L-1 visa enables a company to transfer its managerial or executive level employees or employees with specialized knowledge to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary in the U.S.
For an employer to be eligible to sponsor an L-1 visa, the following conditions must be met:
- A qualifying relationship must exist between the U.S. Company and the foreign company abroad. Such relationship may be as a branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate company.
- Both the foreign company and the U.S. Company must remain open, active and viable for the entire duration of the employee’s employment in the U.S. Failure to maintain required levels of operation results in the loss of L-1 status
Once the requirement of having a qualifying corporate relationship is met, the company may transfer an employee who:
- has been employed overseas by the transferring organization for at least one year within the past three years
- is a manager, executive or a specialized knowledge professional
Managerial Capacity: The term “manager” means more than just the position title. The USCIS looks at the job duties of the person to qualify him/her as an employee working in a managerial capacity. Managerial capacity means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily:
- Manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
- Supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
- Has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization) if another employee or other employees are directly supervised; if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
- Exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. A first-line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a managerial capacity merely by virtue of the supervisor’s supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional.
Executive Capacity: Executives are persons who are in the top rung of the management. Executives are persons who:
- Direct the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
- Establish the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
- Exercise wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
- Receive only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
Specialized Knowledge: 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. A person with specialized knowledge is more than just a skilled worker. USCIS generally wants to see the level of expertise and whether the proprietary knowledge is generally available in the U.S.
Qualifying Corporate Relationship
Parent: A “parent” means a firm, corporation, or other legal entity which has subsidiaries.
Branch: A “branch” is defined as an operating division or office of the same organization housed in a different location. A branch does not have a legal entity separate from the head organization. It is generally registered as an office of a foreign company doing business in the U.S.
Subsidiary: A “subsidiary” means a firm, corporation, or other legal entity of which a parent owns, directly or indirectly, more than half of the entity and controls the entity; or owns, directly or indirectly, half of the entity and controls the entity; or owns, directly or indirectly, 50 percent of a 50–50 joint venture and has equal control and veto power over the entity. It may also include an entity of which a parent owns less than half of the entity, but in fact controls the entity.
Affiliate: An “affiliate” is defined as one of two subsidiaries which are owned or controlled by the same parent or individual, or by a group of individuals where each individual owns and controls approximately the same share or proportion of each entity.
Duration of Stay
Employees in Managerial and Executive positions (L-1A visa) may be admitted initially for a three-year period if they intend to join an existing company or a one-year period if they intend to join a newly established company. After initial entry, extensions are granted in two-year increments for a maximum period of seven years.
Employees in specialty positions (L-1B visa) may be admitted initially for a three-year period if they intend to join an existing company or a one-year period if they intend to join a newly established company. After initial entry, extensions are granted in two-year increments for a maximum period of five years.
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