L-1A/L-1B Executive Manager/Specialized Knowledge

L-1A/L-1B Executive Manager/Specialized Knowledge

The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies operating both in the United States and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee from its foreign operations to its U.S. operations. The employee must have worked for a parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch office of the U.S. company outside of the USA for at least one year out of the last three years. The US office must be a parent company, branch company, or sister company to the foreign company.

The L-1 visa has two subcategories: L-1A for executives and managers, and L-1B for workers with specialized knowledge. Specifically…

Managerial/ Executive Staff: The legal meaning of management and executive roles for these purposes is quite strict, and a detailed description of the duties attached to the position will be required. In particular, the managers or executives should have supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or for a key function, department or subdivision of the employer, as well as the authority to hire and fire or recommend personnel actions within the organizations. Such personnel are issued an L1A visa, initially for a three-year period, which may be extended in two year increments to a maximum of 7 years.

Specialized Knowledge Staff: This classification covers employees those with knowledge of the company’s products/services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or procedures. Staffs in this category are issued an L1B visa, initially for three years and may be extended to a maximum period of 5 years. After the expiration of the 7 or 5 years respectively, the alien must leave the United States for an aggregate of 365 days, and must work for a parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch of the U.S. company during that time before becoming eligible to reapply for an L-1 visa.

There are two types of L-1 procedures:

  • Regular L-1 visas, which must be applied for and approved for each individual by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and
  • Blanket L-1 visas which are available to employers who hire large numbers of Intra-company Transferees every year.

For a regular L-1 visa, the company must file a petition with the USCIS and each petition is evaluated on its own merits.

In the case of a blanket L-1 visa petition, it has already been determined by USCIS that the company qualifies for the issuance of Intracompany Transferee visa, so the individual visa applicant need only file a copy of the approved blanket petition, along with documents supporting their personal qualifications, with the U.S. consulate or embassy having jurisdiction over their place of residence proving the applicant’s qualification.

What are the requirements for an L-1 intra-company transfer visa?

  • The employee must have been employed continuously abroad by the parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate of the U.S. company for one of the past three years preceding the filing of the L-1 visa petition.

§ Any time spent working in the U.S. will not count toward the one year of required employment, though time spent in the U.S. will not be considered to have disrupted the continuity of employment abroad.

§ A combination of part-time employment can be used to meet the one year requirement if the part-time work is for affiliated companies.

  • The employer must be a firm, corporation or other legal entity or its parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate. This includes profit, non-profit, religious, and charitable organizations. It does not matter if the company is incorporated or not.
  • The employee must continue to work in a capacity that is managerial or executive (L-1A) or a position that involves specialized knowledge (L-1B).
  • The foreign employer and the U.S. employer must have a “qualifying relationship.” Both must have common majority ownership, or, where there is less than majority ownership, common control by the same person or entity. Ownership by a common group of owners where no owner has control or a majority interest can cause a problem if each individual owner does not own approximately the same amount of both the US and the foreign company. This problem can sometimes be worked around if the owners have set up a voting agreement to ensure that there are not different groups controlling the foreign firm and the US firm.
  • The employee must intend to depart the U.S. when his or her stay is over. However, the employee may also pursue permanent residency simultaneously without a negative impact on the ability to keep or extend an L visa. This is because the doctrine of dual intent applies to L-1 visas (just like H-1B visas). This makes the L visa a popular option for multinational firms.

Approval and Validity of the Visa

The CIS issues an approval notice as evidence of the employee’s L-1 status. The visa allows the employee to work for the petitioning company only. The employee’s dependants are issued approval notices as evidence of their L-2 visa status.

The employee must have an L-1 visa stamped in the employee’s passport for travel out of and return to the U.S. This application is done at the U.S. consulates outside the United States and is referred to as visa consular processing.

Spouses of L-1 visa holders are allowed to work, without restriction, in the US, and the L-1 visa may legally be used as a stepping stone to the Green Card under the doctrine of dual intent.