US L-1A Visa: An

The L-1 category is a non-immigrant classification of United States visa which incorporates both the L-1A visa and L-1B visa sub-categories. The term ‘non-immigrant’ bares reference to the temporary nature of the category and how normally the holder’s place of permanent residence will be outside of the USA.

In this article, we look specifically at some of the finer details of the L-1A sub-category.

What is a L-1A visa?

The L-1A category allows US employers to transfer employees in either an executive or managerial capacity to the US from one of its overseas offices with a qualifying corporate relationship.

The relationship between the US and foreign office can be a parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch office. There is an expectation that for the duration of the visa holder’s stay in the US, the business will be providing goods or services in the US and one other country too.

Alongside business requirements, there are thresholds the individual must also meet. Applicants are expected to:

  • Have had one continuous year of work with the overseas entity in the last three years before entering the US.
  • Be proving a service in an executive capacity, normally a high level decision maker, OR
  • Have managerial capacity, normally the management of other professionals or the management of an essential function of the business.

‘New Office L-1s’

Although the above represents the most common route of entry to the US for L-1A visa holders, this category also presents an opportunity for businesses to set up in the US when they do not yet have an established presence there – known as ‘New Office L-1s’

A new office L-1 visa classification is initially granted for one year, whereas regular L-1 visas are issued for a three-year period of approval. Extensions for both a new office and regular L-1 visa are thereafter granted in two-year increments for a maximum of seven years.

Accompanying dependants

Both spouses and children under the age of 21 may accompany the main L-1A visa holder as dependant family members. Accompanying family members will be granted a L-2 visa, another non-immigrant classification which is usually granted for the same period of time as the L-1A applicant’s visa.

Unlike other global jurisdictions, the right to work is not embodied in this visa. In order to work in the US under L-2 status, spouses must apply for an Employment Authorisation Document upon entry to the US. Dependent children are not eligible for work authorisation under the L-2 classification.

L-1 Blanket Petitions

The process to get a L-1A visa in place can up to take several months, depending on how quickly visa appointments can be scheduled at a US Embassy or Consulate. For certain qualifying companies, L-1 Blanket Petitions can overcome this and reduce the processing time considerably.

Certain organisations may establish the required intra-company relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L-1 certification may be established if:

  • The petitioner and each of the qualifying organisations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
  • The petitioner has an office in the United States that has been doing business for one year or more;
  • The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
  • The petitioner along with the other qualifying organisations meet one of the following criteria:
    • Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
    • Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
    • Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

The approval of a blanket L-1 petition does not guarantee that an individual employee will be granted a L-1A visa. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the US quickly and at short notice, without having to file an individual petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Smith Stone Walters will examine Blanket Petitions in more detail in a forthcoming article, setting out how getting this in place now can save a business a huge amount of time in the long-run.

Expert advice and support with US immigration

Smith Stone Walters is experienced in helping individuals and businesses with US immigration matters. Whether you are an individual seeking approval to live and work in the US, or a business requiring support in managing the cross-border passage of your employees, we can provide the support you need.

To speak to a member of the team at our New York office, please call +1 646 790 5913 or email

We look forward to hearing from you.

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