The L-1 is a nonimmigrant status that is available to qualifying intra-company transferees (employees) coming to the U.S. to continue to work for the same, related, or affiliated company (employer) as he or she has been working for abroad. There are three types of employees that may be sponsored for L-1 status: Managers, Executives, and those possessing Specialized Knowledge.
L-1 Visa Basics
Executives are individuals involved in strategic planning and development of the business. Managers are individuals involved in the day-to-day direction and administration of people or an essential function, with significant discretion in decision making. Specialized knowledge applies to someone with unique knowledge of the employer’s products, research, proprietary techniques, or operational procedures/protocols. Managers or Executives can be granted L-1A status for an initial three (3) year period and may be extended in two (2) year increments for a maximum of seven (7) years. Specialized Knowledge employees can be granted an L-1B status for an initial three (3) years, and it may be extended for a maximum of five (5) years. If the employer has been doing business in the U.S. for less than one year, the initial period of L-1 status will be granted for one (1) year, with extensions possible. A qualifying company in the U.S., or a foreign entity having a qualifying relationship to the U.S. company, may sponsor an employee for L-1 status, provided that the employee qualifies in one of the above cited managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge categories. The employee must also have worked for the related foreign company at least one year during the last three years outside the U.S. Both the U.S. and foreign entities must continue to do business inside and outside the U.S. for the duration of the employee’s L-1 status.
Corporate Relationship: In order to qualify for L-1 status you must provide evidence of the corporate relationship between the United States office and the one abroad. It is best to contact our office to discuss how to prove the corporate relationship, but some ways are annual reports that include lists of subsidiary offices, or company website listing addresses of offices around the world. Another way of proving the qualifying relationship is, if the U.S. company is a corporation and it is majority owned by the foreign company, to provide copies of the stock ledger of the U.S. company and copies of all outstanding shares of stock to show that the foreign company is the majority owner of the U.S. company.
Managerial Qualification: Organizational charts for the position you currently have outside the United States, as well an organization chart for the position you are coming to are essential evidence to obtain L-1A status. For additional ways to show how you manage direct reports, please contact our office.
Specialized Knowledge: Illustrating specialized knowledge requires a conversation with our office to best determine how the transferee possesses an advanced level of knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in the international markets.
Our office will work closely with you to develop the best strategy, and we will then prepare the petition for filing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once we file the petition with USCIS, we will receive a receipt notice within roughly 10-14 days, which the applicant can use to book an appointment at the U.S. Consulate to request an L-1 visa stamp. Normal processing time takes 2 to 3 months. If that is too long, there is an option to pay an additional filing fee to get a decision within 15 days of filing (“Premium Processing”).
Company 123 is a U.S. corporation that has a wholly owned subsidiary, Company XYZ gmbh, which is doing business outside the U.S., 123 needs to bring a manager from XYZ gmbh to head up their new product line in the U.S. The Manager currently has two direct reports in his current position and he will have 5 direct reports once he begins his assignment in the United States. The Manager will qualify for an L-1A visa because there is a qualifying relationship between the foreign and the U.S. companies; the Manager has worked for XYZ gmbh for more than one year outside the U.S.; and he is coming to the U.S. to be a manager.
Dual Intent Allowed
L-1 status allows for “dual intent.” While a nonimmigrant status normally requires the foreign national to remain in the United States only temporarily, “dual intent” allows one to apply for lawful permanent residence concurrently. It allows one to have the intention of remaining in the United States temporarily while at the same time applying to stay in the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
Work authorization for spouse
The spouse of an L-1 nonimmigrant worker may apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document permitting employment with any employer, at any salary.
Fast-Track to a “Green Card”
A unique opportunity to the beneficiaries of L-1A status based on executive or managerial positions is that a petition for lawful permanent residence can be filed by the employer —if the employee was also employed abroad in a managerial or executive capacity. This is a more direct route to permanent residency than the normally required PERM Labor Certification path. If the U.S. company has been doing business in the U.S. for less than one year, the L-1A employee must wait for one full year from entry to apply for permanent residency.