There are several visa options available to foreign workers who want to travel to the United States for business. H-1B visas allow a limited number of skilled workers to enter the country temporarily every year, O-1 visas allow entry for those with extraordinary skill or knowledge, and E visas give investors and conductors of international trade the ability to expand their business operations in the U.S.
The L-1 visa program similarly allows foreign workers temporary residence. These visas are catered specifically toward intracompany transferees from a foreign-based company. But why would a foreign worker want to pursue an L-1 visa when other options are available?
O-1 visas require you to demonstrate your extraordinary knowledge/ability, and E-2 visas require you to invest a substantial amount of money. For L-1 visas, however, the requirements to meet the standard are more straightforward:
- You must work in an executive or managerial position in a company that is based outside of the U.S., or you must be in a position that requires specialized knowledge in that company.
- That company must either have an office in the U.S. or be sending you in order to establish a new office.
- You must have worked for this company for one continuous year over the past three-year period
- The position you take in the U.S. must be executive or managerial in nature, or must require specialized knowledge. It also must also be with the same company or a qualifying subsidiary of that organization.
Unlike other employment-based visas, there are no educational requirements. L-1 visas also allow for dual intent, giving foreign nationals the ability to apply for a green card during their stay if they choose to.
Up to seven years of residency
L-1 visas are approved for an initial period of three years. Managers and executives can extend this to seven years, while those who work in positions requiring specialized knowledge can extend their stay to a maximum of five years.
This is comparable to other visas, and even longer than some. H-1B visa holders, for example, are only allowed a maximum stay of 6 years.
Opportunities for spouses and children
Unlike some other forms of work visas, L-1 visas have a built-in process for spouses and dependents of the L-1 visa holder.
L-2 visas allow spouses and children to reside in the U.S. for the same period of time as the L-1 visa holder. They also give quite a bit of freedom to the families of foreign workers – children are eligible to attend school in the U.S., and spouses with a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) are able to obtain employment authorization during their stay.
While not every company meets the requirements for its employees to qualify, the L-1 visa provides a highly accessible path to the United States for temporary residency. If you are unsure if you or your company qualifies, an experienced immigration attorney can help you explore your options.