The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee from its foreign operations to the USA operations for up to seven years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of your US company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.
Companies operating in the US can apply to the relevant USCIS service center for an L1 visa to transfer someone to the US from their overseas operations. Employees in this category will, initially, be granted an L-1 visa for up to three years.
There are two types of employees who may be sponsored for USA L1 visas:
The legal definition of management and executive roles for these purposes is quite strict, and a detailed description of the duties attached to the position will be required. In particular, the executive or manager should have supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or for a key function, department or subdivision of the employer. Such personnel are issued an L1A visa, initially for a three year period extendible in two year increments to a maximum of seven years.
This category covers those with knowledge of the company’s products/services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or procedures. Staff members in this category are issued an L1B visa, initially for three years extendible to a maximum of five years.
On completing the maximum allowable period in L-1 status, the employee must be employed outside the United States for a minimum of one year before a new application is made for L or H status.
All L1 employees must have been employed by the company outside of the USA for at least one of the three years preceding the transfer unless the beneficiary of a blanket. It does not matter if the worker was directly employed by the sponsor, or paid through an agency or personal service company, or even on a freelance basis, provided the sponsor had management and control over the worker during the qualifying year.
The employee must have been employed during the qualifying year as an executive, manager, or specialized knowledge worker, though it permissible for a specialized knowledge worker to come to the United States as a Manager or Executive, and for a manager or executive to come as a specialized knowledge worker, provided the US operation has been doing business for at least one year.
As noted previously, the ‘standard of proof’ for managers and executives is quite strict – they must generally supervise other professional or managerial staff and/or direct and control the day-to-day operations of a significant function, unit or subdivision of the employer. Specialized knowledge workers, however, qualify relatively easily – any employee with familiarity with the employer’s specific products, procedures or methods may qualify.
**This is general information and is NOT intended to provide legal advice.
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