The L-1 nonimmigrant status is an employer specific, employment-authorized nonimmigrant status available to a foreign national employed abroad who seeks admission into the United States to work for a qualifying affiliate U.S. employer in either managerial/executive capacity (L-1A) or specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B).
Obtaining L-1 nonimmigrant status requires the U.S. employer to file an I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS adjudicates this petition, usually in two to three months, however the time frame may be longer due to persistent backlogs. Upon approval, the prospective employee may apply for an L-1 visa at the respective U.S. consulate. The USCIS will adjudicate the L-1 petition within 15 calendar days if an additional premium processing fee of $2,500.00 is paid.
If you as the foreign national are already in the United States in a different status such as your B1/B2 (Business visa), you may file a request to change status along with the L-1 petition. Please note, however, that a change of status does not provide for the L-1 visa, which is necessary for reentry to the U.S. Therefore, when you obtain a change of status, and subsequently travel abroad, you will be required to apply for a visa at the U.S. consulate overseas.
L-1 status is generally approved for an initial period of three years. However, if the U.S.. employer is start-up company, L-1 status is originally granted for only one year. L-1A (manager/executive) status can be extended up to a statutory limit of seven years; L-1B (specialized knowledge) status is limited to a total of five years. The employer is not obligated to retain the employee for the entire five- or seven-year period. Unless the parties contract otherwise, the employment relationship is “at will” and either party is free to terminate the relationship at any time. However, if the employee/employer relationship endures for the entire five-year or seven-year period, the foreign national must spend one year physically outside of the U.S. before regaining eligibility to apply for a new period of L-1 status.
BASIC INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTATION NECESSARY TO PROPERLY PREPARE AN L-1 NONIMMIGRANT PETITION
The prospective employee must have been employed abroad with an affiliate, parent, branch, or subsidiary of the petitioning U.S. company for a continuous period of one year within the three years prior to filing the petition or entry into the U.S. This period of employment abroad must have been in either a managerial/executive or specialized knowledge capacity. Supporting documentation required from the petitioning employer abroad will include:
- Proof that the company abroad and the U.S. company are appropriately related. The key to the qualifying relationship is “effective control.” Therefore, either the U.S. or the foreign entity must exercise control over the other. A 50/50 joint venture ownership will qualify.
- Documentation that the foreign national was employed at least one full year of the previous three years with the related enterprise overseas. Please note that if the foreign national was employed overseas and made business trips to the U.S., time in the U.S. must be deducted from the total amount of time employed abroad. The foreign national must establish a full year of employment outside of the U.S.
- Detailed written description of the company’s business, including: history, location of facilities, types of operations, number of employees, approximate volume of revenues, copies of marketing material, and any published reports or brochures.
- Number of employees (with titles) that will continue to work for the company abroad during applicant’s stay in the U.S.
- Documentation showing that the company will continue to “do business” abroad throughout the L-1 employee’s tenure in the U.S.
- Current invoices as well as any contracts or written obligations (such as leases or long term contracts with customers) tending to show the long-term viability of the company abroad.
- Corporate documents for the corporation (financial statements, annual report, tax returns).
CONDUCTING BUSINESS IN THE UNITED STATES
Documentation must be submitted to show that the petitioning company is doing sufficient business in the United States to support the employment of the L-1 foreign national. Supporting documentation required from the petitioning employer in the United States consists of:
- Detailed written description of the company’s business in the U.S., including: History, location of facilities, types of operations, number of employees, approximate volume of revenues, copies of marketing material, and any published reports or brochures or if a startup a description of the work to be performed in the United States.
- Corporate documents for the corporation (financial statements, annual report, tax documents).
- Evidence of assets: i) Corporate bank account statements ii) Invoices for purchases of equipment iii) List of any customers—copies of contracts iv) Invoices for purchases of machinery.
- Copy of lease, title, or purchase option of space(s).
- Incorporation documents and official registration, or federal tax identification number.
- Name and title of officer who will sign forms.
