The L-1A and L-1B visas are non-immigrant visas issued by the U.S. government to foreign citizens who are intra-company transferees seeking to enter the U.S. to work temporarily. The L-1A visa is for managers or executives while the L-1B visa is for employees with specialized knowledge.
A requirement for both types of L visas is that the employee that will be transferred must have worked for the foreign company for 12 consecutive months within the past 36 months. Additionally, the L-1A visa has a maximum stay of 7 years, whereas the L-1B has a maximum stay of 5 years.
The U.S. company must have a qualifying relationship with the foreign entity, which can include a parent company, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate. The employer must be doing business in the United States as well as in at least one foreign country, and the foreign company may not close nor cease to operate or “do business” while the employee is in the U.S. on L-status as this will nullify the L-1 visa status.
There are no annual limitations on the number of L-1’s that can be approved so there is no chance the visas will “run out”, and there are no specific wage/salary requirements for L-1 employees. Additionally, L-1 beneficiaries may bring certain family members (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) with them to the United States under L-2 status. The L-2 spouse may apply to receive an employment authorization from USCIS with which they may work for anyone they choose, however, the L-2 children are not authorized to work).
To classify as an executive or manager under an L-1A, the employees must be primarily responsible for: directing management or managing the organization, or managing a department, subdivision, or component of the company. It is also possible to qualify by demonstrating that the employee has supervisory responsibilities over professionals or managerial employees or manages an essential function within the organization. Low level managers whose responsibilities are not supervisory in nature do not qualify under the L-1A requirements.
Executive capacity – generally refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight.
Managerial capacity – generally refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.
Specialized Knowledge – The petitioner has to show that the transferee’s knowledge and skills are special, and not readily available in the U.S.
For foreign employers seeking to send an employee to the United States as an executive or manager to establish a new office, the employer must also show that:
- The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office – this may be proven through lease agreements or deeds for purchased property;
- The employee has been employed as an executive or manager for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition; and
- The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition – this can be proven through a well formulated business plan.
Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year, and can thereafter request 2 year extensions.
There are also L-1 “Blanket Petitions” which are for large multinational companies who are likely to want to transfer a significant number of employees to the U.S. The main benefit to this type of application is that the employer does not have to prove eligibility each time by filing individual petitions. Rather, only the employee has to prove the eligibility at the U.S. consulate abroad, and no processing at USCIS is required for individual cases. This provides the employer the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the U.S. quickly and on short notice when necessary.
In order to qualify for an L-1 Blanket petition, the company must fulfill the following requirements:
- Have at least three offices, whether in the U.S. or abroad;
- Have an office which has been doing business in the U.S. for at least one year;
- Meet at least one of the following three criteria
- Filed at least ten (10) L-1 petition approvals in the preceding 12 months;
- Have a minimum of 1000 employees based in the U.S.; or
- Prove company-wide total annual sales of at least $25 million USD.
Additionally, the same visa term limitations apply for L-1A’s and L-1B’s attained through Blanket L petitions.