L-1B Visas

Immigration Practice Areas > Business Immigration Law Firm > L-1B Visas for Intracompany Transferees With Specialized Knowledge

L-1B Visas for Intracompany Transferees With Specialized Knowledge

L-1B visas are designed to allow international companies to transfer workers who have specialized knowledge to related U.S. companies. These temporary visas can be the ideal solution for many businesses – particularly those opening new U.S. offices or filling positions that require experience and expertise in a certain field. However, many people aren’t clear on the details of L-1B visas; in some cases, another type of visa would be more appropriate. Here’s the complete guide on L-1B visas so you can make the right decision for your business.

L1-B Visa Information

What is an L-1B Visa?

Businesses generally use L-1 visas when managers, supervisors and employees with specialized knowledge are necessary to grow a business.

L-1B is a nonimmigrant classification that enables U.S. employers to transfer foreign employees who have specialized knowledge that relates to the organization’s interests. When a person receives this visa, he or she becomes eligible to move to the United States and work in one of the company’s U.S. offices. These visas also allow foreign companies that don’t have U.S. offices to send specialized knowledge employees to the United States so that the business can establish itself here.

What kind of work visas are available in the United States?

Popular work visas in the U.S. include:

Learn more about work visas in the USA »

Opening New Offices Using L-1B Visa WorkersL-1B Visas for Intracompany Transferees With Specialized Knowledge

Foreign employers can send an employee with specialized knowledge to the U.S. to open a new office. However, in order to do so, the new office must meet these requirements:

  1. The employer must have secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office. That means the location for the office has to be secured prior to the employer submitting an L-1B visa application for an employee.
  2. The employer must show that it has the financial ability to compensate the employee and begin doing business in the U.S.

Under current U.S. immigration law, new office refers to an organization that has been doing business in the U.S. through a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary for less than one year. That means it’s okay to apply for this type of visa for a worker if you have never done business in the U.S. – but that if you’ve been doing business here for more than a year, you may not use this type of visa. Another visa may be more appropriate for your situation, so it’s a good idea to talk to a Houston or Dallas business immigration attorney about your options.

Can You File Multiple L-1 Intracompany Transferee Petitions Related to the Same Project?

In many cases, businesses need to send multiple employees to the U.S. for projects that require specialized knowledge. To help streamline the process, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can accept bundles of L-1 petitions. Companies still have to file individual petitions for each worker, and each petition will be considered on its own merit. However, companies can file these petitions together. USCIS will only consider a bundle if all the petitions are related to employees who:

  • Are working on the same project
  • Are going to work at the same location
  • Have substantially the same specialized knowledge duties

Who Qualifies for an L-1B Visa?

Not all employers or employees will qualify for an L-1B visa. An employer must meet both these conditions to qualify:

  1. Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations
  2. Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1

While the business must be an actual business, it doesn’t have to be engaged in international trade.

The employee must qualify, as well, by meeting these two conditions:

  • Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the 3 years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States
  • Be seeking to enter the United States to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations

If the employer and the employee meet these conditions, there’s a good chance that the company is eligible for L-1B visas. In these situations, and immigration attorney can be a tremendous help.

What is Specialized Knowledge?

In this case, specialized knowledge means a person has special knowledge about the organization’s products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interest – and the way these things apply in international markets. It can also mean that the person has an advanced level of knowledge (or expertise) in the company’s processes or procedures.

Examples of Evidence to Show USCIS Specialized Knowledge

USCIS may need to see that a person does have specialized knowledge before the agency will approve an L-1B visa petition. The company can provide a wide range of evidence (your attorney can tell you more), such as:

  • Details or documentation of special training the employee has had, provided that the training sets the worker apart from other employees who have similar experience levels
  • Information on patents that the company holds that are due to the employee’s specialized knowledge
  • Published material in trade journals or other publications that indicate the employee’s specialized knowledge
  • Information on how the employee’s work has enhanced the company (such as its productivity, financial well-being, or other areas)

Who Can File a Form I-129 for an L-1B Visa?

An employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on the employee’s behalf. The employer is required to pay the application fee, as well.

Can Business Owners Apply for These Visas?Can Business Owners Apply for L1-B Visas

Business owners can apply for L-1B visas on an employee’s behalf – and they can apply for themselves, as well. If you’re a business owner, you can apply if your business outside the U.S. will continue trading, even after you, the L-1B visa holder, has arrived in the U.S.

Additionally, if you have worked outside the U.S. for a year (out of the past 3 years) on behalf of your business and you’d like to set up a business in the U.S., you can apply without having to make an investment.

Is There a Cap on the Number of L-1B Visas Available Each Year?

There is no quota or cap on the number of L-1B visas available each year.

Is the L-1B Visa a Dual Intent Visa?

If you have an L-1 visa (either an L-1A or L-1B visa), you’re allowed to apply for permanent residency in the U.S. without jeopardizing your immigration status. However, you must meet the requirements for residency in the U.S.

How Long Does an L-1B Visa Last?

When a worker is coming to the U.S. to open a new office, the L-1B visa allows him or her to stay for up to a year. All other employees – those not coming to open a new office – can get a maximum initial stay of 3 years. However, all L-1B visa holders can request to extend that time period. The absolute maximum time period is 5 years. However, employees who wish to stay may be able to use another type of visa or petition the U.S. government for permanent residency. If that sounds like your situation, you may want to talk to a Houston or Dallas immigration attorney who can help.

Can Families of L-1B Visa Holders Come to the U.S.?

Some family members of L-1B visa holders can come to the United States with the visa holder. These family members – spouses and unmarried children who are under the age of 21 – can seek admission as L-2 nonimmigrants. If an L-1B visa holder’s family members are approved, they can typically stay for the same amount of time that the employee can.

L-2 family members already in the U.S. may extend their stays or even apply for a change of status.

Can L-1B Visa Family Members Work in the U.S.?

Spouses of L-1B visa holders can work if the U.S. government approves work authorization. If your spouse wants to find a job in the U.S., you may be able to talk to an immigration attorney who can help him or her file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. If USCIS approves the petition, there is no limit on where the spouse of an L-1B visa holder can work.

Can L-1B Visa Family Members Attend School?

L-2 visa holders are allowed to study full-time or attend a school in the United States. As an L-2 nonimmigrant, you can attend a school or university without getting any extra permissions. In fact, you may even be eligible for in-state tuition fees from a college or university, which are usually significantly lower than standard tuition and fees.

How Are L-1B Visas Different From L-1A Visas?

L-1B visas and L-1A visas are very different. Where L-1B visas are for employees with specialized knowledge, L-1A visas are for people who are coming under similar circumstances but to work in an executive or managerial capacity.

What Does the L-1B Visa Application Process Look Like?

Most people choose to work with an attorney to handle the L-1B visa application process. An attorney who understands the process can be a tremendous help every step of the way. These are the steps a company must follow to apply for an L-1B visa:

  1. Fill out and file Form I-129 with USCIS.
  2. Pay filing fees. In addition to the Form I-129 filing fee, which is currently $460, the employer must pay an associated fee under the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998. This fee is considered a “Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee.” The ACWIA fee is currently $500 and does not include other fees, such as biometrics fees. If the L-1 petitioner employs 50 or more people in the U.S., and more than 50 percent of those employees are in L-1A or L-1B nonimmigrant status, the fee is $4,500. However, some organizations are exempt from paying the ACWIA fee, such as those when:
  • The petition is filed to correct a USCIS error
  • A petitioner wants to file an amended petition that doesn’t contain a request to extend the validity of the petition
  • A petitioner files his or her second or subsequent request for an extension of stay with the same worker

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About L-1B Visas for Your Company?

If you’re considering sending employees with specialized knowledge to work in a U.S. branch of your company (or to open a new office in the U.S.), we may be able to help you through the process. Call us today to speak with an attorney who understands how the system works and what you need to do to qualify for an L-1B visa for one or more of your workers.