- Proof of citizenship and offer letters for employees, including résumés, applications, and contracts.
- Company letterhead.
- If the employer is a start-up company then include a detailed business plan (including a description of the company’s business, the number of projected employees in the short- and long-term, current revenues and projected short- and long-term revenues) and evidence that sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured.
L-1A MANAGERIAL OR EXECUTIVE CAPACITY
L-1A: If the petition is for L-1A status, the prospective employment in the United States must be of managerial or executive capacity. One important advantage to this classification is that an L-1A executive or manager will often be eligible for “Priority Worker” classification for permanent residence. This allows the multinational manager or executive to apply for permanent residency without undergoing the extensive process of labor certification.
a. The Code of Federal Regulations defines “managerial capacity” as an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily: manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component thereof; supervises and controls the work of other employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, has authority to hire and functions at a senior level within the organization; exercises discretion over day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.
b. The Code defines “executive capacity” to mean an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily directs the management of the organization or a major component or function thereof; establishes goals and policies; exercises a wide latitude in discretionary decision-making and receives only general supervision from higher level personnel.
L-1B SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE CAPACITY
L-1B: If the petition is one for L-1B status, the prospective employment in the U.S. must involve the use of specialized knowledge. The Code defines “specialized knowledge” a special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FROM EMPLOYEE
L-1A and L-1B foreign nationals may submit the following information in support of their petition, if appropriate:
- Degree or diploma with English translation and/or university transcripts with English translation if they demonstrate that the foreign national’s education qualifies him or her to perform the intended services in the U.S. Please note, however, unlike in an H-1B petition, there is no general requirement that the foreign national have a baccalaureate degree or any specific level of education.
- Detailed copy of résumé or curriculum vitae showing that the foreign national has at least one-year continuous experience of full-time employment abroad with the petitioner within the three years preceding the filing of the petition. The résumé should include the month and year of each position, job title, and description of duties.
- Detailed description of foreign national’s work with the related company abroad showing that the foreign national was employed in an executive/managerial or specialized knowledge capacity. A letter from the prior employer should include a detailed description of the services performed as evidence that the foreign national’s work experience qualifies him or her to perform the intended services in the United States.
- Detailed description of foreign national’s proposed U.S. position showing that the foreign national will be employed in an executive/managerial or specialized knowledge capacity.
- Anticipated salary/compensation with the company abroad and the new U.S. company. Please note that while it is not necessary to establish “prevailing wage” in the L-1 petition, the L-1 foreign national must be an “employee” of the company—not simply the company’s owner—and the salary should be appropriate to the position.
- If the position is of managerial/executive capacity, organizational charts from the company demonstrating the hierarchy of personnel in the prospective employees department or division can be helpful.
- Copies of passport pages showing: identity, validity or expiration date, any U.S. visas, and any admission stamps.
BLANKET L PETITIONS
Ordinarily each employee must obtain an approval from the USCIS in his/her name in order to enter the United States. Blanket L petitions allow a beneficiary to enter the country without having an approval from the USCIS in his/her name. The beneficiary can take the Blanket L approved petition to the consulate, get the visa stamped and enter the country.
Pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2(l)(4), A petitioner which meets the following requirements may file a blanket petition seeking continuing approval of itself and some or all of its parent, branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates as qualifying organizations if:
- The petitioner and each of those entities are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The petitioner has an office in the United States that has been doing business for one year or more;
- The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates; and
- 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.
The alien has to obtain a visa at the U.S. consulate abroad before entering on an L-1 status. The visa officers will ascertain several aspects including but not limited to the following for the eligibility of the alien seeking L classification under blanket petitions, except for visa-exempt nonimmigrants:
- Whether the beneficiary has been working with the organization named in the L-1 approval.
- Whether the position is for a manager, executive, or a specialized knowledge professional.
The spouse and unmarried minor children (dependants) can accompany the beneficiary on an L-2 visa. The advantage of L-1 status over the H-1B status is that the depedants can obtain work authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).