A B1 visa allows you to visit the US for a short period for business purposes such as meetings and sale presentations. However, a B1 visa does not allow you a longer visit, or to work as an employee in the US; for this you will need an L1 visa through your employer. You cannot convert a B1 visa to an L1 visa: instead your employer must make a fresh L1 visa application.
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Check the company's eligibility. To get an L1 visa, you must be an "intracompany transferee." This means you are employed by a US company and have already been working for the company in a non-US location for at least one year during the past three years. This usually means the US company has a subsidiary, parent or sister company in the UK or another country.
Check your job's eligibility. The job must be in a managerial or executive capacity (category L1-A), or involve specialized knowledge (category L1-B). The employer must provide evidence of this. The job must be a temporary assignment, after which you will leave the US.
Ask the US employer to complete and file form Department of Homeland Security Form I-129. You cannot file this form yourself. In some cases the employer will need to complete the form in full, including providing evidence of its relationship with companies or branches in other countries such as the US. In other cases the employer can file a blanket petition that provides this evidence; once this is accepted, the employer will only need to provide details of the specific employee for future applications.
Tips and warnings
- If you travel to the US on a B1 visa while awaiting a response on an L1 visa filing, do not make any assumptions about getting an L1 visa. In most cases immigration officials will want to see return travel documents or some other evidence that you are not intending to stay in the country beyond the expiry date of the B1 visa.
- If you visit the US without a visa of any kind, taking advantage of the visa waiver scheme that is available to UK tourists for trips of less than 90 days, you cannot apply for a visa of any kind during your visit.
- Working as an employee or otherwise violating the terms of a B1 visa (without getting an appropriate visa such as an L1) could bring serious consequences including being permanently barred from entering the US.
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