Working For a Company With a US Branch Can Let You Live and Work

An L-1 visa is a short-term non-immigrant visa. Usually valid for three years, the L1 visa is available to employees of international firms that hold offices in both the US and a home country or to companies who aim to open a US branch of their company while still maintaining a presence in their home country. The L-1 visa is also known as a transfer work visa because it is intended for employees who aim to work at a company’s US offices after having worked for the company outside the US for at least one year.

Holders of an L-1 visa can bring their spouses and immediate families with them to the US and the spouses of L-1 visa holders can work as well as live in the US. Spouses and children of L1 visa holders are given L-2 visas, which allows children of the L1 visa holder to study (but not work) in the US and gives the spouse the authorization to work in the US. L-1 visa holders and their immediate families are also allowed to eventually apply for a green card and permanent residency in the US.

There is more than one type of L1 visa. The L-1A visa is designed for managers and executives of a company. This visa is valid for up to seven years. The L-1B is for specialized employees or highly skilled employees of a company and can be valid for up to five years. Once either visa expires, the employee must leave the US and must work for the international company for at least one year before attempting to reapply for a transfer work visa. Some L1 visas are known as blanket L1 visas, because they allow a company to hire many employees together and get authorization for those employees without individual visa applications. This is contrast to regular L1 visas, which require the employee and employer to apply to the USCIS for each employee who will be arriving in the US to work.

To apply for the L1 visa, you need to file Form I-129 with the USCIS. Along with this form, you will need to submit documents that show that the company and the branch of that company in the US are eligible for L1 status. If the USCIS approves the form, the agency will send a Notice of Action (Form I-797), and this must be filed with an embassy or consulate. Employees seeking an L1 visa who are already in the US can apply for a change of status.