We received the following inquiry about L-1 work visas:
The owner of our company wants to get an L-1 visa for her nephew to come work with us (as we are in need of her bilingual-Italian abilities). How difficult is this to obtain, and how long would it take?
The L-1 visa is for “intra-company transferees” and is subdivided into two varieties: L-1A for managerial and executive transferees, and L-1B for employees with “specialized knowledge” of the company.
Over the past few years, L-1A and L-1B visas have gotten more difficult to obtain, largely due to abuses of the L-1 visa category by large, international ‘job shop’ companies. In response, the US Congress has passed tougher laws and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has developed more stringent and restrictive guidelines for approval of L-1 cases.
Just having “some connection” between the U.S. and foreign companies is no longer the “E-ticket” that it once seemed to be. Nevertheless, if the owner’s nephew and his job position both meet the legal requirements, we should be able to help you.
– – Affiliated Companies
The L-1 visa category is for “intra-company transferees” who have been employed, full-time, for at least 1 year by a foreign company that is properly affiliated to the US company. “Properly affiliated” usually means that one is owned by the other (parent-subsidiary), or both are owned by a third company, or by a group of owners (where each individual owner holds about the same share of ownership in both companies).
– – L-1A Multinational Manager or Executive
If the person is in a truly executive or managerial role (supervising other supervisors or managers), the L-1A category may be most appropriate. This category has several advantages, particularly as it may offer a faster pathway to future permanent resident (“green card” or “LPR”) status.
– – L-1B Specialized Knowledge employee
If the foreign national transferee has been working in a position that requires specialized knowledge of the company, its processes, procedures and products, and such knowledge has been acquired through working with the company over the course of a year or more, he may be a good candidate for the L-1B category.
The amount of time to prepare such a request depends on a number of variables. Usually the biggest factor is whether you are able to provide ample evidence of the qualifications of the applicant (the owner’s nephew), a solid description of the job duties for both the US and the foreign positions, and documentation showing a qualifying relationship between the US and the foreign companies.
Once all the documentation is assembled and filed, the time for USCIS to process the petition should be about 1 month. That’s their official estimate, anyway. Although ‘required’ by law to process an L-1 visa petition within 30 days, USCIS makes no actual guarantees. Sometimes they meet it, sometimes they don’t.
If time is of the essence, however, USCIS does offer to expedite processing and provides a limited guarantee to adjudicate within 15 days . . . if we pay them an additional $1,000 ‘premium processing service’ fee. (Can you say, ‘mordita’?)
[Note, too, that if the ‘transferee’ is coming from Canada, the process is greatly streamlined. Special rules and procedures apply, and we have had Canadian L-1 applications processed – and the worker admitted to the U.S. – in hours, rather than weeks or months!]
L-1 visas were once a fairly simple, straight-forward way for foreign employees and managers of multi-national companies to transfer to a U.S. office. The laws and rules have changed (and are continuing to change!), and determining eligibility gets more complicated all the time.
But despite the increased obstacles and shifting requirements, the L-1A and L-1B are still valid, viable and very useful visa categories. They are successfully utilized by thousands of companies and personnel each year.
While not everyone will qualify, the L-1 is still a ‘perfect fit’ for many. Our Arizona immigration attorneys would be happy to assist you in determining whether L-1 is the best match for you.