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What is the L-1 visa application process? How long does it take to get an L-1 petition approved?

By July 7, 2020May 26th, 2021Immigration, L-1 Visa

An L-1A visa is a great visa for an employee or owner of a company abroad who wants to transfer to a U.S. office or open a new office in the United States.

First, you will need to determine whether you qualify for the L-1 visa and meet the L-1 requirements:

  1. The U.S. employer must have a “qualifying relationship ” with a foreign company. This means that the foreign company and the entity in the U.S. have a relationship such as parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate and the U.S. entity and foreign company share common ownership and control.
  2. The company must be doing business in the United States and at least one foreign country, either directly or through a company with a qualifying relationship to the U.S. employer (parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate).
  3. The employee must have been working for the foreign company for one continuous year out of the preceding three years (normally you show payroll records to prove this) and
  1. The employee must be entering the United States to work at the U.S. company as a manager, executive or specialized worker .

Gather all supporting documents

L-1 visa is a very document intensive process and it usually takes our clients couple weeks to assemble all the documents needed to meet the L-1 criteria. Additionally, if your company will be applying for a new office L visa, you will also need to submit a business plan.

Your Employer must file an L-1 petition with USCIS

If you meet all the L-1 requirements, your company will first have to file an I-129 petition to USCIS. Your company can request and pay the Premium Processing fee with the L-1 petition and  that means that USCIS will make a decision on your L-1 petition within 15 days (approval, denial, or request for evidence).

One exception when the company does not have to file an L-1 petition with USCIS is when the company previously filed Blanket L petition. Another exception would be if you are Canadian – you may present the L-1 petition at the border.

Decide if you want to do a Change of status petition with USCIS or if you will file Consular Processing

Your company can file L-1  petition when you are in the U.S. at the time of filing the petition (this is called change of status), but also if you are outside the U.S. at the time of filing the petition with USCIS (this is called Consular Processing).

My petition was approved and my petition was filed as a Change of Status in the U.S. Can I start working for the company immediately?

If you are in the U.S. and your petition was filed as a Change of Status, you can start working for your company after your petition is approved. You should keep the I-797A Approval notice as that will be evidence of your legal status  in the U.S.  It is not required that you go to a Consulate and apply for an L-1 visa . However, you will need to go and apply for an L-1 visa at the Consulate once you leave the U.S. as you will need the visa to re-enter the U.S.

My L-1 petition was approved and I am outside the U.S. Do I need to apply for an L-1 visa?

Yes. If you are outside the U.S. at the time your L-1 petition was approved, you will need to apply for an L-1 visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad. If you are outside the U.S. and you do not have a valid visa stamp (or other U.S. travel document), as of June 24, 2020, the new Executive order applies to you and you will not be able to apply for an L-1 visa until December 31, 2020. Please read more about the new Executive order when you click here.

For how long can I stay in the U.S. on L-1 status?

If your company applied for a new office L visa, then you will be able to stay in the U.S. for one year, and after that you will have to demonstrate that the company can support a managerial/executive employee in the U.S. If your company applied for a regular L-1 visa, then you will be granted 3 years initially. If you are in the U.S. on an L-1A visa as a manager/executive , you can stay in the U.S. for up to 7 years. If you are in the U.S. on an L-1B visa as a specialized knowledge employee, you can stay in the U.S. for up to 5 years. Please click here to learn more.

Please click here if you want to find out whether L-1 visa leads to a green card.

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