B-1 visas, or visitor for business visas, allow employees to enter the United States for a limited period of time to conduct certain “business activities.” The term “business activities” includes activities that would generally not be considered work, and in fact B-1 visa holders are not permitted to perform work that would normally be performed by a United States worker within the company. Activities that B-1 visa holders may perform in the United States include: (i) engaging in commercial transactions not involving gainful employment in the United States; (ii) negotiating contracts; (iii) consulting with business associates; (iv) litigating on behalf of the company; (v) participating in scientific, professional, or business conferences; and (vi) conducting independent research.
To qualify for a B-1 visa, an individual must show all of the following: (i) that the purpose of the trip is a legitimate business purpose; (ii) that the trip will be for a specific, limited amount of time; (iii) that he or she, or the company, has sufficient funds to cover the trip; (iv) that the individual has a residence outside of the United States, as well as other sufficient ties outside of the United States, to show that he or she is not planning to permanently abandon the country in which they currently reside; and (v) that they are otherwise admissible to the United States. There are no specific eligibility requirements relating to the individual’s job title or job responsibilities.
B-1 visas are only granted for the amount of time actually necessary to carry out the stated business activity. B-1 visas may be granted initially for a maximum period of six months, and may be extended only for a maximum of an additional six months, resulting in a maximum period of one year under which an individual may remain in the United States under a B-1 visa.
Spouses and children of B-1 visa holders may not be admitted as dependents. If a B-1 visa holder wishes to have his spouse or children accompany him, they must apply and qualify for separate B-2 visas for trips associated with business or for pleasure.
H-1B visas are non-immigrant visas that used to hire foreign workers in “specialty occupations.” H-1B visas are limited in duration, and are generally for a six-year period. There are some exceptions that would allow an H-1B visa to be granted in increments of either one year or three years if the I-40 has been approved, but the individual’s priority date has not yet become current.
To qualify for H-1B status, it must be shown that the job for which the employer wishes to hire the employee qualifies as a “specialty occupation,” and that the employee is qualified for the position.
A “specialty occupation” is one that requires at least a baccalaureate degree, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. The degree required must be the same degree held by the employee, or the employee’s experience must be relevant to the specific position. USCIS will evaluate foreign degrees held by the employee to determine if it is equivalent to a United States baccalaureate degree.
Before an employer may petition for H-1B status for a potential employee, it must provide notice to employees by posting a description of the position, including the title and offered salary, in at least two conspicuous places where the employee will be for at least 10 business days. The employer must then file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor, which certifies that the employer will pay the prevailing wage in comparison to United States workers in similar positions.
H-1B visas may be granted initially for a period of three years, which may be extended for a maximum of six years. H-1B status recognizes the doctrine of dual intent, which allows individuals who are present in the United States under H-1B status to simultaneously apply for immigrant status.
H-1B visa holders’ spouses and children under the age of 21 years old will be admitted through H-4 status. Spouses and children are not permitted to work in the United States under this status.
If an H-1B visa holder is terminated from his employment before his or her visa expires, the employer must pay for all of the employee’s reasonable expenses to return to his or her home country.
B-1 in Lieu of H-1B Visa
B-1 in Lieu of H-1B visas are a more temporary version of an H-1B visa for specialty occupations, and it allows individuals to partake in more day-to-day activities than a B-1 visa would normally allow.
Eligibility for a B-1 in Lieu of H-1B visa is basically the same as eligibility for an H-1B visa. See “H-1B Visa, Eligibility Requirements.” Like B-1 applicants, individuals petitioning for this type of visa must also show that they have strong ties to their home country and intend to return upon the conclusion of their temporary entry into the United States.
Unlike H-1B visas, B-1 in Lieu of H-1B visas may only be granted for a maximum of six months. Like B-1 visas, the visa will be granted for a time that is specified in the petition as necessary to accomplish the task for which the individual enters the United States.
Spouses and children of B-1 in Lieu of H-1B visa holders are not eligible to obtain a dependent visa, but they may petition separately for B-1 or B-2 status.
L-1 Visa for Intra-Company Transfers
L Visas allow key employees within a company to be transferred to the United States on a temporary basis. There are two categories of L-1 status: L-1A for executives and managers and L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge. L-1 visas may only be used for intra-company transfers.
Requirements for L-1 Status
The employer petitioning for the transfer must be a United States or foreign corporation, firm, or other legally registered entity, and must do business as an employer in the United States and at least one other country. The organization may satisfy the second requirement by having a special relationship to organizations in another country, such as a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate.
