The L-1B visa is one of two visas in the L-1 visa category. While the L-1A visa is reserved for managers and executives, the L-1B visa is for employees with specialized knowledge.
The L-1 visa is specifically for intra-company transfers. If your company has a branch, an affiliate, a subsidiary, or a parent company in the United States, then you may be eligible for an intra-company transfer via an L-1B visa.
How Does the L-1B Visa Work?
The L-1B visa is designed specifically for those who have “specialized knowledge” and other unique skills, education, and experience within a company. Depending on how you define “specialized knowledge”, you may or may not qualify for an L-1B visa.
Generally, an L-1B visa holder possesses unique knowledge about the company’s systems, products, or services. The L-1B visa holder has unique skills that could not be taught to another employee in a short period of time.
There’s no specific limit on the number of employees who can be designated as having “specialized knowledge” within an organization. However, the company will need to prove that each employee has specialized knowledge that cannot be imitated by anyone else within the organization without significant training.
Some of the examples of those who successfully apply for an L-1B visa include:
- Surgeons and physicians seeking intra-company transfer to a U.S. hospital or clinic
- Teachers and professors
If you have highly-specialized skills, experience, and education that requires years to develop, then you may qualify for an L-1B visa.
L-1B Visa Requirements
Specific L-1B visa requirements can include all of the following:
- Your employer must have an affiliate, parent, subsidiary or branch in the United States
- You must have worked for the company in your home country for at least 1 year in the past 3 years
- You must have specialized knowledge indispensable to company functions regarding the company’s products, services, systems, or management
- The L-1B visa applicant must have an offer to transfer or be promoted to the U.S.-affiliated company within the organization
How to Apply for the L-1B Visa
Applying for the L-1B visa is similar to the process of applying for the L-1B visa. Your employer first needs to file a petition. Then, you proceed as you normally would with a non-immigrant visa.
Step 1) Receive a Transfer or Promotion
Your transfer or promotion must be related to a position that requires specialized knowledge unable to be performed by anyone else at the company. A brain surgeon, for example, will be able to qualify for an L-1B visa while an administrative assistant will not.
Step 2) File Form I-129
Your employer must file form I-129 as part of an individual petition or blanket petition to bring you to the United States on an L-1B visa:
Individual Petitions: The individual petition allows one employee to file an application for the L-1B 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-1B 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, including both L-1B and L-1A petitions. 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-1B Visa Processing Fees
Work visas in the L-1 category – including the L-1B visa – come with a number of different fees. Your company is required to pay all of these fees for your application to proceed. If your company wants to expedite the L-1B visa application process, then your company may choose to pay premium processing fees, which reduce application times to as little as 2 to 3 weeks in exchange for a one-time fee of around $1,200.
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
Form DS-160 is the standard non-immigrant application form available from any U.S. embassy or consulate website. Visit the website for your local U.S. embassy, where you’ll find the form translated into your own language. While the form may be in your own language, you will need to record your answers in English.
Step 5) Schedule Your Embassy Interview
Schedule your embassy interview with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. The interview is a required part of the L-1B visa application process.
Step 6) Submit and Collect Your Documents
Prior to your L-1B visa interview, you are required to submit or collect various documents proving the validity of your L-1B 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. If you have never visited the United States before, then you may have your fingerprints taken prior to your interview. Then, wait in the consulate for your number to be called, at which point the interview will begin. The consular officer will ask questions to verify your specialized knowledge with the company, including the unique role you play.
How Long Does It Take to Process the L-1B Visa?
The L-1B 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-1B visa can take anywhere from 1 to 4 months to process from start to finish. Depending on the workload at your local U.S. embassy or consulate, your application can take as short as 1 month or as long as 4 months to process.
How Long Does My L-1B Visa Last?
Your L-1B visa will last until the date of expiry printed on your visa. Typically, the L-1B visa is granted for an initial period of 3 years.
Once your 3 year expiry date approaches, you may wish to file a request for an extension. As an L-1B visa holder, you are permitted to request one extension. If granted, your extension will extend your visa by two years. You are permitted to spend a maximum of 5 years working in the United States on an L-1B visa before returning home.
If you want to avoid the 5-year visa expiry window, then you may request a promotion to a managerial or executive position. In this case, you could qualify for the other L-1 visa, the L-1A visa. This visa is designed exclusively for intra-company transferees in managerial or executive positions. The L-1A lasts a maximum of 7 years while the L-1B visa lasts a maximum of 5 years.
Can I Apply for a Green Card or Change My Status with an L-1B Visa?
It’s possible to apply for a green card or change your status with an L-1B visa. The L-1B visa, like the L-1A visa, is a dual intent visa. You are not required to provide proof that you will return to your home country upon the conclusion of your work term.
Many L-1A visa holders choose to apply for an employer-sponsored green card after working in the United States for several years. Alternatively, you can apply for a family-sponsored green card.
Can My Dependents Join Me in the United States on My L-1B Visa?
The L-1B visa allows you to bring certain dependents to the United States, although your dependents will need to go through their own visa application process.
In this case, your dependents will qualify for an L-2 visa if they meet the following requirements:
- Legal spouse of an L-1B visa holder
- Unmarried child under 21 of an L-1B visa holder
If your spouse or parent is working in the United States with an L-1B visa, then you may qualify for an L-2 visa. This visa allows you to reside in the United States for the duration of the L-1B visa holder’s visa. If you receive an EAD, you can also work in the United States legally. L-2 visa holders are also permitted to study in the United States.
Using the information above, you can expedite the L-1B visa application process and enjoy a smoother application.