Do you hold a position with a multinational company that requires specialized knowledge? Would you like to come to the U.S. to work for the company’s U.S. operations? The L-1B visa may be your golden ticket!
What is the L-1B Visa Classification?
The L-1B nonimmigrant visa classification is for intracompany transfers. It allows certain individuals who have one year of qualifying employment abroad in a “specialized knowledge” position to transfer to a parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate business entity in the U.S. This visa classification is meant to facilitates the movement of key personnel to ensure the smooth running and development of their U.S. operations.
How do you qualify for L-1B status?
To qualify for L-1B status, the applicant must:
- Have been employed by a parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate business entity abroad for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding the application;
- The employment must have been in a “specialized knowledge” position; and
- The applicant must be seeking to enter the United States to provide services in a “specialized knowledge” capacity.
What does it mean to have “specialized knowledge” for L-1 purposes?
Specialized knowledge is characterized in the following ways:
- Special knowledge of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets that is distinct or uncommon in comparison to that generally found in the particular industry; and/or
- Advanced knowledge of – or expertise in – the petitioning organization’s specific processes and procedures that is not commonly found in the relevant industry and is greatly developed or further along in progress, complexity and understanding than that generally found within the employer.
To establish the requisite specialized knowledge, the U.S. petitioner must provide significant detail and documentation regarding the applicant’s unique expertise, skills, and knowledge. This typically involves an explanation of how the applicant’s knowledge of and expertise in the petitioning organization’s products, processes, or procedures rises above that possessed by the average coworker or member of your industry.
How long can you stay in the U.S. in L-1B status?
For general applications, applicants can be admitted to the U.S. for up to a three-year period. For “new office” applications, where the applicant is coming to the U.S. to help open a new U.S. office, the applicant may be admitted to the U.S. for a one-year period. An individual’s L-1B status may be renewed for up to five years, with certain exceptions for intermittent border crossers.
It is best practice for individuals to check their I-94 admission record upon each entry to the U.S. to confirm how long they have been admitted in L-1B status. You can do this by clicking on this link: I94 – Official Website (dhs.gov). Simply click on “Get most recent I-94” and type in your passport information.
Can the spouse of an L-1B holder work in the U.S.?
Yes! Unlike other categories, like the H-1B or TN, the L-1B visa classification allows both the principal applicant and their spouse to work while in the U.S. Notably, in November 2021, USCIS announced spouses of individuals with valid L-1B status have employment authorization incident to their “L-2S” status. Meaning, the spouse of an L-1B holder may present a valid I-94 record with the COA code “L-2S” to their U.S. employer as evidence of employment authorization under List C of Form I-9. This is a great benefit, especially in this crazy economy where a single income household is not always ideal.
How do you apply for L-1B status?
For Canadian citizens, an L-1B petition may be filed with U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port-of-entry. The benefits of applying directly at the border or through customs at an international airport include having an in-person interview and the opportunity to be approved for L-1B status that same day. Upon approval, a Canadian citizen may enter the U.S. and begin working immediately.
For all other nationalities, the L-1B petition is filed through the mail with United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) which can take several months for regular processing. For an additional fee, the applicant may file the application with the Premium Processing Service, which guarantees that action is taken on the case within fifteen (15) calendar days from receipt. Once the case is approved by USCIS, the individual will then need to schedule an appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to obtain the L-1B visa in their passport.
If you are interested in learning more about the L-1B visa classification, feel free to reach out to our office to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys: 716-634-1010.