L1 visas allow organizations to request temporary residence in the United States for eligible employees who work for a branch or subsidiary in another country. They are often used by large companies who struggle to find workers with specific skills. L1 visas are not the same as a permanent resident visa; they carry certain restrictions for both the workers and the employers who sponsor them. However, traveling outside the United States is allowed for L1 visa holders.
Travel Outside the United States
L1 visa holders are allowed to travel in and out of the United States for as long as their visa is valid. However, the time they spend outside of the country could count toward their visa's period of admission. For instance, if the holder of a one-year L1 visa spends six months on business and vacation trips abroad, they may only be able to spend six months actually living and working in the United States.
L1 Visa Periods
How long visitors are allowed to stay on an L1 visa depends on the reciprocity schedule between their country and the United States. For instance, if applying from Iran, they are only allowed to stay for three months. Applicants from Brazil and China receive up to two years, those from India, Japan and Germany up to five years. Once they are granted an L1 visa, they can request extensions up to a maximum period of admission of seven years.
L1 Visa Types
Organizations may request two types of L1 visas, depending on the type of employee they are seeking to transfer. Executives and managers must apply for a L1A visa, while employees with specialized knowledge, such as scientists, technicians and consultants, must apply for an L1B. The spouses of L1 visa holders may apply for an L2 visa, which gives holders complete freedom to travel outside the United States and to work during the visa's period of admission.
Only employees who have already been working abroad for the host organization for a minimum of one year within the last three years may qualify for an L1 visa. However, that does not mean the organization need to be established in the United States. Organizations opening new offices or a subsidiary company are also eligible. Canadian citizens are exempt from L1 visa requirements and can apply for a visa simply by filling in a Form I-129S at their port of entry.