What Is an L-1B Visa?
L-1B visas are for intracompany employees with specialized knowledge, who are transferees from a foreign office to a U.S. office. This is typically done by their United States-based employer, in the interest of supporting a pre-existing office, or by assisting with the establishment of a new one.
The L-1B visa status allows professional employees to lawfully work in the U.S. for one to five years, though it must be for the sponsoring employer only.
In this post, we will explore exactly what is an L-1B Visa and who is eligible to come to the United States on the L-1B.
L-1B Visa Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for this visa type, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have established that employees must satisfy a few prerequisites, which generally happen to be easier than for most other visa categories.
L-1B visa applicants must:
- Have been working for a minimum of one consecutive year at a qualifying company overseas - which must be within three years preceding their visa application
- Be seeking the visa only to work in their specialized knowledge role - for their employer’s existing U.S. office, or to assist with starting a new one
- Return to their home country following the expiration of their L-1B status
- Meet all other visa requirements as outlined below
As found in the General Qualifications section of the USCIS’ L-1B website, the sponsoring employer must be a qualifying one, which means the U.S. office, and or the affiliated foreign office must be regularly doing business in either or both places. Furthermore, specialized knowledge refers to the expertise the foreign national has in the company’s products, services, procedures, etc.
If you are not eligible for an L-1B visa, you may want to learn more about the L-1A visa to see if you qualify.
How to Apply for an L-1B
As with an L-1A, the L-1B Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) is filed by the employee’s sponsor. The subsequent steps pertain to the transferee:
- Watch for his or her approved I-129, retaining the receipt and receipt number
- File the application for a Nonimmigrant Visa online (Form DS-160) and pay the applicable fee of $190
- Schedule a visa interview appointment
- Attend the scheduled interview, and present the visa-related documents
L-1B documents include, though are not limited to the following:
- 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-1B petition
- Copy of the barcode page from the DS-160 application
- Letter from sponsoring employer (to consular office) which requests the L-1B 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
L1-B Processing Time
The L-1B visa processing time typically takes about four months, but generally less than six. For applicants who need their visa quicker, they have the option to request Premium Processing. For an additional fee of $1,225, the visa application will be processed in three weeks, or 15 calendar days.
New Office in the U.S. Requirement for L-1B Visa
The requirements for sponsoring employers regarding new offices in the U.S. are the same for L-1B and L-1A visas alike. Employers planning to transfer specialized knowledge employees must present proof of the following:
- The company is a qualifying one
- The new office is an eligible one
- The physical premises housing the new office is satisfactory
- Financial capacity for the compensation of any and all transferees
- Financial ability to begin doing business in the U.S.
L-1B Period of Stay
Beneficiaries of an L-1B visa, who are being transferred to the U.S. to assist in the opening of a new office are granted an initial stay of a maximum of one year. Conversely, beneficiaries being transferred to an existing U.S. office are granted an initial stay of three years, max.
Any transferee seeking a visa extension, so as to work longer at the U.S. office, may be granted an extension of up to two years, until the limit of five years is exhausted.
Benefits of L-1B Visa
- L-1B visa holders are able to bring their spouses and or unmarried children, as L2 dependents, to the U.S.
- There isn’t a limit to the amount of L-1B visas that can be granted to specialized knowledge employees
- An initial period of stay of three years (when being transferred to an existing U.S.-based office
- The option to renew the L-1B visa, up to five years
- The general ability to pursue permanent residence in the U.S. (L-1B is a dual intent visa)
- The ability to file with premium processing (petition adjudication time of 15 days)
Frequently Asked Questions About What Is an L-1B Visa
Can I change my status from an L-1B visa to an L-1A visa?
Yes, provided the beneficiary becomes an executive or manager within the company.
What type of visa do the dependents of L-1B visa holders have?
If the L-1B is an active visa, then their dependents will be issued an L-2 visa. Dependents are their spouses and unmarried children (21 years or younger).
Can L-1B visa holder dependents obtain work authorization?
Only the spouse with a valid L-2 visa may be eligible for general employment authorization, and must be applied for based on the L-2 alone. Otherwise, children with an L-2 visa are not.
Can L-1B visa holders leave their U.S.-based company to work at a different company?
No, L-1B visa holders are only permitted to work for his or her original sponsoring employer.
Conclusion of What Is an L-1B Visa?
The L-1B visa is for employees (transferees) who are moving from an affiliated foreign office to the office based in the U.S. When an office doesn’t yet exist in the U.S., sponsoring employers send such employees to assist in starting one.
There are qualifications both employers and employees must present proof of, when petitioning for an L-1B visa. For instance, the parent company must already be doing business in one or both countries. Similarly, the visa beneficiary must have specialized knowledge in the company’s products, services, procedures, and already have the responsibility in the company as a key employee.
Such products and services sold abroad and/or in the U.S., must be materially different from others in the same market. Therefore it is imperative for the transferring employee to possess an increased knowledge in such related products or services being sold, or brought to the U.S. market.
Petition processing times usually take between three or four months, but can be up to six. Which can be reduced to three weeks via Premium Processing.
In order to qualify, L-1B seekers must:
- Have been working for at least one year at an affiliated foreign company, (within three years preceding their visa application)
- Be seeking this visa type solely to work in their specialized knowledge role
- Be a key employee at their company or organization
- Return to their nation of origin upon their visa expiration
This visa category permits transferees to live and work in the U.S. at their company for an initial stay of one year. Extensions are granted for up to two years, and the maximum limit is five years.
There are several benefits to applying for and being granted an L-1B visa. First of which is that there is no limit to the amount of L-1B visas that are granted. Beneficiaries also have the ability to bring their spouses and or children to the U.S., as well as the option to renew their visa for up to five years. The L-1B visa is a dual intent visa, so visa holders can pursue permanent residence in the U.S.