L1 Visa Process: Step-by-Step Guide on How to Get an L1 Visa

L1 Visa Process - Step-by-Step Guide on How to Get an L1 Visa


The L1 visa is a great way for foreign workers to live and work in the United States. With an L1 visa, you can transfer from a foreign company to a related US company to work as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.


If you are interested in an L1 visa, you should know about the process of getting an L1 visa.


In this guide, I’m going to discuss the L1 visa process.


If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m very responsive via email and would be happy to answer your questions.




1. Introduction to L1 Visa


2. Step 1: Hire an Immigration Lawyer


3. Step 2: Document Preparation


4. Step 3: Change of Status or Visa Processing


5. Step 4: Start Work


6. Conclusion


1. Introduction to L1 Visa


The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows a foreign business to transfer a manager, executive, or worker with specialized knowledge, to a related US company. The prospective L1 visa beneficiary can then work for the US company as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.


To qualify for an L1 visa there are 4 main requirements:


i. There must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company. Examples of qualifying relationships that will satisfy this requirement are: parent/subsidiary; branch office; and affiliate.


ii. The prospective L1 visa beneficiary must have worked continuously for the foreign company full-time for 1 year within the 3 years preceding the filing of the L1 visa petition.


iii. The L1 visa beneficiary’s employment with the foreign company must have been as a manager, executive, or person with specialized knowledge.


iv. The L1 visa beneficiary’s employment with the US company must be as a manager, executive, or person with specialized knowledge.


Now that we’ve discussed the basics of the L1 visa, lets discuss the L1 visa process.


2. Step 1 of L1 Visa Process: Hire an Immigration Lawyer


The first step to get an L1 visa is to hire a qualified immigration lawyer. You most likely already understand the need for an immigration lawyer throughout this process. That said, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that this is the first step you should take.


Your immigration lawyer should conduct a thorough intake process to determine whether an L1 visa is the right option for you. In discussions with your immigration lawyer, you may discover that there is a much easier and simpler way to get the immigration benefits you seek.


Without going to an immigration lawyer first, you could spend wasted time and energy planning for a visa classification that doesn't best suit your needs. For these reasons, you should consult with an immigration lawyer early on.


3. Step 2 of L1 Visa Process: Document Preparation


Once you’ve consulted with a qualified immigration lawyer, and they have determined that an L1 visa is the appropriate option for you, they should provide you with a detailed list of documents for you to compile.


The L1 visa has strict requirements that must be met in order for your L1 visa to be approved. In order to prove that you meet the L1 visa requirements, it is critical to submit various documents with your petition.


The documents you submit should prove the following:


i. That there is a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company


ii. That you’ve worked for the foreign company continuously, full-time, for at least 1 year within the last 3 years prior to filing.


iii. That you worked as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker for the foreign company


iv. That you will work as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker for the US company.


Here’s a general list of some of the documents you should plan to include:


Foreign Company Documents


  • Articles of incorporation


  • Stock certificates


  • Certificate of incorporation


  • Business tax returns


  • Financial statements


  • Copy of office lease


  • Promotional materials


  • Organizational chart


  • Pictures of the business


  • Detailed statement from authorized representative of company explaining ownership and control of company.


US Company Documents


  • Articles of incorporation


  • Stock certificates


  • Business license


  • Corporate by-laws


  • Detailed business plan


  • Organizational chart


  • Financial statements of business


  • Promotional materials of business


  • Detailed statement from authorized representative of company explaining ownership and control of company.


L1 Visa Beneficiary Documents


  • Resume


  • Copy of passport


  • Detailed statement explaining job duties with foreign company, including percentages of time spent doing each duty


  • Detailed statement explaining proposed job duties with US company, including percentages of time to be spent doing each duty


  • Pay stubs or comparable evidence demonstrating date range of employment with foreign company


Disclaimer: The above list is just a general list of some of the documents you should expect to include in your L1 visa petition. This is not a comprehensive list. Your immigration lawyer should customize a list of documents for you to provide based on your unique case.


Now that we’ve discussed the document gathering phase, lets move on to the actual filing of the petition.


4. Step 3 of the L1 Visa Process: Change of Status or Visa Processing


When applying for an L1 visa, you have 2 options for how to proceed: you can either do a change of status through USCIS or you can apply for an L1 visa at a US Consulate abroad.


Here’s a quick analysis of the difference between these 2 options:


Change of Status


  • A change of status is the process of going from one non-immigrant status to another non-immigrant status.


  • In order to do a change of status, you must be lawfully present in the United States in some valid non-immigrant status.


  • A change of status is done entirely within the United States. You are not required to travel abroad.


  • There is no interview when doing a change of status.


  • Certain nonimmigrant classifications are ineligible for a change of status such as the ESTA and the K1 visa.


  • If you do a change of status, you do not get an L1 visa. Instead, you get L1 status. Your L1 status is only valid while you are in the United States. If you leave the United States, your L1 status ends and you will have to either apply for an L1 visa abroad or obtain another basis for entry to the United States.


  • In certain situations, traveling to Canada and Mexico for a limited period will not disrupt your status.


Visa Processing


  • If you are outside of the United States, you will most likely do visa processing.


  • Visa processing involves applying for an L1 visa at a US Consulate abroad.


  • Visa processing also requires an interview.


  • With an L1 visa, you can travel in and out of the United States.


Change of Status Process


  • To do a change of status, your immigration lawyer will prepare and file a Form I-129 (and the L-supplement) with USCIS, requesting a change of status on your behalf.


  • Along with the Form I-129, your immigration lawyer will include all supporting documents such as your job offer to work for the US company, company financial statements, and the other documents specified above.


  • Once the I-129 is approved, you are granted L1 status.


Visa Processing Process


  • To do visa processing, your immigration lawyer will prepare and file a Form I-129 (and the L-supplement) with USCIS on your behalf. Your immigration lawyer will include all supporting document with this petition.


  • You must also submit a Form DS-160, online, to the State Department.


  • Upon approval of your I-129, you must submit to the appropriate US Consulate abroad, your notice of approval, along with several other documents including your L1 petition which was submitted to USCIS and passport photos.


  • The US Consulate will then schedule an interview with you where they may ask you various questions about your L1 petition.


  • Upon successful completion of your L1 visa interview, you should be issued an L1 visa within a week (depending on the Consulate).


Important Note for Citizens of Canada:


  • If you are a citizen of Canada, you can apply for your L1 visa directly at a US port of entry (POE).


  • To do this, you would submit your documentation directly to the Customs and Border Protection Agency.


  • As a citizen of Canada, you are not required to file an L1 petition with USCIS.


5. Step 4 of the L1 Visa Process: Start Work


Once your change of status is approved, or your visa is issued, the next step is to start your employment with the US company.


6. Conclusion


The L1 visa is a great option for certain workers to transfer from a foreign company to a related US company.


You should now have a much better understanding of the L1 visa process.


There are essentially 4 main steps:


Step 1: Hire an Immigration Lawyer


Step 2: Document Preparation


Step 3: Change of Status or Visa Processing


Step 4: Start Work


If you have any questions about anything discussed in this article, please feel free to email me at Michael@AshooriLaw.com.


Ashoori Law is a Los Angeles based immigration law firm focused on helping entrepreneurs and business professionals get visas to the United States.







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Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.