L visas are an integral component of any multinational company operating in the United States – allowing businesses to leverage valued team members where they are needed most. Unlike the H-1B visa, L visas are not governed by caps or specific time frames, and as such, offer an incredibly flexible, versatile visa for qualifying companies and their executives and employees with specialized knowledge.
L visas and B visa – What is the difference?
We live in a global economy and international businesses need the flexibility to move valued team members throughout their organization to grow business, develop markets, and provide training to new offices.
For U.S. companies with foreign offices, or foreign companies with U.S. offices or plans to expand to the United States, the two most common visas for transferring foreign workers are the B and L visas. The B visa is an effective visa for a specifically limited duration, sometimes as short as a meeting or conference, sometimes for a few months to facilitate training of (or by) the employee, but the B does not permit local employment.
For long term transfers or if the company requires the individual to provide onsite work outside the scope of the B visa, the L Visa provides the most direct path for companies to transfer foreign managers or executives (L-1A) or employees with specialized knowledge (L-1B) to offices in the United States. One particularly attractive quality of the L visa category is that it may provide a streamlined pathway to U.S. lawful permanent residence status.
L visas for U.S. companies with foreign offices
Large U.S. companies and corporations often have business entities abroad and need the flexibility to transfer their valued leaders and team members to domestic offices. L visas provide a straightforward path to do so. In order to qualify for the L-1A classification, the U.S. company needs to have an existing qualifying relationship with a foreign company. This could be a parent company, a branch office, a subsidiary, or an affiliate company.
L visas for foreign companies that maintain their foreign operations in addition to operating in the United States
Some foreign companies rely on L visas to operate subsidiaries in the U.S. As with U.S. companies with foreign offices, these companies need the ability to transfer leaders and experts in their field to the office where they are needed. In some cases, the movement of employees between offices can be planned far in advance, in cases such as acquisitions or unexpected turnover, employee movement needs to happen quickly. As long as the employee has worked for the company for one continuous year within the last three years, the L visa is almost always the best option for foreign companies with U.S. offices.
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Using an L-Visa to Open a New Office in the United States
L visas allow foreign companies to open a new office in the United States and transfer foreign employees to work in executive or management capacity for the company, or as employees with specialized knowledge of the company. Employees transferred on an L visa should be previously employed by the company for at least one continuous year in the previous three-year period.
For more information about the L-1A and L-1B visas, including detailed descriptions of who qualifies and how to apply, download our L Visa Guide today. If you are interested in hiring on an L visa or need help determining the type of employment visa that applies to your business, we are happy to offer a free consultations.