The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows companies or organizations operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain key employees to the U.S. for up to seven years. To qualify for this visa, the employee must have been employed by the same company/organization (or an affiliate, branch, parent or subsidiary entity) outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years, and must have served in either a “managerial/executive” or “specialized knowledge” capacity.
L-1 visas apply to two types of high-value employees:
- Managers/Executives (L-1A)
The legal definition of management and executive roles for these purposes is quite rigid, and a detailed description of the duties attached to the position will be required. In particular, a manager should have supervisory responsibility for at least two “layers” of other employees, and/or responsibility for a key function, department or subdivision of the employer. Executives must be responsible for directing a major component or function and establishing goals and policies with minimal supervision. Managers/executives are issued a visa initially for up to a three-year period, which may be extended to a maximum of seven years.
- Specialized Knowledge Employees (L-1B)
“Specialized knowledge” covers individuals who have knowledge that bolsters the company’s competitiveness, who are uniquely qualified to inform the U.S. employer of foreign operating conditions, who have been utilized as key employees abroad, and have enhanced the employer’s performance, and/or who have specialized knowledge that contributes to the uninterrupted operation of the business. Employees in this category are issued an L-1B visa, initially for three years, which may be extended to a maximum of five years.
The employee’s past responsibilities and division of time may well be different from those which the employee will have in the U.S. In fact, an individual who in the past was a “Specialized knowledge employee” may apply for a “Manager/executive” visa, or vice versa. However, the importance of carefully documenting both past and future duties cannot be overstated.
Family members of L-1 employees:
An L-1 employee may bring both a spouse and children below age 21 to the United States in L-2 status, and the spouse may apply for a work permit. Children are eligible to study in public or private schools, but are not permitted to work.
Blanket L-1 petitions:
Large companies that regularly file L-1 petitions may wish to explore the “blanket petition” option. This is a procedure that allows a company to transfer its employees through a single petition, without having to file a separate petition for each employee. To qualify for this option, the company must have annual sales of $25 million, a U.S. staff of at least 1,000 individuals, or have received at least 10 approved L-1 petitions within the past year.
Requirements/opportunities after L-1 status:
Unlike the majority of nonimmigrant visas, an L-1 holder is NOT subject to the INA 214(b) presumption of immigrant intent. Thus, an L-1 visa holder may be the beneficiary of a pending immigrant visa petition. However, the I-129 petition must still include evidence of temporariness. As with all other visas, the employee must be careful not to violate the terms of the current visa.
Our firm assists companies and organizations in obtaining L-1 visas to allow them to transfer key employees to the US from their overseas operations. After approval of the petition by USCIS, employees in this category will apply for an initial L-1 visa for up to three years at the U.S. consulate in their home country. Beneficiaries who are present in the US in another valid non-immigrant status may be eligible to apply to change their status to L-1, while remaining in the US.
As part of our representation, attorneys from our firm discuss the employee’s duties and credentials to determine whether the manager/executive or specialized knowledge category is more appropriate, and help companies identify useful documentation to include. It is extremely important to thoroughly and carefully document the qualifications and past and future duties of the employee, as well as the organization, finances, and locations of the company, so as to demonstrate the employee’s eligibility for the visa. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail and we make every attempt to thoroughly document the employer and employee’s eligibility as part of the initial application. We believe that this has helped us avoid Requests for Evidence (RFE’s) which can delay or derail applications. According to other practitioners and statistical reports, RFE’s and/or denials have increased dramatically, highlighting the importance of impeccable documentation.
The content of this website is meant only to acquaint you with general information about immigration. This information is not legal advice and is not a substitute for having a consultation with an attorney. If you have additional questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please contact us.