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How to Get an L-1 Business Expansion Visa

If you are transferring to the U.S. for work, or expanding your business there, watch this video for information about L-1 visas. Fill out our immigration assessment form and we will get back to you within one business day to discuss your eligibility and options.

Who Qualifies for an L-1 Visa?

If you are expanding your business to the U.S. or being transferred to an existing American business, the L-1 visa is most likely the best type of U.S. work visa for you. L-1 visas are available to employees working for companies outside the United States such as in Canada that have branchessubsidiariesaffiliates or joint venture partners in the United States. The L-1 Visa has two categories, the L-1A and L-1B!

L-1B Visa:
L-1A Visa:

The L-1B is nonimmigrant visa that enables a US employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the US or help establish a US office.

The L-1A is nonimmigrant visa that enables a US employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the US or help establish a US office.

Requirements for an L-1 Visa​

Does your Business Qualify for an L-1 Visa?

Each type of business relationship is precisely defined by U.S. Immigration Regulations and legal advice is required to determine whether the business relationship complies with this legal definition. It is important to note that the foreign business outside the U.S. must continue to operate during the L-1 transfer to the United States. This means that while the foreign worker is in the United States on the L-1 visa, the business outside the United States must be ongoing. Depending on the nature of the business, there are a number of ways this can happen, including retaining employees, business transactions, or paying taxes.

Does your business have to be large to qualify? No, any size business can qualify for an L-1 visa.

What Documents Do You Need for an L-1 Visa?

It is important that L-1 visa applicants have all the necessary documents before applying to risk refusal. Generally, there are a long list of documents that are required, including:

  • information about the existing company
  • your employment
  • business plans for the U.S.
  • U.S. company documents
  • U.S. Immigration forms, such as the I-129

L-1 Visa Processing

Th eprocessing time for the L-1 visa is approximately 6 months with the option to pay for premium processing. Good news is, processing for the L-1 visa is simple compared to other visas. The processing steps include:

Step 1: Submit nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160)

Step 2: Submit petition for a nonimmigrant worker (Form I-129)

Step 3: After both forms are approved, the applicant will visit their home country’c consulate or embassy for an interview

The Advantage of L-1 Visas for Canadians

Canadians can apply for L-1 work visas and take advantage of NAFTA by applying for L-1 visas at a U.S./Canadian port of entry rather than having to apply at a U.S. immigration office (called a Service Center in the U.S.) This means that a Canadian can take all of his or her documentation to a U.S. border and receive an L-1 visa on the spot!

How Long is the L-1 Visa Valid For?

There are two types of L-1 visas: L-1A visas are for managers or executives, and L-1B visas are for specialized knowledge workers.

The L-1A visas are valid for a total period of seven years from the date of issuance, while L-1B visas are valid for a total period of five years. Both visas may be extended if one resides in and commutes from Canada or Mexico to the United States for employment.

How an L-1 Visa Can Lead to a Green Card

L1A Visa to Green Card

Those who have successfully obtained an L-1A visa have the option to apply under an EB-1C green card. When does this, a PERM Labor Certification is not needed which can speed the process up to 8 months.

To apply for the green card, the employer only needs to file an I-140 petition. Once approved, the applicant files for an adjustment of status (Form I-485).

L1B Visa to Green Card

When under an L-1B visa, you also apply for the EB-1C. The only difference is, applicants on a L-1B are required to prove that they are not taking jobs from qualified American workers which is done with a PERM Labor Certification.  In addition, the employer must show that they will be paying at least the prevailing wage for the work in the area of intended employment. 

After the PERM Labor Certification, the employer files an I-140 petition, and once approved, the applicant files the adjustment of status (Form I-485)

L-1 Visa Benefits for Foreign Workers in the U.S.

The L-1 visa has many benefits that you will find a lot of other Canadian work visas do not. These include:

Less Requirements

There are many work visas available to foreign professionals who wish to be employed in the U.S. Many of them have very steep requirements that are difficult to fulfill. The L-1 visa only requires you to be a manager, executive, or specialized employee in a multinational company in order to be qualified. This opens up the door for many people that are otherwise ineligible for other work visas.

