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What Should Foreign Workers Know about the L-1 Visa Program?

L-1 Visa Program

The global nature of commerce means there are many international businesses and other entities that operate in more than one nation. When a global entity has operations in the United States or is looking to establish U.S.-based operations, it needs people here to help establish, oversee, or expand operations. The L-1 visa program is the solution, for which an experienced immigration lawyer can help when a new or established entity has managers, executives, or field specialists needed in the United States.

General Overview of the L-1 Visa Program

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) enables qualifying workers and managers to work and reside in the United States. The L-1 visa program is one of many visa programs that make it possible for a qualified citizen of another nation to enter the United States and earn a living on at least a temporary basis. So long as the employment continues, a successful L-1 visa applicant generally can stay and work in the United States for as long as he, she, or the employer prefers.

Eligibility for an L-1 Visa

There are two types of L-1 visas. One is for managers and executives who need to oversee and maintain control of multinational entities that do business in the United States. Many of those multi-national entities also need people who possess specialized skills and knowledge. The L-1 visa process enables those people to come here and get important work done that will benefit the sponsoring entity as well as the United States.

All petitioners must be sponsored by a qualifying organization for which they will provide executive, managerial, or specialist services. USCIS defines a qualifying organization as one that has a foreign parent company that is doing business in the United States already or is looking to do business here either directly or through a subsidiary or other affiliate organization.

USCIS says the business must be viable and does not have to be involved in international trade. The sponsoring organization needs more than a physical office location and office staff. It must be involved in regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services to qualify as a sponsoring organization for L-1 visa petitioners.

There are two types of L-1 visas. One is for managers and executives, and the other applies to specialists. The following is a closer look at the two types of L-1 visa categories and the application process.

L-1A Visa

An L-1A visa is for higher-level executives and managers in an organization that is located outside the borders of the United States to perform intracompany transfers in order to get work done. USCIS officials recognize the need for skilled and experienced executives and managers who also possess relevant institutional knowledge to enter the United States and tend to important business matters for multi-national entities.

An L-1A visa enables managers and executives to do that. Successful applicants must show they have worked for a qualifying organization overseas for at least 12 consecutive months within three years prior to the petition filing. The petitioner also must be employed and seeking to continue working in an executive or managerial capacity for the sponsoring organization or one of its qualifying subsidiaries.

L-1B Visa

Growing multi-national entities generally need highly specialized staff to enable their expansion in the United States. Virtually any worker with specialized skills and the ability to show and affirm them in an L-1B visa petition could qualify for lawful entry into the United States.

USCIS enables a U.S.-based employer to transfer a professional employee from an affiliated organization outside of the United States in order to obtain specialized knowledge related to the sponsoring entity’s business mission. The L-1B visa also enables a qualifying organization that is not doing business in the United States to send a special-knowledge employee to help establish a qualifying U.S.-based operation.

Successful Candidate Qualifications

No matter which type of visa the applicant seeks, USCIS has specific requirements to qualify for a visa. The first is a physical location for a new office or other operation inside the United States, or the intent to do so.

A post office box, motel address, or other commonly used tricks that often are used to create shell companies or fraudulent entities will not work. USCIS needs a real office location with staff or that will have staff soon in order to confirm the entity exists and truly operates within the nation’s borders.

The new office does not have to be operating yet to obtain approval for either type of an L-1 visa application. But the office does need to be up and running within a year of the petition’s approval. Therefore, any applications for planned offices need to have a physical location secured and present a solid plan to show that it will be operating and supporting an executive or manager position within a year of the approval date.

The applicant also must have been employed as an executive or a manager for the sponsoring organization for at least 12 consecutive months at any time during the prior three years. That helps USCIS to know the applicant really is employed by the sponsoring entity or at least was in recent years and in a high-level position.

How Experienced Immigration Lawyers can Help

In order for a petitioner to obtain either type of an L-1 visa, the qualifying sponsoring organization must file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. The petition requires a great deal of evidence that petitioners must compile and present properly or receive a nearly automatic rejection. When the Form I-129 is filled out properly and supported by the correct information about the petitioner, the chances of a successful filing rise.

The Form I-129 also requires evidence that the sponsoring organization qualifies as such in accordance with USCIS regulations. An experienced immigration lawyer can help to ensure all elements of the filing are provided by petitioners and sponsoring organizations. The qualifying organizations also must pay the filing fee in advance, and the U.S.-based immigration lawyers can help to ensure that is done correctly.

USCIS Review Process

Once the applicant completes the appropriate form and provides all supporting evidence, the L-1 visa application goes to the USCIS office in either Nebraska or Texas for review. The review process usually takes several weeks and might include a request for evidence (RFE). An RFE request generally means the applicant has not provided enough evidence to qualify and USCIS is giving the candidate a chance to provide additional evidence. Any deficiencies in an initial filing generally are addressed in an RFE request as well as any denials of visa applications.

It is important to understand that even when an applicant fully meets qualifying criteria to obtain an L-1 visa, USCIS does not automatically approve the visa application. A number of criteria are employed throughout the review process and when assessing the final merits of each case.

Among them are how many visa applications already are approved for citizens of a particular nation, because the USCIS limits total annual approvals for any one nation. The case must demonstrate a benefit to the United States and a need for the goods or services that the applicant will help to provide while here.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC Help Immigrants with Visa Applications

The experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC can help you to better understand the L-1 visa application process and how to present the best possible case. We can review your case and ensure your sponsoring organization meets the federal requirements to obtain an L-1A or an L-1B visa for one or more managers, executives, or specialists who are needed for U.S.-based operations. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.

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