The world is shrinking and business has become an international calling.
Company executives and key workers are on-demand road warriors, shuttling from one global hotspot to the next on behalf of their companies. If you feel like you're living out of a suitcase, you're not alone – equipped with smartphones and other mobile technologies, masses of business professionals take to the air everyday.
But sometimes global business requires more than a short trip. It's not uncommon for large, multinational companies to relocate foreign executives and other workers to the U.S. for an extended period of time. Getting to the U.S. is the easy part. But to stay here, those employees will need to pass the muster of the U.S. immigration department, and likely obtain an L-1 visa.
L-1 Visa Overview
L-1 visas are limited term, non-immigration visas that are tied to employment with a U.S. employer. Individuals who are approved for L-1 visas are expected to return to their home countries after they have worked in the U.S. for a specified period of time. The employer must be a multinational business with locations in the U.S. and the home nation.
There are two categories of L-1 visas: L-1A and L-1B. L-1A visas are designated for executives and managers, while L-1B visas are used for workers with specialized knowledge or skill sets. Once either type of L-1 visa expires, the individual must return to their home country and continue to work for the company's foreign subsidiary for a period of 365 days before they are eligible to reapply for a new L-1.
One of the benefits of an L-1 visa is that it allows foreign workers to remain in the U.S. for an extended period of time. An L-1A visa (executives and managers) is good for 7 years; an L-1B visa (specialized workers) is good for 5 years.
How to Get An L1 Visa
There are two different methods for obtaining these types of visas: (1) Regular L-1 visa applications and (2) Blanket L-1 visa applications.
- Regular L-1 visas. Regular L-1 visas must be applied for individually through the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS). Petitions filed by companies for regular L-1 visas are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- Blanket L-1 visas. In a blanket L-1 scenario, companies with a large number of international transfers each year can receive a blanket qualification. This streamlines the process and only requires employees to support personal qualifying documentation.