L-1 VISA INTRA-COMPANY TRANSFEREES: L-1A (MULTINATIONAL MANAGERS/EXECUTIVES) & L-1B (SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE) VISA CATEGORIES
The L-1 visa allows intra-company transferees, who worked for a company abroad in an executive/managerial (L-1A) or “specialized- knowledge” capacity (L-1B) for at least one continuous year within the last three years of filing the visa petition, to work in the U.S. for a related company in the same type of position.
The L-1 intra-company transferee classification is a useful device for multinational companies that wish to transfer executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge to the United States. There are four statutory requirements that a U.S. company and foreign national employee must meet when filing the L-1 visa:
- The foreign employee must have worked for the transferring company outside the U.S. for at least one continuous year over the last three years;
- The employee must be an executive or a manager (L-1A) or have specialized knowledge (L-1B);
- The transferring company must be active before and after the transfer; and
- The U.S. company must be a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the transferring company abroad, and it must be doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country through a qualifying relationship.
L-1A MULTINATIONAL MANAGERS/EXECUTIVES
- Job Requirements – The L-1A visa category is available for intra-company transferees who have maintained a position as a manager or executive for a total of one year prior to filing the L-1A visa petition.
- Period of Stay in the U.S. – Under the L-1A visa category, the foreign national is usually granted an initial three-year period to work and live in the U.S. with two, two-year extension periods thereafter for a total of a seven years under this visa.
Once the foreign national has entered the U.S. in valid L-1A status, he or she can start working immediately. The L-2 spouse may apply for employment authorization using Form I-765. The employment authorization document may be issued for up to two years but no longer than the validity period of the underlying L-1 petition. L-2 children are not allowed to work.
L-1B SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE
- Job Requirements – The L-1B status does not require the foreign national to have held a management or executive position. Instead, the foreign employee must have held a position of specialized knowledge with the petitioning company’s parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch for one continuous year within the preceding three years. Specialized knowledge means “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.”
- Period of Stay in the U.S. – Under the L-1B visa, the foreign national is granted an initial three-year stay. However, this status only allows for one extension for a two-year period for a maximum period of five years (as opposed to seven years for L-1A status).
The blanket L works as a pre-certification of the relationship between the qualifying entities in the U.S. and abroad. Executives, managers, and specialized knowledge professionals qualify for blanket L-1 classification. Companies that bring foreign nationals who qualify for the blanket L from abroad can save time and money by filing the individual L petition at the USCIS. A company qualifies to file a blanket L petition if it has obtained approval of petitions for at least 10 “L” managers, executives, or specialized knowledge employees during the previous 12 months or has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million or has a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees. With a blanket petition, intra-company transferees may apply for L-1 visas directly at U.S. consulates abroad without the prior approval by USCIS of an individual petition.