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L-1 Managers & Executives

The L-1 visa allows managerial, executive, and specialized knowledge employees of foreign companies to transfer their employment to a U.S. parent, affiliate, or subsidiary company. The employee’s employment by the U.S. company must also be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. The L-1 visa may also be used to establish a new business in the United States.

The L-1 is commonly referred to be a “dual intent” visa. This means those with L-1 visas are allowed to pursue lawful permanent resident (LPR) status once in the United States.

General Requirements

There are two types of L-1 classifications:

  • L-1A Managerial or Executive: This is for individuals employed in a managerial or executive capacity by the U.S. company.
  • L-1B Specialized Knowledge: This is for individuals who will perform business functions for the U.S. company that require specialized or advanced knowledge.

For both types, there are common requirements that must be met by the U.S. company and by the alien beneficiary.

  • Qualifying Relationship: The U.S. company and the foreign company must have a qualifying relationship. This can be either parent-subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office.
  • Doing Business: Both the U.S. company and the foreign company must be “doing business”, which means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services.
  • One-Year Employment Abroad: For at least one out of the last three years, the alien must have been employed abroad by the foreign company. That one-year employment period abroad must be continuous employment.
  • Qualifying Employment Abroad: The alien’s employment abroad must be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
  • Qualifying U.S. Employment: The alien will be employed by the U.S. company in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.

A variation of the L-1 visa is the L-1 New Office provision. A “New Office” is a U.S. company that has been doing business for less than one year. This L-1 variation is often granted to a manager or executive of a foreign company to establish and develop a new business in the United States.

Additional requirements must be met in order to qualify under the L-1 New Office provision:

  • Sufficient Physical Premises: Even though the operations of the U.S. company may be in an early stage, enough space must be secured for it to conduct its activities. The amount of space required would depend on the type of business the company is engaged in. It is recommended that the space be enough to accommodate at least the first year of operations.
  • One-Year Development Period: Within one-year from the petition’s approval, the U.S. operations must be developed to the point of being able to support the alien in an executive or managerial capacity. To demonstrate the prospect of this development, a business plan is typically required to show the proposed nature of the new office, its organizational structure, financial goals, and the financial capacity of the foreign company to support its U.S. operations.

Length of Stay

The L-1A status has a maximum validity period of seven (7) years. It is typically granted for an initial period of three years and can be extended twice in two-year increments (3 -2 -2). If the U.S. company is newly established (have been doing business for less than one year), the L-1 status would be granted for an initial one-year period and then extended three times in two-year increments (1-2-2-2).

The L-1B status has a maximum validity period of five (5) years. It is granted for an initial period of three years and can be extended for an additional period of two years (3-2).

Dependent Family Members

Dependent spouses and minor children of L-1 nonimmigrants may obtain L-2 status. A dependent spouse in L-2 status may obtain employment authorization.

Application Process

The L-1 petition is filed by the U.S. entity. A Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with L Supplement is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with supporting documents establishing eligibility. The L-1 petition can be processed relatively quickly through the premium processing service offered by USCIS.

If the alien beneficiary is lawfully admitted in the United States, the L-1 petition can request a change of status. This allows the alien to assume L-1 status upon the petition’s approval. If the beneficiary is overseas, he or she would apply for a L-1 visa at the U.S. consulate before entering the United States.

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