L1 visas were designed to allow US firms to transfer strategic staff members from foreign affiliates to their US offices for limited periods of time. These transferees are required to have worked for at least one year in the affiliated foreign company in managerial or executive capacities (the L1-A visa) or in a capacity that required specialized knowledge of the company’s products or internal processes (the L1B visa).
The L1 is a non-immigrant visa: it is granted to aliens who come to the US on a temporary basis to perform very specific services. The visa is therefore also explicitly linked to the transferee’s job description at the US company.
There are two main requirements that must be met by the US company at which the transferee will be working (the petitioner): first, there must be proof of a qualifying relationship between the US company and the foreign affiliate from which the transferee is being transferred. Second, the petitioner must be able to prove that that it is doing business in the United States and in at least one other country as an employer. Both of these criteria are associated with very specific evidentiary requirements. However, the focus of this article is on the eligibility requirements for the transferee specifically.
The two broad L1 visa requirements applies to all transferees: first, they must be able to prove that they have worked for at least twelve months prior to the transfer for the foreign affiliate as an executive, manager, or specialized knowledge employee. Secondly, they must be able to prove that they will work in a similar capacity in the US office.
Eligibility for the L1A Visa:
A transferee can prove that he/she has worked in an executive capacity in the foreign affiliate, and will continue to work in an executive capacity in the US office, if his/her job involves (and will continue to involve upon transferring) primarily:
- Directing the management of the organization or a major component/function of the organization
- Establishing the goals and policies of the organization
- Exercising wide discretionary decision-making powers
- Receiving only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board, or shareholders.
If a transferee wishes to rely on his/her managerial position in the affiliate, his/her job must have involved, and will continue to involve upon transferring, primarily:
- Managing the organization, or a department/subdivision, function or component of the organization
- Supervising and controlling the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees
- Having the authority to hire and fire or recommend those personnel actions
- Exercising discretion over the day-to-day operations of the function for which he/she has authority
As this definition suggests, it is generally not possible to prove that first-line supervisors qualify for the L1A visa: in this context, “manager” really refers to “manager of first-line managers”.
Eligibility for the L1B Visa:
A transferee can qualify for the L1B visa if his/her capacity in the foreign affiliate has been, and will continue to be in the US office, one of specialized knowledge. Generally, this means that his/her understanding of the employer company is truly specialized. Knowledge is considered specialized by the USCIS if it is knowledge that cannot be commonly found in the industry. This specialized knowledge can relate to the employer company’s
It can also refer to specialized knowledge of the company’s participation in international markets, or advanced knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures.
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