Individuals who have worked for one out of the last three years for a parent, subsidiary or affiliate of a U.S. Company as a Manager, Executive (L-1A) or individuals with specialized knowledge of a company’s processes, procedures or other proprietary information (L-1B) may qualify for an L-1 visa. The L-1A or L-1B visa is not limited to for-profit corporations or partnerships, so the organization applying, may be a charitable, religious or other non-profit group and the employee may be eligible to either work at a pre-existing subsidiary/branch office or to start up a new subsidiary/branch office for the parent company abroad.
If the beneficiary employee is coming to the United States to open or to be employed in a new office, the petition must also be filed with copies of evidence showing that the business has adequate office space for operations (i.e. commercial lease) and bank account statements or wire transfers to show that it has adequate funds to begin operations. The company must submit evidence that within one year the U.S. operation will support an executive or managerial position. The petition must include information about the U.S. company including; the type of business, organizational structure, financial goals, and the size of the U.S. investment. The petition must include information about the foreign company including; the organizational structure and the financial ability of the company to support the U.S. company. A business plan or executive summary is recommended.
The L-1 Visa category doesn’t require the worker to have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, unlike the H-1B visa. Unlike the H-1B category there is no quota for the L-1 visa and unlike the H-1B visa, there is no minimum prevailing wage and the employee’s salary can be paid by either the U.S. company or the foreign company. The L-1 is an “employer-specific” visa, which allows the beneficiary to work for the sponsoring employer only. If there are any changes to the original “qualifying” corporate relationship or the beneficiary’s title or responsibilities in the U.S., please contact our office.
L-1A Manager or Executive
A manager has supervision and control over the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees, or manages an essential function, department or subdivision of the organization. A manager who supervises an essential function of the organization need not supervise employees of the organization, but may work with outside contractors or other third parties. A manager exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the business and has the authority to hire and fire other employees or perform other personnel actions such as promotion and leave authorization.
An executive directs the management of the organization or major component or function of the organization. He establishes goals and policies and exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision making, and receives only general supervision or direction from higher-level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
L-1B Employee with Specialized Knowledge
To qualify as an employee with specialized knowledge, the individual must possess special knowledge of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests, and its application in the international markets or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes or procedures.
This can mean that the employee possesses knowledge that is valuable to the employer’s competitiveness in the market place; that the employee is uniquely qualified to contribute to the U.S. employer’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions; that the employee has been utilized as a key employee abroad and has been given significant assignments which have enhanced the employer’s productivity, competitiveness, image or financial position; and that the employee possesses knowledge which can be gained only through extensive prior experience with that employer.
USCIS carefully scrutinizes claims of specialized knowledge, requiring that the knowledge be unique to the employer, rather than of a more general nature.
Blanket L-1 Status for Large Multinational Companies
Blanket L-1 status is for large multinational companies to allow them to more easily and efficiently transfer managers, executives or employees with specialized knowledge to a subsidiary office in the U.S. Instead of submitting individual petitions for each transferee, the company obtains a general approval and qualified L-1 applicants may apply directly at any U.S. consular post abroad. This allows the company to streamline the process and eliminate much of the time and paperwork involved to process each individual case.
In order to qualify, the U.S. company and foreign company must carry on commercial trade or services and the U.S. company must have been doing business for one year or more, have at least three domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates, and have obtained approval of petitions for at least 10 L-1s during the previous 12 months, have combined annual sales of $25 million or a United States work force of at least 1000 employees.
Duration of Visa
For a business that is just starting up, an L-1 visa is generally valid for one year. Extensions require proof of employees and substantial business activity. Large sales revenue, as well as several layers of employees, are key to securing the extension.
For businesses that have been doing business in the United States for one year or longer, the visa is valid for up to three years with two-year extensions available for a total of up to five years for an employee with specialized knowledge, and up to seven years for an executive or manager.
A blanket L-1 petition shall be valid initially for a period of three years and may be extended indefinitely.
An individual who has spent five years in the United States in a specialized knowledge capacity, or seven years in the United States in a managerial or executive capacity under L-1 status, may not be readmitted to the United States under L-1 or H-1 status unless the alien has resided and been outside the United States, except for brief visits, for one year.
The five and seven year limitations of L-1 status shall not apply to aliens who do not reside continually in the United States and whose employment in the United States is seasonal, intermittent, or consists of an aggregate of six months or less per year.
Status of Spouse and Minor Children
The foreign national spouse or unmarried minor children of a foreign national with an L-1 visa are entitled to the same nonimmigrant classification and the same length of stay as the employee. The foreign national spouse and children are admitted with L-2 visas and may apply for work authorization to work in the United States.
Application Procedure for Canadian Citizens
Like the TN and B-1, this classification for Canadian citizens under NAFTA can also be applied for at a point of entry and does not require a visa. Canadian citizens may also apply for the L-1 status through a Service Center although it is not as quick as applying at a point of entry.