The employee for whom the corporation is petitioning must have been employed by the employer or a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the employer for at least one continuous year out of the three years preceding the petition. The employee must also fit into either the L-1A executive or managerial category or the L-1B special knowledge category.
L-1A: Executive or Managerial Capacity Requirements
An employee of a corporation may qualify for L-1A status if they fit into either the category of executive or managerial employees.
To qualify as a manager, the employee must have job responsibilities that primarily include (i) managing the organization or a department, subdivision, or component of the organization; (ii) supervises the work of other supervisors, professionals, or managers; (iii) has hiring and firing powers, or may make recommendations regarding hiring, firing, or other personnel decisions; and (iv) has discretion over day-to-day operations regarding the organization or department over which he or she has authority.
To qualify as an executive, an employee must have job responsibilities that primarily include (i) directing the management of the organization or a major department or function of the organization; (ii) creating the goals and policies of the organization or the part of the organization the individual directs; (iii) exercising wide discretion in decision-making; and (iv) having only general direction from higher-level executives, directors, or stockholders.
L-1B: Specialized Knowledge Requirements
To qualify as an employee with special knowledge for L-1B status, the employee must either (i) have special knowledge of the organization’s products or services and their use in international markets; or (ii) an advanced level of knowledge pertaining to the company’s processes or procedures.
A beneficiary may possess either special or advanced knowledge, or both. A beneficiary has special knowledge if he has knowledge of how the petitioning organization manufactures, produces, or develops its products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests. A beneficiary has advanced knowledge if he has knowledge of the specific petitioning organization’s processes and procedures not commonly held throughout the particular industry. This knowledge need not be proprietary in nature or narrowly held within the petitioning organization to be considered specialized. Specialized knowledge workers need not occupy managerial or similar positions or command higher compensation compared to their peers.
Individuals who qualify for L-1A status may be granted a visa for up to seven years, and those who qualify for L-1B status may be granted up to five years. However, duration of the visa is at the discretion of the USCIS and generally an L-1 visa will be granted for only three years, with extensions allowed up to the maximum five or seven years. For new companies, the USCIS will generally only grant a visa initially for one year. Under the doctrine of dual intent, however, individuals who are present in the United States under an L-1 visa may simultaneously apply for permanent residency under EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 categories.
An L-1 visa holder’s spouses and children under the age of 21 years old may be admitted under the L-1 visa as dependents. Spouses of individuals who enter the United States under an L-1 visa are also eligible for employment authorization. They must apply upon arrival in the United States, and they cannot work until the application has been approved by the USCIS.
J-1 visas are available for individuals participating in an internship or other type of training. To qualify, an applicant must be a professor or research scholar, a short-term scholar, a bona fide trainee or intern, a college or university student, a teacher, a secondary school student, a nonacademic specialist, a foreign physician, an international visitor, a government visitor, a camp counselor, an au pair, or a student in a summer work and travel program. For purposes of corporate immigration, the most relevant categories are bona fide trainees or interns and summer work and travel programs.
To be eligible for this visa, the individual must fit into one of the above categories and be in school or recently graduated and wish to enter the United States to gain experience and training that is not available to them abroad.
Individuals applying for this visa must be sponsored by a public or private entity that the Department of State has designated as an approved exchange sponsor. Therefore, individuals applying for these visas must go through two levels of applications. First, they must apply to an approved exchange sponsor, which will screen them based on its program’s specific requirements, as well as some generic English language proficiency and insurance requirements.
Once a sponsor has approved an applicant, he or she then must apply for a visa through the Department of State. To be approved by the Department of State, the applicant must: (i) fit into one of the qualifying categories; (ii) have sufficient funds to support his or her trip; (iii) be fluent in English; (iv) maintain sufficient medical insurance for accidents and illnesses for him or herself as well as their family members, with a minimum coverage amount of $50,000.00 per accident or illness; and (v) maintain a residence abroad in the country in which he or she intends to permanently reside.
A J-1 visa will granted only for the duration of the internship or training program, and will not be granted for more than 18 months total. Extensions are not available for J-1 visas beyond 18 months.
A J-1 visa holder’s spouse and children under the age of 21 are entitled to J-2 classification. Spouses and children may also apply for employment authorization under J-2 non-immigrant status. The income gained in the United States by spouses and children, however, may not be used to support the J-1 visa holder.