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On April 7, 1970 Congress created the L nonimmigrant visa classification. It was created to permit international companies to temporarily transfer qualified employees to the United States for the purpose of improving management effectiveness, expanding U.S. exports, and enhancing competitiveness in overseas markets.

According to the Foreign Affairs Manual, the following elements are considered in evaluating entitlement to L-1 classification in individual petition cases:

(1) The petitioner is the same firm, corporation, or other legal entity, or parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary thereof, for whom the beneficiary has been employed abroad.

(2) The beneficiary is a manager, executive, or an alien having specialized knowledge, and is destined to a managerial or executive position or a position requiring specialized knowledge.

(3) The petitioner and beneficiary have the requisite employer-employee relationship.

(4) The petitioner will continue to do business in the United States and at least one other country.

(5) The beneficiary meets the requirement of having had one year of prior continuous qualifying experience within the previous 3 years.

(6) If the beneficiary is coming to open, or be employed in, a new office, the additional requirements discussed below are also met.

(7) The beneficiary is not subject to the limitation on readmission for former L and H aliens, or the two-year foreign residence requirement for certain former exchange visitors who were on J visas.

L aliens are allowed to have "dual intent," which is both immigrant and nonimmigrant intent at the same time. Thus, L aliens are not required to have a residence abroad which they have no intention of abandoning. In addition, the fact that the alien intends to apply or has already applied for a U.S. green card does not prevent him or her from obtaining an L visa.

In order to qualify for the L visa, the beneficiary must have had one year of prior continuous qualifying experience within the pervious 3 years. Generally speaking, periods of time spent in the US during the period preceding the transfer do not prevent the transfer, but those periods do not count towards the one-year-abroad requirement. In addition, part-time employment does not satisfy this requirement.

If the alien is coming to the United States to establish a new office related to the foreign entity, it is necessary that the location of the business be secured. Usually this means a lease for the office space must be presented at the time of applying for the L petition with the INS. Individual L petitions, except those involving new offices, are initially valid for the requested period, not to exceed 3 years. New office situations may not exceed 1 year. Extensions of L-1A managers and executives is permitted for a total continuous period of 7 years. Extensions of L-1B specialized knowledge personnel is permitted for a total continuous period of 5 years. After the maximum duration is reached, there is a 1 year foreign residence requirement before being admitted in L or H status. Aliens who want to remain longer should consider the E visa and applying for a green card as a multinational manager/executive.

The spouse and unmarried children under 21 of an L-1 nonimmigrant are entitled to L-2 visas. L-2 dependents are not authorized to work in the United States. They are allowed to study in the United States. In California, many public colleges and universities will permit L-2 aliens to pay in-state tuition after 1 year. Students in this situation should check with their schools and ask them if they treat F-1 students differently than L-2 students.

Personal or domestic servants seeking to accompany L nonimmigrant employers may be issued B-1 visas.

When entering the United States make sure that you present your L visa and complete a white (not green) I-94 Arrival/Departure Card. In addition, make sure that you do not overstay the time indicated on the I-94 card.
Sometimes this date will be different than the expiration date of the visa.

If you notice that you were admitted in the wrong classification by mistake the INS will sometimes correct this for you if you go to Deferred Inspections at 300 North Los Angeles Street. You should do this within a few days of your admission into the US. In addition, the INS usually wants to see your original boarding pass and airline ticket.

If you want to remain in the United States longer than the time indicated on your I-94 card it is important that you apply for an extension of stay with the INS prior to the expiration date on your I-94 card.



  • Complete Form I-129 and L supplement

  • Collect evidence about the U.S. and non-U.S. companies, such as:
    • Articles of incorporation or other legal charter or business license of the non-U.S. company
    • Articles of incorporation or other legal charter or business license of the U.S. company
    • Legal business registration certificate of the non-US company
    • Legal business registration certificate of the US company
    • Tax returns of the non-US company for the past 2 years
    • Tax returns of the US company for the past 2 years, if available
    • Copies of all outstanding stock certificates, if the business is a corporation
    • Notarized affidavit from the secretary of the corporation, or, if the business is not a corporation, from the official record keeper of the business, stating the names of each owner and percentages of the company owned
    • If the business relationship is a joint venture, a copy of the written joint venture agreement
    • Annual shareholder reports of the US and non-US companies, if publicly held
    • Accountant's financial statements, including profit and loss statements and balance sheets of the non-US company for the past 2 years
    • Payroll records of the non-US company for the past 2 years
    • Payroll records of the US company for the past 2 years
    • Letters of reference from the Chamber of Commerce for the non-US company
    • Promotional literature describing the nature of the US employer's business
    • Letters from banks or bank statements indicating the average account balance of US business
    • Copy of a business lease or deed for business premises of the US business
    • If more than half the stock of either the US or non-US company is publicly held, statements from the secretary of the corporation describing how the companies are related
    • Copies of the minutes of meetings for non-US company
    • Copies of current and original non-US company business plan for the US company
    • Proof of capitalization, providing bank certified copies of wire transfer receipts or canceled checks
    • The alien registration number and status for all non-US employees
    • Detailed explanation of the specific nature of the foreign worker's duties in the US
    • Justification for bringing in the foreign worker
    • Letters from public or private professional, business, and trade organizations stating individual or corporate membership

  • Collect evidence of foreign worker's qualifications, such as:
    • Resume
    • Copy of certificates/transcripts from colleges and universities
    • Documents proving 1 year of employment outside the US for company, such as tax records and payroll records
    • Documents proving employment outside of US as an executive, manager, or person with specialized knowledge
    • Copy of professional licenses
    • Employment tax records for the past 3 years
    • Organizational chart of company showing foreign worker's position and who he/she manages
    • Copy of business card
    • Copy of US visas
    • Copy of passport
    • Copy of INS Form I-94, Arrival/Departure card (if in US)

  • Write company support letter
  1. Complete a nonimmigrant visa application Form OF-156 for the applicant and each accompanying relative.
  2. Obtain one passport-size photo (37 mm x 37 mm) of the applicant and each accompanying relative
  3. Pay the $45 "MRV" fee. This fee is payable in yen to the "U.S. Embassy Visa Application Fee," Touza account 3151583 of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Shin-Akasaka branch. The fee may be paid at any Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi branch in Japan at no charge to the visa applicant. Attach the original payment receipt to the visa application.
  4. Obtain the original INS I-797, notice of approval.
  5. If possible, obtain a copy of documents submitted to the INS
  6. Obtain a valid passport for the applicant and each accompanying relative
  7. Marriage certificate (if spouse accompanies)
  8. Birth certificate (if child accompanies)
  9. Divorce certificate (if applicable)
  10. Once you obtain the above documents, submit the application and supporting documents to the Embassy using
    1. a travel agent,
    2. the special drop box at the front gate of the Embassy, or
    3. mail the application to the Embassy and address it to "VISAS BY MAIL."

Include a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage so that the passport can be mailed back to you for options (b) and (c).



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