Doesn’t Require Job Offer

If you are a qualified L-1 applicant, then you are already employed with a U.S. company that will sponsor you.

No Annual Limits

There are no limits to how many L-1 visas are approved each year. This means that your petition will not be rejected due to the fact that there are no more available visas.

Period of Stay

Holders of an L-1A visa will be granted an initial three years of stay in the U.S., and can then extend their stay to a maximum of seven years. This surpasses the amount of time for every other work visa.

On the other hand, the L-1B visa can only be extended to a maximum of five years, making its period of stay equal to or less than that of other work visas.

Spouses and Dependents Can Work

If you are in the U.S. on L-1 status, you will be able to bring your spouse and children along with you through the L2 visa. Also, if they qualify for Employment Authorization Documents, they will be able to work in the U.S. as well.

Little Education Required

You do not need a degree to qualify. This is a large advantage over the H-1B, though there are some other visas that do not necessarily require an education. These include the O-1, E-2, TN, and J-1 visa classifications.

L-1 Visa Extension or Renewal

L-1 visa holders are able to apply for an extension and it similar to the initial L-1 visa process. To successfully extend your visa, your employer will file a new petition before your I-94 Form expiration date.

Documents Needed for Extension or Renewal

L-1 Visa FAQs

If you’re a business owner who wants to expand into the US, you may be contemplating an L-1 Visa. You may also have some questions about the visa and what’s involved in applying. Here are some quick FAQs to get you started, based on information from US Citizenship and Immigration Services:

Do I qualify for an L-1 visa?

You and your business may qualify if;

  • You have a qualifying relationship with a qualifying foreign company (the parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate company).
  • It is important that you are or will be doing business in both the US and at least one other country. Doing business is more than just having a representative or office present in the country in question; you have to be providing good and/or services in a “regular, systematic, and continuous” fashion.
  • If your application involves a new office, your business abroad, and the US business you want to establish are related.
  • If your application involves a new office, the new location will be up and running soon after your employee’s arrival in the US.
  • If your application involves a new office, your current foreign company will continue to operate.

Can I apply for an L-1 visa for a small business?

Small businesses are welcome to expand in the US through an L-1 visa as long as it meets the qualifying requirements!

Does my employee qualify?

Your employee may qualify if;

  • They have been working abroad for a qualifying organization (which must be your company or a qualifying branch of your company) for a minimum of one continuous year within the past three years.
  • They will be working in a managerial or executive capacity, in the case of an L-1A Visa application, or in a specialized knowledge capacity, in the case of an L-1B Visa application.

What do I have to prove for the L-1 Visa for new offices?

According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, you initially have to prove that your new company has a qualifying relationship with your foreign company and that you have secured enough physical space in the US for your new business. If you are requesting an extension of stay, you need to show that is “active an operating” within one year and, after one year, that the business is active enough to support someone working largely in a managerial or executive role, as opposed to dividing their attention between those tasks and other aspects of the company(L-1A) or that the company has the financial resources to compensate the employee with specialized knowledge (L-1B).

Can my employee’s spouse work?

Your employee’s spouse can work after applying to USCIS and receiving an employment authorization document.

More Information About L-1 Visas

Why Seeking Professional Help for an L-1 Visa is Important

There are complicated requirements for qualifying for an L-1 Visa. For instance, the terms “manager”, “executive” and “specialized knowledge worker” have a very specific legal definition. It is therefore important that you consult with an immigration lawyer to determine if you qualify. Additionally, legal advice is required to determine whether a business relationship complies with a specific legal definition to qualify for an L-1 visa. Finally, you should always consult with an immigration lawyer for advice about what specific documents you need for your L-1 visa.

Why Hire Us to Help You With Your L-1 Visa Application?

Learning if you qualify is the first step towards success, and then you will need to ensure that all of the related documents are prepared properly. Our lawyers have extensive experience in handling L-1 visas for large, medium and even small businesses. We have helped thousands and thousands of employees and businesses successfully transfer or expand to the United States and we can help you too!

Interested in Immigrating to the United States?

The first step towards obtaining an L-1 visa is getting an assessment of your case. Fill out our immigration assessment form and we will get back to you within 24 hours to discuss your eligibility and options.

VisaPlace is the perfect place to start your path to immigration.