The L non-immigrant visa category is one of the most useful tools available to international companies who need to bring qualified foreign employees to the United States. L visa holders do not have to maintain a foreign residence during their U.S. stay and are eligible to seek permanent residency status if they wish. Since the L visa is a dual intent visa, L status holders may file a petition for permanent residency status without jeopardizing their L status or their L-1 visa applications from a US Consular Office abroad.
The L-1 visa category also allows for intra-company transferees to bring their family to the United States with them. Family members of the L-1 alien, classified in the L-2 category, may be granted employment authorization to work in the United States after being granted an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). An EAD is a document that allows an alien to work in the United States for a specific time, usually one year. The primary L-1 visa holder does not need an EAD to legally work for their L-1 sponsoring employer in the U.S. because their visa is employment-based, whereas their dependent family members’ is not. For more information on EADs, please click here.
If the basic requirements for an L-1 visa are met, the company can gain access to the many advantages of the L visa category, which they might not have been able to utilize on another type of visa.
Compared to an E visa
An E is another type of employment based non-immigrant visa that can also be used by small business owners or small companies to bring owners or employees to the United States. However, the E visa category is designed solely treaty traders and treaty investors who come to the United States to engage in trade between the U.S. and the country in which they are employed.An E visa is available only when the following three conditions are met:
At the present time, there are many countries that do not have such treaties with the United States. For those countries, an E visa is simply not available and an L visa might be a good alternative.
Compared to a B visa
A B-1 Temporary Business Visitor visa is used by alien visitors coming to the United States for short business trips on behalf of an overseas employer. Generally speaking, a B-1 visa can be used for some business activities such as the opening of bank accounts, acts of incorporation, signing of contracts, and the like. In order to obtain a B-1 visa, you must be able to demonstrate the following:
Just like an L-1 visa, a B-1 visa may be particularly helpful during the early stages of setting up a new U.S. business.
However, there are downsides to the B-1 visa category that might make an L-1 visa more preferable for many employers, especially if the alien worker will need to stay in the country for an extended period of time. Technically, the duration of authorized stay for a B-1 holder isup tosix months, with an extension of stay up to another six months. The duration of stay is decided by the immigration officer at the time of the visa holder’s entry into the country. In reality, most B-1 visas are approved for less than six months at a time and only in rare circumstances would a period of entry exceeding six months be granted. As the B-1 visa is a temporary business visitor visa, the visa holder cannot legally work in the United States. Unless another type of visa with employment authorization is obtained, employment under B-1 is a violation of status. This means that when business activity has advanced to such a degree that it constitutes local employment, the B-1 holder will be at risk of violating their status.
B-1 holders maychange their status to another non-immigrant status, such as H-1 or B-2, but it is important to note that they should be cautious when doing so (if they apply for a change of status in a short period after their entry to the US with a B-1 visa). The USCIS considers using the B category as a stepping stone to a different non-immigrant status solely for the purpose of avoiding the more stringent application procedures associated with the new status to be improper and fraudulent. Serious ramifications, including the possibility of deportation, may result. This is another reason why, if a non-immigrant worker wishes to stay in the United States or their employer needs them to be here for an extended period of time, it is better to use the L-1 visa program.
For more information on the B-1 Temporary Business Visitor visa, please click here or visit the USCIS web page.
Compared to an H-1B Visa
The H-1B non-immigrant visa program is designed to allow U.S. employers to recruit highly specialized foreign employees to live and work in the U.S. for a specified period of time. An H-1B visa is very similar to an L visa in many aspects, such as the limitation on the accumulated authorized period of stay and petition procedure. Those on H-1B visa program are only authorized to stay in the United States for a maximum of six years. Similar to the L visa, an H-1B petition is filed by the employer on behalf of their employee and is dual intent, meaning that the visa holder can petition for permanent resident status without jeopardizing their H-1B status or their visa applications from a US consular office abroad. The major difference, however, is that the employment privilege granted to an L visa holder, in theory, cannot be substituted by a U.S. worker. Under an H-1B visa, the employer must guarantee that their specialized alien worker is receiving the prevailing wage for their position in the geographic area they are working in. Since a non-immigrant in the L category is here on behalf of their foreign qualifying entity, an L visa holder is not required to be paid the prevailing wage for the position he or she assumes. Furthermore, the H-1B visa is subject to an annual quota and requires a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, one does not need a degree for the L visa, nor is the L visa subject to an annual quota.
For more information on the H-1B visa,click here.
EB-1C category considerations
Another benefit of the L-1(a) visa is that it can provide a stepping stone to lawful permanent resident status. A specific employment-based immigrant preference category (EB-1C) was created for managers and executives who meet the L-1 standards and are interested in becoming lawful permanent residents. These aliens are considered "priority workers" in the first preference, which is allotted 40,000 annual immigrant visas. Although L-1A status is not a prerequisite for immigrant benefits in this category, the immigrant petitioner’s prior L-1A status provides a stronger case for the EB-1C immigrant petition.
For more information on the EB-1C immigrant category, please click here.
(Updated 10/9/2012 by AG)
For more information on L visa, please refer to the following links: