completed, they are automatically not allowed to file a blanket petition for the next 3 years. Only individual petitions will be allowed.

And so, employers must choose which way they will file the Form I-129 petition, but the other steps are the same for either individual or blanket petitions.

Pay the Fees for the Employer

This step is crucial, all fees need to be paid to make applicants eligible for an L-1B visa. These fees are as follows:

  • Form I-129 filing fee – $460
  • Employers with 25 or less full-time employees in the U.S must pay the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) – $750
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee – $500
  • Employers with 50 or more employees in the U.S on an H-1B or L-1 visa – $4,000
  • Premium processing from USCIS – $1,225

File Form DS-160

This form is pretty much required for all U.S work visas, and so when the employer finishes filing the petition and pays all the required fees, the applicants can continue with their application process. Form DS-160 is filled out online and requires information on why the employee needs to be transferred to the U.S and whether or not they fulfill the needed requirements. Upon completion, you get a confirmation page and a code which you will need to save for later in the application process.

Pay the Application Fee

Same as the L-1A visa, the fee for an L-1B visa is $190. This fee is obligatory and must be paid in full. Depending on your home country, U.S Embassy fees might also apply, such as reciprocity fees.

Schedule the Interview

An interview is scheduled with the U.S embassy in your home country. When you set the interview you get a confirmation letter from the embassy, in this letter, you will find the date, time, and place of the interview. Also, for nonimmigrant visas, an interview is obligatory between the ages of 14 and 79 years old.

The interview needs to be attended at the given time and place. If this interview is missed, the process for the visa stretches longer. You will be interview by an official in the embassy of your home country, and all the supporting documents need to be brought to the interview.

Submit Your Documents

All of the following supporting documents need to be submitted for your application to be considered:

  • A valid passport for an additional 6 months after your visa ends
  • A photograph meeting the Photography Requirements
  • The DS-160 confirmation page and code
  • The receipts that you have paid all fees
  • The visa interview appointment letter
  • For individual petitions:
    • Form I-129 and one copy
    • Form I-797
  • For blanket petitions
    • Form I-129S and two copies
    • Three copies of Form I-797
  • Letter from employer confirming your transfer and your job description
  • Proof that you have worked with the employer for at least 1 year in the past 3 years
  • Proof that you have specialized knowledge as per the definition of U.S immigration services
  • Letters from previous employers and contact information for your supervisors
  • Contact information from 2 coworkers from your current and previous job positions
  • Photographs of the inside and outside of your place of work
  • Your CV or resume

Attend Your Interview

This is the last step of your application for a visa. In the interview, you will be asked different kinds of questions. For example, you will be asked questions about your place of work, what is your specialized knowledge, and why is it so crucial for the company’s function. The questions need to be answered fully, and as clearly as possible to avoid incomplete information. After the interview, you will wait for the processing time, and if you are approved you will need to send your passport for stamping.

What Is the Processing Time for the L-1B Visa?

The L-1B processing time takes about the same time as the L-1A visa sub-category. After the petitions are filed and you apply, it will take about 3 to 4 months for USCIS and the U.S Embassy to make a decision. Their decision will either be that you got approved or denied.

If the individual petition is filed by the employer then the processing time is a bit longer. Premium processing is available for the L-1B visa, so if time is a problem the employer can pay the fee to have the visa processed in 1 to 3 weeks.

How Long Is the L-1b Visa Valid?

The visa validity dates will be printed out on the Form I-129, as well as Form I-797 and Form I-94 which you get upon entry to the U.S. The visa will be valid for 3 years. If you get this visa, you will be only allowed to work in the U.S for 3 years on a specialized knowledge position.

In some cases, the employer wants to keep the employee in the U.S for a longer period of time. So, the employer can file for an extension, which in turn will increase the validity by 2 years (this can be done only once). Finally, this means that on this visa, its holders can stay up to 5 years in the U.S. If they want to stay longer in the U.S, more permanent options need to be considered.

Nevertheless, if the specialized knowledge employee receives an offer from the company to take up an executive or a managerial position in that firm, the L-1B visa can be transferred to an L-1A visa, which lasts 7 years. The application needs to be completed at least 6 months before the end of 5-year validity for the L-1B visa.

Can I Apply for a Green Card With an L-1B visa?

Since this visa is a sub-category of the L-1 visa category, it is a dual intent visa. This means that it does not oblige its holder to get back to their home country after their work duties are complete. If you have the L-1B visa and your work contract expires, you are not forced to return to your country.

You can file for a green card from an L-1B visa. These visa holders are allowed to apply for an employment-based green card. Furthermore, the applicant isn’t expected or required to prove strong relations to home, or intention for his/her return.

Can I Bring Dependents With an L-1B Visa?

With this work visa, you can bring your dependents to the U.S when you go to the U.S for work. They need to be your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 to qualify. Also, they need to apply and be accepted for an L-2 visa to be allowed to enter the U.S. Without L-2 visa they are denied entry to the U.S. This visa allows them to study in the U.S and be able to find employment. In order to apply for getting a job with an L-2 visa, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) needs to be applied for.