L1A Visa Guide: Step-by-Step Guide on the L1A Visa

L1A Visa Guide - Step-by-Step Guide on the L1A Visa


The L1A visa was designed to allow certain foreign workers to transfer to the United States and to work as either a manager or executive.


In this guide, I’m going to discuss the L1A visa for managers and executives.


If you have any questions, please reach out to me via email at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’d be happy to answer your questions and to help you with your L1A visa.




1. What is the L1A Visa?


2. What are the L1A Visa Requirements?


3. Special Rules for L1A Visa New Office Petitions


4. How Do I Get an L1A Visa?


5. Conclusion


1. What is the L1A Visa?


The L1 Visa (also referred to as the intracompany transferee visa) allows foreign companies to transfer certain employees to work for their United States parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office. If the foreign company does not have a parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office in the United States, the L1 visa allows the foreign company to send an employee to establish a new office in the United States.


Within the L1 visa, there are 2 separate classifications, the L1A visa and the L1B visa. The L1A visa is for foreign workers who will be working in the United States as either a manager or executive. The L1B visa is for foreign workers who will be working in the United States as a specialized knowledge worker.


The L1A visa is a nonimmigrant visa, so it is temporary in nature and does not directly lead to a green card. For workers who will be coming to the United States to set up a new office, the L1A visa is initially granted for a period of 1 year. For workers coming to work for existing offices, the L1A visa is initially granted for a period of 3 years. The L1A visa can be extended for a total period of 7 years.


2. What are the L1A Visa Requirements?


To get an L1A visa, there are 4 main requirements:


  • There must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company.


  • The L1A visa beneficiary must have continuously been employed by the foreign company, full-time, for at least 1 year within the previous 3 years prior to filing the L1A petition.


  • The L1A visa beneficiary must have been employed for the foreign company as either a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.


  • The L1A visa beneficiary must be coming to the US company to work as either a manager or executive.


i. There must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company.


To get an L1A visa, there must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company


There are 3 types of qualifying relationships that satisfy this requirement:


  • Parent/Subsidiary
  • Branch office
  • Affiliate


Check my L1 Visa Guide for detailed definitions of each of these types of relationships.


ii. The L1A visa beneficiary must have continuously been employed by the foreign company, full-time, for at least 1 year within the previous 3 years prior to filing the L1A petition.


  • To qualify for an L1A visa, you must have been employed with the foreign company, continuously, for at least 1 year, prior to filing the visa petition.


  • The employment must have been full-time.


  • The employment must have occurred within the last 3 years prior to filing the L1A petition.


iii. The L1A visa beneficiary must have been employed for the foreign company as either a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker. Please see below for definitions of each position.




A manager primarily:


  • Manages the organization, or a function, department, subdivision or component of the organization.


  • Supervises and controls the work of other professional, managerial, or supervisory employees. Or, manages an essential function of the organization, or a subdivision or a department of the organization.


  • Has the authority to hire and fire employees that they directly supervise.


  • Has discretion over day-to-day operations of the function or activity managed.




An executive primarily:


  • Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization.


  • Establishes the policies and goals of the organization.


  • Has freedom to make decisions within their discretion.


  • Receives minimal supervision/direction from the board of directors, higher-level executives, and/or stockholders.


Specialized Knowledge Workers


Specialized knowledge can mean either of 2 things:


  • That the employee has special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets;


  • Or that the employee has an advanced level of knowledge of certain processes and procedures of the company


iv. The L1A visa beneficiary must be coming to the US company to work as either a manager or executive.


  • To qualify for an L1A visa, the beneficiary must be coming to the USA to work as either a manager or executive.


  • Please see above for a description of managers and executives.


  • If the foreign worker will be coming to the US company to work as a specialized knowledge worker, this would not qualify for an L1A visa. Instead, this would be classified as an L1B visa.


3. Special Rules for L1A Visa New Office Petitions


The L1A visa is available to people who will be working for existing US companies and for people who will be coming to work for a new office. A new office is defined as a company which has been doing business for less than 1 year.  When the L1A visa beneficiary is coming to the United States to work for a new office, special rules apply.


