The United States L1 Visa
30 April 2008
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With the exception of non-profit organizations, the H-1B filing period recently ended, with all 85,000 available visas for fiscal year 2009 snatched up by US companies eager to hire foreign talent. With over 160,000 petitions lodged during the filing period, its sure that many employers and the skilled talent they hoped to import are disappointed that they must wait until next year to try again. However, for foreign employees of international companies with a presence in the US, there is another option: the L1 visa.
The L1 visa can be granted for an initial three years to certain overseas staff and their families (under an L2 visa). These include Managers and Executives (L1A) and Specialized Knowledge Staff (L1B). The employee must have worked for the international employer for minimum of one continuous year within the previous three years in the same capacity under which they will work in the US.
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An interesting note is that the foreign worker doesn't have to be directly employed by the company. As long as the L1 visa recipient has been employed either directly, through an agency or other similar entity, or through a contract as a consultant, an L1 visa can be granted.
For Managers and Executives, an L1A visa can be renewed every two years after the initial three-year period for a maximum total period of seven years. For Specialized Knowledge Staff, an L1B visa can be renewed only once for an extra two years, for a total maximum period of five years.
In both cases, visa holders must leave the US and work for the same company for at least one year before returning under another L1 visa.
There are no restrictions on the type of company that can bring over foreign workers under an L1 visa, and the company does not have to be American owned or incorporated in the United States.
The United States L1 visa is a great way to bring badly needed talent to the US for international employers or for employees of overseas companies with a US presence to have a chance to live and work in America.
If you are an employer or a skilled worker who wants to work in the United States, please fill out an L1 visa assessment form.