WHAT IS AN L-1 VISA?
It is a non-immigrant visa by which foreign companies transfer certain employees like a manager, executive, or person with specialized knowledge to a U.S. company. The U.S. company must be a branch office, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company. The L1 visa is an intra-company transfer visa. It allows a US company to transfer a key employee from one of its offices in another country into the United States.
There are two types of L-1 visas:
- L-1A VISA– The employee who works as a manager or an executive, the visa granted to the employee is called the L-1A visa.
- L-1B VISA- The employee who works on specialized knowledge, the visa granted is called the L-1B visa.
PROCESS OF APPLICATION
The L-1 visa is applied by the U.S. company on behalf of the employee. The U.S. company who is the employer is called the petitioner as it files the petition for the visa and the employee is called the beneficiary. The L-1 type is not eligible for self-petition.
DURATION OF THE L-1 VISAS
Under both L-1A and L-1B, the employee must have worked for the company for a continuous period of twelve months in the previous 36 months. The L-1 A visa is first issued for 3 years, then can be extended to 2 more years and for a maximum period of 7 years. The L-1B visa is also initially granted for 3 years and can be extended to 5 years.
BENEFITS OF L-1 VISAS
- Fewer criteria to be fulfilled by the employee – The employee should be in a managerial or an executive position for an L-1A visa and for an L-1B visa the employee must be having specialized knowledge. If the employee fulfills these, he/she is eligible for L-1A or L-1B visas depending on his role and knowledge.
- The employee can live and work in the U.S.A.- The employee having the L-1 visa can live in the U.S. and work for the company. The job is already there and the employer is the petitioner, therefore it is comparatively less complicated.
- Dual intent visa – The L-1 visa is a dual intent visa which means the holder can intent to permanently immigrate to the U.S. and become a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. in the future.
- An extended period of stay – The L-1A visa is granted initially for 3 years and can be extended for 7 years. The L-1B visa can also be extended from 3 to 5 years.
- Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years become eligible for an L-2 visa. The spouse of the L-1 visa holder and children under the age of 21 years are eligible for L-2 visas. The spouse can get a work permit and can work. The children too can study in U.S. schools and colleges.
DISADVANTAGES OF L-1 VISAS
- Have to be the employee of the company – The person has to be an employee, then only the employer can apply for an L-1 visa. As the L-1 visa is applied by an employer, the person should be an employee in the company for 12 months. The employee should hold the position of a manager, an executive, or have specialized knowledge.
- Restriction on the extension above a certain limit – The L-1A visa can be extended for 7 years and L-1B can be extended for a maximum period of 5 years.
- Few companies are eligible- Only those companies are eligible to send their employees who have subsidiaries, offices, branches in the U.S.
- Limited scope for the employee- The employee who comes on an L-1 visa to the U.S. can only work in the sponsored company and cannot work anywhere else.
L-1 VISA AND E-2 VISA
- The E-2 visa is commonly referred to as the “non-immigrant treaty investor visa”. It is issued to non-immigrants of those countries with which the United States maintains an E-2 treaty on trade and commerce. It allows a non-immigrant individual/entity to invest in an existing U.S.-based business or to establish a new business. The L-1 visa is also a non-immigrant visa issued for working in a company in the U.S. There are certain SIMILARITIES between L-1 and E-2 visas.
- Both are non-immigrant visas. They don’t grant permanent residency in the U.S. or a Green Card.
- The employee in case of E-2 and L-1 visas can work only in the same company which sponsored them.
- The spouse and children can accompany the visa holder on both visas. The spouse can get a work permit and children can study in both the type of visas.
Despite the similarities between the two types of visas, the two visas are DIFFERENT from each other in many ways.
- ELIGIBILITY – The employee in the case of L-1 can be a national of any country. Whereas in the case of an E-2 visa, the individual has to be a national of an E-2 treaty country.
- PURPOSE – The sole purpose of entering the U.S. in the case of an E-2 visa is to develop or run a business. In the case of an L-1 visa, the only requirement is that the foreign company should have a branch or a subsidiary in the U.S.
- DURATION – The L-1 visa is granted for a maximum period of 7 years or 5 years depending on the type whereas the E-2 visa is granted for 2 years but can be renewed till the criteria are fulfilled. The L-1 visa cannot be renewed after 7 years.
- INTENTION – The L-1 visa is a dual intent visa which means that the intention to go back to the origin country is not there. Whereas in the case of an E-2 visa the intention to go back is an essential condition.
Thus, we saw that though the L-1 visa and E-2 have similarities the differences between them cannot be ignored as discussed. The L-1 visa can be issued only by the employer for his employee. The employee who has the special knowledge or is an executive or a manager is only eligible for an L-1 visa. There is no requirement of a treaty between the origin country and the U.S. The only requirement is that the foreign company must have a parent, a branch in the U.S.
Few individuals can qualify for both L-1 and E-2 visas. But before applying the purpose of stay, duration, intention to return all have to be seen. Depending on the requirements, the person should apply for the type of visa. As an E-2 visa has no limit to the number of times it can be renewed, it is the best way to stay in the U.S permanently. In the case of L-1 visas, there is a limit of 7 years or 5 years depending on the role, but the holder can apply for a green card or through other ways for permanent residence. Both the visas are for working in the U.S. but both have certain merits and demerits. Depending on the requirement and intention a person or the employer should apply for either type of visa.