Can a foreign worker begin employment in the United States without an L-1 visa?

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Yes. If the foreign worker entered the United States in a different nonimmigrant visa category (i.e. visitor); was present in the United States in valid nonimmigrant status when the L-1 petition was approved; and a request for a change of status from the nonimmigrant status to L-1 status was requested, then the foreign worker could begin employment on the first date of validity of the L-1 status.

If the foreign worker is present in the United States in valid L-1 status then the foreign worker can begin employment as soon as the L-1 petition is filed with the USCIS (this assumes that the foreign worker continues to work for the same employer).