Special Rules for New Offices:


  • With your petition, you must show that the US company has secured sufficient physical premises to house the business (office lease).


  • Your employment with the foreign company must have been as either a manager or executive. If you were coming to work for an existing business in the US, your employment with the foreign company could have been as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker. However, for new offices, to qualify for an L1A visa, your experience for the foreign company cannot be as a specialized knowledge worker.


  • For new offices, your initial status is granted for a period of 1 year. This is different from existing office L1A visas, which are normally granted for an initial period of 3 years.


  • To get an extension beyond the first year, you must show that the US company supports a managerial position. To prove this, you must show that the new office has hired sufficient workers to the point where you would be managing professional level employees, rather than doing the substantive work yourself.


  • For new offices, the foreign company that you worked for must continue to operate and maintain a qualifying relationship with the US company.


4. How Do I Get an L1A Visa?


Here is a simple explanation of how to get an L1A visa:


  • Step 1: Hire an Immigration Lawyer


  • Step 2: Gather Necessary Documents


  • Step 3: File Form I-129 and L Supplement


  • Step 4: Consular Processing


Step 1: Hire an Immigration Lawyer


The first step to getting an L1A visa is to hire an immigration lawyer. Your immigration lawyer will carefully review your case and determine whether the L1A visa is the appropriate option based on your qualifications and your desired immigration outcomes.


Once determining that the L1A visa is appropriate for you, your immigration lawyer will strategize the best way to proceed and will provide you with a list of documents needed to file your case.


Step 2: Gather Necessary Documents


The next step to getting your L1A visa is to gather the documents needed to file your L1 petition.


These documents can be broken into 3 main categories:


  • Foreign Company Documents


  • US Company Documents


  • L1 Visa Beneficiary Documents


Below is a general list of some of the documents you should anticipate needing for your L1A visa petition.


Foreign Company Documents


  • Stock certificates


  • Articles of incorporation


  • Business tax returns


  • Organizational chart


  • Certificate of incorporation


  • Financial statements


  • Copy of office lease


  • Promotional materials


  • Pictures of the business



US Company Documents


  • Corporate by-laws


  • Articles of incorporation


  • Financial statements of business


  • Stock certificates


  • Business license


  • Business plan


  • Organizational chart


  • Promotional materials of business


L1 Visa Beneficiary Documents


  • Copy of passport


  • Resume


  • Statement detailing job duties with foreign employer, including percentages of time spent doing each duty


  • Statement detailing proposed job duties with US company, including percentages of time to be spent doing each duty


  • Pay stubs or other similar evidence showing the date range of employment with the foreign company


Step 3: File Form I-129 and L Supplement


The next step is to file your Form I-129 as well as the L supplement. The Form I-129 is also called the Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker. This is the form that must be filed and approved to get your L1 visa.


If you are doing a change of status, from some other non-immigrant status, then once the Form I-129 is approved, all steps are completed and no-further action is required on your part other than to begin working for the US company. If you are applying for an actual L1A visa, you will need to proceed with the following step.


Step 4: Consular Processing


Consular processing is the process of getting a US visa at a US consulate abroad. In order to do this, once your Form I-129 is approved, the appropriate US consulate will schedule a visa interview with you. At the interview, the immigration officer may ask you various questions about your L1A visa application. Upon approval, an L1 visa should be affixed to your passport within roughly 1 week.


Important Note for Canadian Citizens:


  • Citizens of Canada can apply for L1 directly at a US port of entry (POE).


  • For Canadians that wish to apply at the port of entry, their application will be reviewed by the Customs and Border Protection Agency.


  • Canadian citizens do not have to file a Form I-129 with USCIS.


5. Conclusion


The L1A visa is a great option which allows foreign companies to transfer certain workers to the United States to work as managers or executives for a related US company. With an L1A visa the foreign worker can work in the US for up to 7 years.


If you have any questions about the L1A visa, or if you need help getting your L1A visa, please feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m very responsive to emails and would be happy to assist you.





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Michael Ashoori Headshot

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.