L-1A / L-1B Visa
Companies who want to transfer employees from their office overseas to an office in the United States can apply for an L-1A Visa or L-1B Visa with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The L-1A Visas are for the executives and managers of the company, while the L-1B Visas are for the employees with specialized skills and knowledge. The L-1A Visas are also available to executive managers from foreign companies who are coming to the United States to establish their offices.
L-1A and L-1B Employer Qualifications
For an L-1 Employer to qualify to petition the L-1A and L-1B employees, the following qualifications need to be met:
- Qualifying relationship between the U. S. based company with the foreign company overseas; Non-profit, religious, and charitable organizations may also qualify as L-1 employers.
- The company must be, or will be, a viable, operating company doing business as an employer during the entire duration that the L-1A or L-1B employee is in the United States.
- The term "doing business" is defined in the Regulations at 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(H) as:
"The regular, systematic and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization which has employees and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the U.S. or abroad." In order to satisfy these requirements, the U.S. Petitioning Company must show that both it and the overseas Company are conducting business in goods or services."
For the overseas company that plans to send an executive or manager to establish a new office in the United States, the overseas company must also show the following:
- That the company has secured sufficient physical premises for their new office.
- That the executive or manager sent to establish a new office has to be employed in the managerial position for one continuous year in the three years prior to the filing of the L-1A petition United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- That the U.S. office will support the L-1A employee within one year of the approval of the petition by the USCIS.
L-1A and L-1B Employee Qualifications
- Working for the overseas company for one continuous year within the three years immediately prior to being admitted to the United States.
- The employee will continue working for the same company or an affiliate in the United States.
- For an L-1A Visa, the employee will be working as a manager or executive.
- For an L-1B Visa, the person will be working as an employee with specialized knowledge.
- The L-1A and the L-1B Visa categories are dual-intent visas. Although the employer and the employee must have the intent to come to the United States temporarily only and leave the United States when the authorized stay ends, the L-1A and L-1B employees may apply for immigrant status by becoming lawful permanent residents while they are in legal status in the United Status.
Definition of L-1A Manager
The L-1A Manager must be functioning in a "managerial capacity" for the L-1 company. Immigration law defines "managerial capacity" as an assignment within the organization in which the employee primarily:
- (i) manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
- (ii) supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
- (iii) if another employee or other employees are directly supervised, has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization) or, if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
- (iv) exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. A first-line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a managerial capacity merely by virtue of the supervisor’s supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional. Immigration and Nationality Act Section 101(a)(44)(A).
Definition of L-1A Executive
The L-1A Executive must be functioning in an "executive capacity" for the L-1 company. Immigration law defines "executive capacity" as an assignment within the organization in which the employee primarily:
- (i) directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
- (ii) establishes the goals and policies of the organization,component, or function;
- (iii) exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
- (iv) receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization. Immigration and Nationality Act Section 101(a)(44)(B).
Definition of L-1B Employee with Specialized Knowledge:
The L-1B Employee with Specialized Knowledge is a person who "has a special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company”. Immigration and Nationality Act Section 214(c)(2)(B).
Characteristics of an employee with "specialized knowledge" include:
- Possessing knowledge valuable to an employer's competitiveness;
- Contributing to the U.S. employer's knowledge of foreign operating conditions as a result of specialized knowledge not generally found in the industry;
- Being utilized abroad in a capacity involving significant assignments, which have enhanced productivity, competitiveness, image or financial position;
- Possessing knowledge, which can normally only be gained through prior experience with the employer; or
- Possessing knowledge of a product or process, which cannot be easily transferred or taught to another individual. Memorandum, "Interpretation of Special Knowledge," James A. Puleo, Acting Exec. Assoc. Comm'r for Operations (Mar. 4, 1994).
L-1 Blanket Petition
For very large U. S. companies the L-1 Blanket Petition is available for pre-qualification for visa processing. Upon approval by the USCIS of the L-1 Blanket Petition, companies and its branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates may transfer their L-1A or L-1B employees quickly without having to file separate individual petitions for each employee.
The requirements for the L-1 Blanket Petition are:
- (A) The petitioner and each of those entities are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- (B) The petitioner has an office in the United States that has been doing business for one year or more;
- (C) The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates; and
- (D) The petitioner and the other qualifying organizations have obtained approval of petitions for at least ten “L” managers, executives, or specialized knowledge professionals during the previous 12 months; or have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or have a United States work force of at least 1,000 employees. 8 C.F.R. Section 214.2(l)(4).
Period of Stay with L-1A and L-1B Visas
An approved L-1 Visa is granted for a period of three years. The L-1 Visa holders can extend their stay in two-year increments. However, the period of stay for managers and executives is a total of seven years, while employees with specialized knowledge only have a total of five years. The total number of years for the L-1 visa holder will be added together with the total number of years spent on H-Visa (if applicable). Once the L-1A and the L-1B Visa holders have maximized their stay, they must leave the United States and reside abroad for at least one year before returning to the United States with an L-1 Visa.
L-1A and Application for Lawful Permanent Residence
The L-1A Visa holder may have a big advantage when applying for lawful permanent residence status in a more rapid process once they are in the United States. The L-1A Visa employees who are managers and executives of L-1 companies are eligible to apply for employment based lawful permanent residence status under the "priority workers" category. Individuals in this category under the employment based lawful permanent residency process do not have to undergo the labor certification, a long process, through the United States Department of Labor. Labor certification entails having to prove to the Department of Labor that no U. S. citizen or lawful permanent resident worker with the same minimal requirements is available for the non-immigrant position the employer intends to hire for. In addition, "priority workers" do not have to wait for a long time for visa availability like the other categories of employment based workers because there are usually more visas available in the "priority worker" category allowing for immediate processing for lawful permanent residence status.
The eligibility requirements for lawful permanent residency status under the "priority worker" category are the same as that of the L-1A Visa stated above.
L-1B and Application for Lawful Permanent Residence
The L-1B Visa employees who want to apply for employment-based lawful permanent residence status will have to go through the labor certification process explained in the previous section. The labor certification process is a much longer process than what is available to the L-1A Visa employees. In addition to the labor certification process, L-1B Visa employees who apply for employment-based lawful permanent residency will subsequently have to wait for visa availability. See the Employment-based Lawful Permanent Residency Section for a more detailed explanation of the requirements and process.
Dependent Family Members of L-1A and L-1B Visa Employees
Spouses and unmarried children, 20 years and below, of L-1A or L-1b Visa employees may accompany or follow-to-join them to the United States. The family members are eligible for an L-2 non-immigrant visa and will be granted the same period of stay as the employee. Spouses of the L-1 employee may apply for an employment authorization document to legally work in the United States.
Note: Obtaining an L-1A/L-1B Visa is a complicated process and, therefore, it is advisable to contact an Immigration Attorney to ensure a higher probability of success in the L-1A/L-1B Visa process.