Immigration is a complicated process that involves numerous classifications of immigrant visas. Below are some common questions for L-1 visas.
1) What Is an L-1 Visa?
An L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa is available to some foreign nationals who have been employed outside of the U.S. The applicant must be:
- Employed as a manager or executive for a branch or subsidiary of a U.S. based company.
- Requested for intracompany transfer to a U.S branch.
- Worked for the U.S. company for at least one of the three years prior to applying for the visa.
2) Can I Apply for an L-1 Visa Myself?
Under current immigration law, the L-1 visa application needs to be filled out and submitted by the employer, not the employee seeking the intracompany transfer. The employer will request and submit the forms on behalf of the foreign national employee. An "employer" is usually a U.S. based corporation, or a foreign company that has branches within the U.S.
3) Am I Allowed to Change Jobs?
Generally, a foreign national employee is allowed to transfer or change jobs while on an L-1 visa in the U.S., however only to a different location with the same company that initially sponsored the employee. Additionally, the employee can also transfer to a company that is affiliated with the U.S. company that originally sponsored the employee.
Be aware that any changes of job location or any other significant changes in employment status need to be disclosed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Furthermore, if a foreign national wishes to work for a different company other than the one that originally sponsored them, they need to apply for a different type of work visa.
4) Can I Bring My Family With Me to the U.S.?
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 years old may bring a person traveling to the U.S. under an L-1 visa. Those family members seeking to enter the country will be required to apply for an L-2 visa at the proper U.S. consulate office or embassy before departing, unless they are exempt from visa requirements.
L-2 visas are granted to persons who can claim dependency on a person with L-1 status. The requirements for L-2 visas include:
- Valid passports
- Evidence of the familial relationship such as a birth or marriage certificate
- Copies of the L-1 approval notice.
Additionally, family members who are already in the U.S. may apply for a change of status to L-2 while remaining in the U.S., if that change of status is allowed under their current status.
5) Can My Family Members Work in the U.S.?
Recent changes in immigration law have allowed spouses of foreign national spouses with L-1 visas who have L-2 status to file petitions in order to obtain work authorization in the U.S. However, children with L-2 status generally cannot work while in the U.S.
6) What If I Get Fired or Laid Off?
Generally speaking, if someone on an L-1 is fired or laid off, they will be required to leave the U.S. The same holds true if the company ceases to operate in the U.S.
However, it may be possible to apply for a change of status, such as a visitor status. This is one way to remain in the country for a limited time. Alternatively, if someone is laid off, they might be able to find a different employer who is willing to sponsor you for a work visa.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?
L-1 visas are very specific types of visas. To ensure every form is filled out properly, it is wise to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. An attorney will be able to provide you with up-to-date information regarding L-1 visa laws and can also provide you with representation in court if you have been requested to appear before an immigration judge or panel.