The L-1 category applies to foreign persons who are seeking admission to the U.S. to work for a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the candidate’s overseas employer. Like the H-1B-visa seeker, a candidate for L-1 classification is not required to have a permanent residence abroad that he or she has no intention of abandoning. Unlike the H-1B visa, there is currently no annual cap on L-1 visas.
Except those involving new offices, approved individual L petitions are initially valid for the period of established need for the beneficiary’s services, not to exceed three years. Extensions of stay may be authorized in increments of up to two years, with the maximum allowable periods generally capped at seven years for aliens under an L-1A visa and five years under an L-1B visa.
An L-1 principal is not authorized to work in the U.S. for an employer other than the sponsor in multinational firm. Dependent spouses of L-1 principals however, are entitled to “open market” work authorization during the validity of the principal’s authorized period of stay.
To qualify for L-1 status, a candidate must have been employed on a full-time basis by the overseas employer for at least one continuous year out of the three-year period immediately prior to filing the visa petition. Furthermore, the candidate must be seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily to perform services either in a managerial or executive capacity (L-1A), or in a position that entails specialized knowledge (L-1B).
To qualify for an L-1A visa, the duties of the candidate’s position must be primarily executive or managerial in nature. A demonstration that the visa candidate has high level of authority and a broad range of job responsibilities is required, and a majority of the executive or manager’s time must be spent on duties relating to policy or operational management.
Neither the title of a position nor ownership of the business is by itself an indicator of managerial or executive capacity. For L visa purposes, the sole employee of a company may qualify as an executive or manager, provided his or her primary function is to plan, organize, direct, and control an organization’s major functions through other people. In general, however, individuals who control and directly perform a function within an organization but do not have subordinate staff are more appropriate for consideration as specialized-knowledge employees.
A person with specialized knowledge may apply for an L-1B visa. To serve in a specialized-knowledge capacity, the candidate’s knowledge must different from or surpass the ordinary or usual knowledge of an employee in the particular field and must have been gained through significant prior experience with the petitioning organization. A specialized-knowledge employee must have an advanced level of expertise in his or her organization’s processes and procedures or special knowledge of the organization that is not readily available in the United States labor market. This does not include merely skilled workers.
A specialized-knowledge L-visa candidate must demonstrate that he or she:
- Possesses knowledge that is valuable to the employer’s competitiveness in the market;
- Is uniquely qualified to contribute to the U.S. employer’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions;
- Was utilized as a key employee abroad and was given significant assignments that have enhanced the employer’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or financial position; and
- Possesses knowledge that can be gained only through extensive prior experience with the employer.
New Office Petition
It is not required that the beneficiary of an L petition be coming for employment at a preexisting, U.S.-based office of the employer. A petition may be approved for a visa candidate in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity who is coming to the U.S. to open or be employed in a new office and is otherwise classifiable under the L provisions. A “new office” petition seeking transfer of a managerial or executive employee must demonstrate that within one year of approval of the petition, the U.S. operation will support an executive or managerial position.