L-1 Visa

Immigration MemosJune 16, 2024

L-1 Visa

Basic Use and Requirements

The L-1 visa is for intracompany transferees – employees who have worked abroad for a parent, affiliate or subsidiary of the U.S. company for at least one year within the preceding three years. The work abroad must have been in a managerial or executive capacity or must have involved specialized knowledge, and the work to be performed in the United States must be in one of these three capacities, although not always the same one.

Executives and managers may stay in the U.S. in L-1A status for up to seven years. Specialized knowledge employees may stay in the U.S. in L-1B status for up to five years. The visas are granted initially for three years, and are renewable in two-year increments; although if the U.S. company has not been an operational business for at least year at the time of filing, the status will be limited to only one year.  The availability of multiple-entry visas depends on the reciprocity granted to nationals of that country by the U.S. government.

Eligibility Criteria

The U.S. sponsor company must demonstrate it has a qualifying relationship between it and the parent, affiliate, or subsidiary abroad; meaning the U.S. or foreign company holds at least 50% ownership in the other company.

The employee must show that s/he has worked for the company abroad for at least one year full-time in a qualifying role.


Employee is not required to meet the educational requirements of the H-1B category and can temporarily work at other U.S. locations of the company, unlike workers with H-1B visas, who may have to amend their H-1B status to add job locations.

Persons qualifying as an L-1A have an expedited route to a “Green Card” as they are able to bypass the labor certification filing, and they qualify in an EB-1 category, which is higher preference category that is rarely subjected to backlogs for most countries (with the exception of India and China).

This visa is eligible for Premium Processing by the USCIS.

Special Notes

Persons coming to open up a new office in the U.S. are only eligible for an initial one-year stay in the U.S. The USCIS will also typically scrutinize the business plan of the company, and review the prospects for future success of the operation both in the initial request and at the time of renewal.

The USCIS may closely scrutinize cases where the transferred employee also has a significant ownership interest in the company, since the USCIS may not believe the owner intends to ever leave the U.S., or may suspect that the foreign company will cease business during the L-1’s period of stay.


Step 1 – Initial Preparation

Required documents are submitted along with completed questionnaires. Documents required are as follows:

Resume and copy of employee’s passport and any prior USCIS documents;

Copies of degrees, diplomas, and school records;

Brochures, promotional material, or articles about the company;

Company annual report or financial statements; and

In smaller company situations, copies of stock certificates showing the relationship between companies or common ownership of shareholders.

Once the necessary documentation is received, the application forms and letters are prepared for submission. These documents include:

Required USCIS forms (Form I-129 and L Supplement, Form G-28) and

Company letter supporting the visa petition.

Step 2 – The Visa Petition Process

The petition is submitted to the USCIS.

When USCIS approves the petition, it issues an Approval Notice (Form I-797), which is received by the employer representative and transmitted to the employer or employee, as instructed by the employer. The representative will also receive a courtesy copy of the Approval Notice directly from the USCIS.

If the employee is in the U.S., s/he will receive his/her Form I-797 Approval Notice and is authorized to work. The next time the employee leaves the country, s/he should go to the U.S. Consulate to get the visa issued (see Step 3). The employee will be issued a new Form I-94 (showing L-1 status) upon re-entering the U.S. (see Step 4).

If the employee is outside the country, s/he will receive his/her Form I-797 Approval Notice but is not authorized to work until s/he is issued the visa and enters the U.S.. A copy of the approval notice is also sent to the designated U.S. Consulate in the employee’s home country where the employee goes to get the visa issued (Step 3).

Special procedures exist for Canadian citizens, who are eligible to submit the L-1 petition directly at a U.S.-Canadian border post or pre-flight inspection office at a Canadian airport. Since Canadian citizens do not require visas to enter the U.S., they can skip Step 3. When the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the border or airport approves the petition, the employee is given an entry stamp and digital I-94 record evidencing L-1 status and is permitted to enter.

Step 3 – Visa Issuance

This step is required before the employee can be authorized to work only if, at the time the petition was filed, the employee was outside the U.S.; traveled outside the U.S. while the application was pending, or the case was filed for consular notification. If the employee was in the U.S. with another visa at the time the petition was filed, and the application was a change of status this was duly noted on the petition, the employee is work-authorized as of the date shown on the USCIS Approval Notice and need not leave the U.S.

In most cases, the employee simply reports to the Consulate in his or her home country with a valid passport, a copy of the petition as filed, and original USCIS Approval Notice (Form I-797) to have the visa issued and affixed to the passport. Visa issuing policies are specific to the Consulate you are processing at; therefore, it is important to check with the specific Consulate prior to attending. Depending on the consulate and the applicant’s background then may be the need for additional background checks.

Step 4 – Entry into the U.S.

When the employee arrives at their port of entry (the airport or U.S. border crossing), a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will examine the individual’s passport, visa and USCIS Approval Notice, and then issue their Form I-94 and allow entry. An electronicI-94 will be available to access online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home within 24 hours.

Employees are always reminded to review their I-94 document to ensure it lists the proper status and date of expiration (status expiration should match the I-797 Approval Notice unless the individual’s passport expires beforehand – in which case the I-94 may be limited by the passport expiry).

** This outline/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis **