Can we hire someone currently in the U.S. on an L visa?

Limits and possibilities when noncitizen job candidate already has an L visa.

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Question

I'm the human resources manager for a company with 1,000 employees. One of our division managers asked me about a candidate she wants to hire who has an L visa. What is an L visa, and what do we need to do to bring him on board?

Answer

First, you need to obtain some more information about your candidate’s visa. Ask whether he has an L-1 or L-2 visa. If he has an L-2 visa as the spouse of an L-1 worker, he can apply for a work permit on his own by preparing and submitting Form I-765 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He will receive an "Employment Authorization Document" or "EAD" in about two to three months, depending on how backlogged USCIS is. At that time, he can start working for you.

If your candidate has an L-1 (L-1A or L-1B) visa, that means he is working in the U.S. for a company that also has a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate company abroad, where he previously worked for at least a year before transferring to the United States. It's therefore unfortunately not possible for you to hire this person now with an L-1 visa.

If your company has operations overseas, you could send him to work there for a year and then transfer him back on an L visa. The job overseas and the job in the U.S. would need to be managerial or "specialized knowledge" roles. The latter refers to jobs that require specific knowledge and expertise about your operations. See the article on L visas on the Nolo site for more information, "L-1, Intracompany Transferee Visa to the U.S.: Who Qualifies?" .

If it turns out that your candidate has an L-1, rather than L-2 visa, you may be able to pursue an H-1B visa if there still are visa numbers remaining for the current year's quota. However, the window of opportunity for this is very short, since these visas tend to get used up every April, soon after the application period for the new fiscal year’s supply of visas opens. To qualify for the H-1B visa, your job must require at least a U.S. bachelor's degree in a specific field, and the candidate must have a relevant degree or the equivalent combined education and experience. See the many articles on the H-1B visa on the Nolo site for more details.

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