L-1 Visa Lawyer

What is an L-1 Visa?

The L-1 nonimmigrant category is available to individuals who have worked for a foreign corporation that has a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate company in the U.S. The individual must have been employed in an executive or managerial position (L-1A), or in a specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B) for the foreign company. 

L-1 visa allows multinational companies to transfer employees from their foreign offices into their U.S. offices. It's a non-immigrant visa that allows the recipient to live and work in the United States for a predetermined period of time. However, because it is a dual intent visa, L-1 visa holders can also pursue permanent residency in the U.S. without harming their L-1 status.

Who Qualifies for an L-1A Visa? 

This type of visa is granted to employees who will be working in a managerial or executive capacity.

If the petition is for L-1A status, the prospective employment in the United States must be of managerial or executive capacity. One important advantage to this classification is that an L-1A executive or manager will often be eligible for “Priority Worker” classification for permanent residence. This allows the multinational manager or executive to apply for permanent residency without undergoing the extensive process of labor certification.

  1. The Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) defines “managerial capacity” as an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily: (1) manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component thereof; (2) supervises and controls the work of other employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, has authority to hire and functions at a senior level within the organization; (3) exercises discretion over day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. 8 CFR §214.2(l)(1)(ii)(B).
  2. The CFR defines “executive capacity” to mean an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily directs the management of the organization or a major component or function thereof; establishes goals and policies; exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making and receives only general supervision from higher level personnel. 8 CFR §214.2(l)(1)(ii)(C). 

Who Qualifies for an L-1B Visa?

An L-1B type of visa is granted to specialized knowledge employees.

If the petition is one for L-1B status, the prospective employment in the United States must involve the use of specialized knowledge. The CFR defines “specialized knowledge” as a special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. 8 CFR §214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D). 

How Does an Employer Qualify for an L-1 Visa?

Before an employer starts a visa petition, they must meet certain requirements. 

Qualifying Relationship

To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations).

Doing Business in the United States

Documentation must be submitted to show that the petitioning company is doing sufficient business in the United States to support the employment of the L-1 foreign national. This is especially important when the petitioning employer is a start-up company, newly established in the United States. Particular attention should be paid to documenting the ability of a new office L-1 employer to do business in the United States. 

How Much Does an L-1 Visa Cost?

Your employer is required to pay most of the USCIS fees because the L-1 visa is a type of employer-sponsored work visa. 

The typical fees that associated with L-1 petitions are:

  • USCIS Filing Fee: The standard filing fee for any I-129 petition is $460. This fee applies to new L-1 visas as well as L-1 extensions.
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: $500. It is applicable to all first time L-1 visa petitions but it is not required for L-1 visa extensions or change of status from L-1A to L-1B or from L-1B to L-1A with the same employer. Employers also need to pay this fee if a foreign worker already in L-1 nonimmigrant status needs to change employers, or begin new concurrent employment.
  • Public Law 114-113 Fee: L-1 employers that employ 50 or more employees in the United States if more than 50 percent of these employees are in H-1B, L-1A or L-1B nonimmigrant status must pay the $4,500 Public Law fee. This fee is usually required when the Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee is also required.
  • Premium Processing Fee: Premium Processing Fee is not mandatory. It is a nice option to shorten the amount of time it takes for USCIS to process your petition from months to 15 calendar days for a fee of $ 2,500.
  • Legal Fee: The legal fee varies greatly among different immigration law firms. A flat fee is usually charged. Considering that L-1 visa petitions require a multitude of supporting evidence, hiring an attorney that you can trust will be very helpful. 

How to Make Payments for your L-1 Visa Fees

You must submit all fees in the exact amounts in U.S. currency. USCIS accepts checks and money orders that are drawn on a bank or other financial institution located in the United States. Make sure that the checks or money orders are made payable to the U.S.Department of Homeland Security. Submitting wrong fees will cause USCIS to reject your L-1 petition. Working with an immigration attorney is a great way to avoid complications with your fees.

What Causes an L-1 Visa to Be Denied?

If not prepared well, an L-1 visa petition may be denied. The most common reasons for the denials are

  1. The petitioning U.S. employer fails to establish that the beneficiary, i.e. the foreign worker, would be employed in the United States in a qualifying managerial or executive capacity (for L-1A) or possess knowledge deemed either special or advanced (for L-1B). 
  2. The petitioning U.S. employer fails to establish that it has a qualifying relationship with the foreign entity where the beneficiary works or worked.

Usually, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) before a decision of denial is issued. The petitioners are given a chance to answer the RFE or NOID. Immigration lawyers can help you reorganize the additional evidence that will answer the doubts of USCIS. 

What is the difference between an L-1 and H-1B Visa?

The L-1 and the H-1B visas are the two most sought-after non-immigrant work visas that allow foreign nationals to live and work in the United States for a certain period of time. They both need employer sponsorship and are dual intent visas, which means that the applicant cannot be denied his or her H-1B or L-1 visa application simply because he/she has demonstrated immigrant intent by filing an immigration petition.

Though these two types of visas share many similarities, they are also very different.

The L-1 visa requires the U.S. petitioning entity and the foreign entity to be in a qualifying relationship. The petitioner must show that the foreign worker’s foreign employer and the proposed U.S. employer are the same employer (i.e. one entity with “branch” offices), or related as a “parent and subsidiary” or as “affiliates”. H-1B visa does not have this requirement. Any U.S. employer can be a sponsor for the H-1B visa. The beneficiaries for the L-1 and H-1B visas are also different. For the L-1 visa, the beneficiary must either be a managerial or executive employee, or a person with specialized knowledge. However, there is no degree requirement. H-1B visa requires the beneficiary to possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. The beneficiary can work on any speciality occupation that is in line with his/her academic background. The H-1B employers need to pay prevailing wages to H-1B employees while L-1 employers just need to pay higher than the minimum wage. 

The L-1 visa can be a possible alternative to the H-1B visa when the H-1B annual cap is reached, because there is no limit or cap on the number of L1 visas granted to applicants each year. The L-1 visa may also provide a faster route to permanent residency. L-1A visa holders usually file their green card applications under the EB-1C category as an international manager or executive. The EB-1C category usually does not have visa backlogs. In contrast, most H-1B visa holders will get green cards under the EB-2 or EB-3 category. For China mainland born applicants and India born applicants, the visa backlogs for the categories of EB-2 or EB-3 range from 2-10 years or even more. 

How Can a Lawyer Help With Your L-1 Visa Application?

Before you or your employer begin the application, we will ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. If you do not meet those requirements, we will help you find out alternative solutions. 

If you are setting up a new U.S. office and wishing to apply for the L-1 visa through this U.S. entity, we recommend you engage an experienced L-1 visa lawyer as soon as you can. You will need guidance from your immigration attorney when establishing the qualifying relationship. USCIS uses a more stringent review standard in the “new office” situation. 

Receiving an RFE or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) might make you feel worried. As a seasoned immigration law firm, we will be able to share many successful experiences with you. Our L-1 visa lawyer will analyze the RFE or NOID with you, pinpoint the issues raised by USCIS and propose our solutions. We will develop a document checklist specifically tailored to the USCIS requests. Your only job will be just collecting the documents shown on the document checklist that we create for you. 

For assistance with issues related to L-1 visa applications, extensions, and renewals, contact our team at the Law Office of Lu & Associates today.

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