L-1A visas are for executives and managers being transferred from an affiliated foreign office to an office in the United States. It is a visa status that is somewhat simpler to get, as the requirements both for employers and employees are much less stringent. Even the processing times are shorter, at around six months, and the ability to renew is standard.
L-1A Visa Eligibility Requirements
Though employers have several requirements their company must meet, (as well as when establishing new offices in the U.S.) employees must have been employed in the affiliate foreign office – as an executive or manager – for at least one year. The year must be continuous, as well as occur within three years immediately preceding the L-1A visa application.
Additionally, the employee’s reasoning for entering the U.S. must be only to provide services as an executive or manager.
Executive employees are required to have the ability to make decisions within the qualifying company.
Managerial employees must be able to supervise and control the work of other employees as well as manage the organization or its components. In some cases, managerial employees would be able to manage high-level essential functions but not necessarily supervise others. More detailed information regarding the L-1A requirements for employers and employees can be found on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
How to Apply for an L-1A Visa
Though L-1A visa petitions (Form I-129) are filed by the sponsoring employer, the following are four steps for the employee to apply for their L-1A visa:
- Await and receive the approved I-129 receipt number
- Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) and pay the associated fee of $190
- Schedule an appointment for the visa interview
- Meet with the interviewing immigrations officer on the scheduled date, ensuring all visa-related documents are present
L-1A documents usually include:
- The applicant’s passport
- One visa photograph of the applicant
- One of the outside of the place of work, and one of the inside
- Most current resume
- All associated fee receipts
- One copy of the L-1A petition
- Copy of the barcode page from the DS-160 application
- Letter from sponsoring employer (to consular office) which requests the L-1A visa on behalf of the applicant
- Description of the applicant’s job duties (in foreign affiliate as well as U.S. office) and transfer details
- Salary documentation (from both offices)
- Tax documentation
- All relevant reference letters
L-1A Visa Processing Time
The L-1A visa processing time differs based on USCIS service centers as well as the countries from which applicants apply. I-129 petitions generally take about six months. Center-specific time frames can be found on the USCIS website. Country-specific time frames can be found on the applicant’s home country consulate’s website.
If six months (to one year) results in too much of a wait time, applicants can opt for Premium Processing. Thus reducing the processing time down to 15 days, and the fee is $1,225.
L-1A Period of Stay
This visa type is usually granted to executives and managers for three years. This is an initial period of stay for L-1A visa recipients, though they are given the option to apply for extensions, which are in two-year increments. The limit, however, is a maximum of seven years (provided the employer continually operates as a multinational company).
Conversely, if the office is a newly-established one, L-1A visas are granted for only one year, but beneficiaries have visa extension options.
L-1A employees must intend to leave the U.S. upon the completion of their assignment. If they wish to remain in the U.S. in the same role, they must work in the affiliated foreign office for at least one consecutive year before applying for another L-1A visa.
Benefits of L-1A
- An average of less requirements to get the visa
- No higher education requirements
- Ability to bring spouses and or dependents (as an L-2 visa beneficiary) to the U.S.
- No limit to how many L-1A visas can be granted to foreign executives and managers
- An initial period of stay of three years
- The option to renew the visa, up to seven years
- A dual intent visa (ability to pursue lawful permanent residence in the U.S.)
- No need to undergo the permanent labor certification (PERM) when applying for a green card
Can an L-1A Visa Holder Get a Green Card?
Though an L-1A visa isn’t an automatic path to getting a green card in the U.S., it is possible, and it is usually the easiest.
Eligibility for lawful permanent residence in the U.S. can be evidentiary under the following circumstances:
- Sponsorship by the beneficiary’s employer of an employment-based (EB) green card
- Marriage to a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident
To do so, green card applicants must file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). The processing times generally take between six months and one year, as there are not any Premium Processing options at this time.
FAQs For What Is an L-1A Visa?
What if it has not been a full year at my current job as an executive or manager, can I still apply for an L-1A visa?
The obligatory time frame is a minimum of one year in the executive or managerial position at an affiliated foreign employer, within the preceding three years of the visa petition.
Are the L-1A visa requirements difficult?
In order to apply for an L-1A visa, applicants must simply work as an executive or a manager for one year (within three years of applying), and there is no higher education degree requirement.
As an L-1A in the United States, can I leave my current employer and work for a different company?
Unfortunately, L-1A visa holders only have employment authorization to work for the sponsoring employer. This includes the prohibition of the employee starting their own business in the U.S.
Can I bring my family with me to the U.S. on an L-1A visa?
Yes, spouses and children of an L-1A visa holder can obtain L-2 visas.
Conclusion of What Is an L-1A Visa?
The L-1A is a nonimmigrant visa known fully as the Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager visa. It is for executives and managers within an affiliated foreign company who are being transferred to the company's office in the U.S. In the event the employer does not have a preexisting office in the U.S., they can establish one via an L-1A visa.
Additionally, the employee’s reasoning for entering the U.S. must be only to provide services as an executive or manager for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations. Imperatively, employees are only permitted to work for the sponsoring employer, with no authorization to move to a different company.
The beneficiary may requalify for his or her L-1A visa by working abroad (outside of the U.S.) in the company’s affiliate office for at least one year.
L-1A visa application processing takes an average of six months, must be renewed every two years after the initial validation period, and are generally valid for a maximum of seven years.
There are quite a few benefits to having an L-1A visa, which may include
- Short petition processing time frames
- One of the easiest visas to obtain
- Less requirements and no education requirement
- Bringing spouse or dependents
- Ability to pursue lawful permanent residence in the U.S.
- No need for PERM when applying for a green card
- Option for Premium Processing