L1B Visa Guide: Everything You Need to Know
The L1B visa was designed to allow foreign companies to transfer certain foreign workers to the United States so that they are able to work as a specialized knowledge worker for an affiliate US office.
In this guide, I’m going to discuss the L1B visa for specialized knowledge workers.
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 L1B visa.
- What is the L1B Visa?
- What are the L1B Visa Requirements?
- Special Rules for L1B Visa New Office Petitions
- How Do I Get an L1B Visa?
- Going from L1A to L1B
1. What is the L1B Visa?
The L1 Visa (also known as the intracompany transferee visa) allows the transfer certain employees from foreign companies 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, a new office can also be established in the US by sending an employee.
There are 2 separate classifications of L1, which are 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 L1B 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 L1B visa is initially granted for a period of 1 year. For workers coming to work for existing offices, the L1B visa is initially granted for a period of 3 years. The L1B visa can be extended in 2-year increments, for a total period of 5 years.
2. What are the L1B Visa Requirements?
To get an L1B visa, there are 3 main requirements:
- The foreign company and the US company must have a qualifying relationship.
- The L1B 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 L1B petition.
- The L1B visa beneficiary must possess specialized knowledge related to their foreign company and position, and be coming to the US company to work in a position that requires specialized knowledge.
i. The foreign company and the US company must have a qualifying relationship.
To get an L1B visa, the foreign company and the US company must have a qualifying relationship.
There are 3 types of qualifying relationships that satisfy this requirement:
- Branch office
Check my L1 Visa Guide for detailed definitions of each of these types of relationships.
ii. The L1B 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 L1B petition.
- To qualify for an L1B 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 L1B petition. For example, a worker with the foreign company looking to start at the US company in March 2021 must’ve started working for the foreign company no earlier than March 2018.
iii. The L1B visa beneficiary must possess specialized knowledge related to their foreign company and position, and be coming to the US company to work in a position that requires specialized knowledge.
- To qualify for an L1B visa, the beneficiary must be coming to the USA to work in a position that requires specialized knowledge.
- The beneficiary’s employment with the foreign company must have also demanded specialized knowledge, such as a special set of skills, training, or knowledge unique to the company that cannot be easily replaced.
Specialized Knowledge Workers
Specialized knowledge can mean either one 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.
3. Special Rules for L1B Visa New Office Petitions
The L1B 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 L1B visa beneficiary comes to the United States to work for a new office, there are special rules which apply.
Special Rules for New Offices:
- Your employer must show that the US company has secured sufficient physical premises to house the business in your petition (demonstrated with an office lease). Secondary evidence can include photos of the office.
- For new offices, initial status is granted for a period of 1 year. Existing office L1B visas, on the other hand, are normally granted for an initial period of 3 years.
- It must be shown that the US company has the ability to pay your wages.
- 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 L1B Visa?
Here is a simple explanation of how to get an L1B visa:
- Step 1: Coordinate with Your Employer
- Step 2: Hire an Immigration Lawyer
- Step 3: Gather Necessary Documents
- Step 4: File Form I-129 and L Supplement
- Step 5: Consular Processing
Step 1: Coordinate with Your Employer
This first step to getting an L1B visa is to coordinate with your employer. Your employer must be involved with your case as a petitioner for the L1B visa.
Step 2: Hire an Immigration Lawyer
The second step to getting an L1B visa is to hire an immigration lawyer. Your immigration lawyer will carefully review your case and determine whether the L1B visa is the appropriate option based on your qualifications and your desired immigration outcomes.
Once determining that the L1B 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 3: Gather Necessary Documents
The next step to getting your L1B 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 L1B visa petition.
Foreign Company Documents (provided by employer)
- 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 (provided by employer)
- 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
- Statement detailing specialized knowledge, which explains why the beneficiary has knowledge unique to the foreign company and knowledge that can’t be replaced by a US worker for the same position
- Evidence that your employment with the foreign company demanded specialized knowledge
- Evidence of projects the beneficiary has worked on
- Evidence of special training the beneficiary has received
- 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 4: File Form I-129 and L Supplement
The next step is to file the 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 L1B visa, you will need to proceed with the following step.
Step 5: 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 L1B 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. Going from L1B to L1A
The L1A visa is for foreign workers who will be working in the United States as either a manager or executive. For individuals already on L1B, a change to L1A is possible. If promoted within the US company, specialized workers can change status to L1A.
You must have the change to L1A approved in an amended, new, or extended petition at the time that the change to executive or managerial responsibilities occurred. To be eligible for the 7-year L1A period of stay, you must have been employed in an executive or managerial position for at least six months.
The L1B visa is a terrific option which allows foreign companies to transfer certain workers to the United States to work as a specialized knowledge worker for a related US company. With an L1B visa the foreign worker can work in the US for up to 5 years.
If you have any questions about the L1B visa, or if you need help getting your L1B 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, 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.