Just as with any other kind of visa application, prospective alien beneficiaries of an L-1 visa must go through a specific application process administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Whether a foreign national is applying for an L-1A or L-1B visa by way of petitioning for a change of status (COS) or obtaining a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, he or she will need the following documentation, which is submitted to USCIS by the petitioning employer.
Regulations stipulate that petitioning employers applying for L visas submit paperwork establishing the following information, which we categorize as employer-related and worker-related.
-If the petitioning employer is a large and well-established organization:
- Submission of a statement by the company’s president, corporate attorney, corporate secretary, or other authorized official describing the ownership and control of each qualifying organization.
- The above statement must be accompanied by other evidence such as a copy of the company’s most recent annual report, Securities and Exchange Commission filings, or other documentation delineating the parent company and its subsidiaries.
-If the petitioning employer is a small business:
- Submission of a statement by an authorized official regarding ownership and control of each qualified organization.
- The above statement must be accompanied by evidence delineating ownership and control; this could include such evidence as records of stock ownership, profit and loss statements or other accounting reports, tax returns, articles of incorporation, company bylaws, and minutes of board meetings.
-If the petitioning employer is transferring the alien beneficiary to open a new office in the United States:
- Submission of a statement demonstrating ownership and control, in addition to financial viability.
- The above statement should be accompanied by such evidence as the capitalization of the company or evidence of financial resources committed by the foreign company, articles of incorporation, company bylaws, minutes of board of directors’ meetings, corporate bank statements, profit and loss statements or other accounting reports, and tax returns.
-Both of the above requirements can be satisfied with, for example, a letter (signed by an authorized official of the petitioning employer) that describes the prospective beneficiary’s employment abroad and intended employment in the U.S.
-The letter above should include the following:
- Employment duties
- Job title(s)
- Number of employees supervised
- Type(s) of employees supervised
- Qualifications for the job
- Level of authority
- Time the alien spent in the U.S. on behalf of the petitioner in any authorized capacity (which serves to ensure that the requisite one-year period of employment abroad is satisfied)
Note that in cases where the accuracy of the statement is in question, USCIS may require other evidence such as wage and earning statements or an employment letter from an authorized official of the employing company abroad.
Change of Status vs. Visa Application at Consulate
Aliens who currently reside in the U.S. under some nonimmigrant status have two options for obtaining their L-1 status: they can either petition USCIS for a COS, or they can apply for an L-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad after their employer’s L-1 petition is approved. Each of these pathways has its own set of specific rules and procedures, and so there are pros and cons to each that aliens should be aware of.
In general, aliens who are eligible to petition for a COS while in the U.S. must:
Importantly, the following nonimmigrant categories are prohibited from changing status, whether to L status or any other nonimmigrant status: Visa Waiver, C, D, K-1 or K-2, S, TWOV, WT, or WB.
The COS application procedure depends on the nonimmigrant status to which the alien wishes to change. For L-1 status, the prospective employer needs to file the aforementioned Form I-129, supporting letter of employment, and all documentary evidence with a request for a COS. Once approved, the alien will be issued an I-94 notice of COS approval.
Prospective L-1 beneficiaries should ascertain the risks of applying for a COS if they are already in the United States on another nonimmigrant status. Take a B-1 visa, for example. While B-1 holders are technically permitted to change status to another nonimmigrant status, doing so in order to avoid the more stringent application procedures associated with the new status is considered fraudulent. USCIS may determine that a B-1 holder had failed to disclose his actual reason for seeking a B-1 visa to begin with. Such behavior could make it extremely difficult to obtain an L-1 visa for entry into the U.S. in the future. (This is one of the reasons why applying for an L visa at a consulate is suggested in most situations.)
For more information on how to change from one nonimmigrant status to another, refer to here.
Visa Application at a U.S. Consulate
If the prospective L-1 beneficiary currently resides abroad, as is most often the case, he or she must obtain L-1 status through Visa Application at a U.S. Consulate. As noted above, applying for and receiving an L visa at a U.S. consulate is generally a faster and less risky than petitioning for a COS. Of course, the downside to this for aliens already in the United States is that they would have to leave the country in order to get a visa to be able to re-enter the country with L-1 status.
Applying for an L visa at a consulate abroad requires an alien to present the following documentation in person after the underlying L-1 petition has been approved.
Premium Processing vs. Regular Processing
Regular processing of an L-1 petition can last anywhere from three to five months. If the alien will be entering the United States under a blanket L-1 petition, adjudication takes slightly less time, typically lasting a few weeks.
If an alien is not eligible for a blanket petition, his or her employer may want to take advantage of USCIS’s premium processing service, which speeds up the adjudication timeframe. USCIS guarantees processing of a petition within 15 calendar days of receiving the petition, whether the end result of adjudication is an approval notice, a denial notice, a notice of intent to deny (NOID), a request for additional evidence (RFE), or notice of an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation in an L-1 (or other employment-based) petition.
Employers filing certain worker petitions, including L-1A and L-1B applications, can opt for premium processing for an additional fee of $1,225. To request premium processing, the petitioner or attorney must complete Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, and include it with the L-1 visa petition. The fee must be submitted in a separate check or money order; alternatively, USCIS accepts credit and debit cards, as well as electronic fund transfers from U.S. banks. Petitioners can also include paid postage and a self-addressed courier delivery slip when filing Form I-907 to expedite receiving the decision.
Additional benefits of the premium processing service include:
For more information on the L-1 category, refer to the following links: