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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.

How long is the period of stay for L-1 visa holders?

L-1 status is generally approved for an initial period of three years. However, if the U.S. employer is a start-up company, L-1 status is originally granted for only one year. The L-1A (manager/executive) can be extended up to a statutory limit of seven years; the L-1B (specialized knowledge) 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 United States before regaining eligibility to apply for a new period of L-1 status.  ​

What are the general qualifications for employer? 

Qualifying Relationship

To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations)

Doing 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. This is especially important when the petitioning employer is a start-up company, newly established in the United States. Particular attention should be paid to documenting the ability of a new office L-1 employer to do business in the United States. 

What are the general qualifications for the beneficiary?

Proof of Employment Abroad With a Qualifying Company  

To qualify for the L-1 status, 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 United States. This period of employment abroad must have been in either managerial/executive or specialized knowledge capacity. 

Executive/Managerial or Specialized Knowledge 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.
    1. The Code of Federal Regulations defines “managerial capacity” as an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily: (1) manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component thereof; (2) 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; (3) exercises discretion over day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. 8 CFR §214.2(l)(1)(ii)(B).   
    2. 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 wide latitude in discretionary decision-making and receives only general supervision from higher level personnel. 8 CFR §214.2(l)(1)(ii)(C). 
  • L-1B: If the petition is one for L-1B status, the prospective employment in the United States must involve the use of specialized knowledge. The Code defines “specialized knowledge” as 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. 8 CFR §214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D).

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