How to choose the right visa and determine if your applicant is qualified to work in the U.S.

If you want to bring employees from your foreign office to your U.S. office, consider applying for an L-1 visa.  The first step is submitting a petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Once the petition is approved, the next step is to apply for a visa with the U.S. Department of State.  There are several kinds of visas, and applicants must determine which one is is right for him or her.  This article outlines the steps an employer must take to obtain an L-1 visa, which allows foreign employees to transfer to the same employer in the United States. 

Important Tip File the I-129 petition as soon as possible to allow sufficient time for the government to process the application.

To be eligible for an L-1 visa, technical requirements must be met.  Applicants must be intracompany transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed abroad continuously for one year, and will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.  L-1 visas have an initial duration of three years, and can be extended for an additional two or four years, depending on the type of visa.  What follows is a more detailed outline of the steps to apply for an L-1 visa.

If the employee meets all eligibility requirements, complete and submit a Form I-129 petition, along with the appropriate supplement, to the USCIS, along with the required payment (currently $ 320 plus a$500 fraud prevention and detection fee).  Form I-129 can be obtained from the USCIS website at  The Form I-129 petition must be submitted with:

  • Evidence of the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign employer based on ownership and control, such as an annual report, articles of incorporation, financial statements, or copies of stock certificates;
  • A letter from the applicant’s foreign qualifying employer detailing his or her dates of employment, job duties, qualifications, and salary; and
  • A description of the proposed job duties and qualifications, and evidence showing that the proposed employment is in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity.

Once the Form I-129 petition is approved, prospective workers outside of the country generally must apply for a visa application with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence.  The following documentation is required for the visa application:

  • Form DS-156, which is filled out online.  A copy of the form can be accessed at  Form DS-156 is relatively straight-forward and contains basic questions regarding the applicant. (The application fee is currently $131)
  • Supplemental form DS-157 must be submitted by certain applicants:  males between 16-45 years of age; and applicants age 16 and over from states deemed by the U.S. to be sponsors of terrorism (currently Cuba, Syria, Sudan, and Iran).  A copy of DS-157 can be accessed at  Form DS-157 is also relatively straight-forward and contains questions regarding countries the applicant has visited, previous employers, social and charitable organizations, military training and background, and educational background.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States.
  • One 2x2 inch photograph.  The government has very specific guidelines for the photograph requirement, which can be accessed here:  

In addition, as part of the visa application process, applicants from age 14 through 79 must be interviewed at the by the embassy or consulate (unless requested, persons 13 or younger and 80 or older are not required to participate in an interview).

Note that once the L-1 visa has issued, it does not confer a right of entry into the United States, but rather a right to travel to a United States port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States.  The Department of Homeland Security has authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.


Additional Information
Important Tip: 
File the I-129 petition as soon as possible to allow sufficient time for the government to process the application.
Marketing copy: 
obtaining a visa