L-1 Visa

L-1 NonImmigrant Visa: Intracompany Transfers and Blanket L Petitions

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The L-1 nonimmigrant category is available to individuals who have worked for a foreign corporation that has a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate company in the U.S. The individual must have been employed in an executive or managerial position (L-1A), or in a specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B) for the foreign company.

  • A Manager is defined as an individual that manages the entire company or one of its core functions, personally supervises and controls the work of other supervisors or managers, has the ability to hire and fire, and exercises discretion over day to day functions of the business.
  • An Executive is defined as an individual that directs the management of the organization or one of its core functions, establishes goals and policies, exercises discretionary decision making, and receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, board of directors or stock holders.
  • An individual has “specialized knowledge” when that person possesses an advanced level of knowledge of the company and its products or an advanced level of professional or technical expertise and proprietary knowledge that is essential to the company’s successful operations.

To qualify for L-1 status, the foreign national must have been employed abroad by the foreign employer on a full-time basis for at least one continuous year during the last three-year period.

Note: The employer is not required to obtain a labor certification prior to petitioning in this category. Compensation level is not prescribed, but U.S. income must be sufficient to prevent the alien from becoming a public charge.

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New Office Scenario

The L-1 classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the U.S. with the purpose of establishing one. The government has special rules regarding these “new office” situations for companies wishing to expand into the states. The employer must show that a U.S. entity has been incorporated, that sufficient physical space has been secured, and that the foreign entity is able to commence doing business in the U.S.

Petition Process

A U.S. or foreign employer may file the petition; however, a foreign employer must have viable, legal business operations in the U.S. L-1 petitions require extensive documentation, including (but not limited to) incorporation documentation, evidence of the qualifying relationship (stock certificates, share ledgers, operating agreements, etc.), financial statements, tax filings, business plans, proof of office space, employee organizational charts, and more.

Canadian citizens may apply for L-1 status at a Class A port-of-entry. A decision is normally issued immediately. For other foreign nationals, the petition is filed at a USCIS Service Center which can take six to nine months for regular processing. Premium Processing is available for an additional fee of $1,225.00. This guarantees that action is taken on the case within fifteen (15) calendar days from receipt. Once the petition is approved, the individual must then apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Details of Stay

L-1 workers may be admitted to the U.S. for an initial maximum period of up to three years. For a new office situation, the initial period of admission is one year. The total period of stay may reach seven years for L-1A managers and executives, and five years for L-1B specialized knowledge personnel. Additional time may be granted beyond these caps in certain circumstances.

Dependents

Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of L-1 workers may be admitted to the U.S. in L-2 status. Dependents may attend school. Spouses holding L-2 status may subsequently apply for employment authorization from USCIS to work within the U.S.

Dual Intent

An individual may apply for permanent residency (“green card”) and hold L-1 nonimmigrant status simultaneously. Managers and Executives may qualify to file an immigrant petition without first obtaining labor certification. This streamlines the green card process.

Blanket L Petition

The L-1 regulations allow certain corporations to apply for an “L-1 blanket petition” which is intended to facilitate the travels of L-1 nonimmigrants and reduce the required documentation.

Employers who regularly file L petitions may wish to consider filing for blanket L status in order to obtain continuing approval for itself and some or all of its qualifying parents, branches, subsidiaries and affiliates in the U.S. and abroad. This simplifies the process of approving and admitting additional individual L-1A and L-1B workers.

The blanket L petition must be filed by a U.S. employer who will be the single representative between USCIS and the qualifying organizations. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:

  • The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
  • The petitioner has an office in the U.S. that has been doing business for one year or more;
  • The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
  • The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations meets one of the following criteria:
    • Has obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
    • Has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual salaries of at least $25 million; OR
    • Has a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1A/B classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the U.S. quickly and with short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. Individual employees can apply for a L-1A/L-1B status directly at a port-of-entry or a U.S. embassy abroad.

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