L VISA – Transfer of Foreign Employees to United States
INTERNATIONAL TRANSFEREE OF MANAGERS OR EXECUTIVES OR PROFESSIONALS WITH SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE
The L nonimmigrant visa category is reserved for a foreign company needing to bring foreign employees to the United States. The visa is subdivided into two categories: L-1A (managers or executives) and L-1B (specialized knowledge). Only a few basic requirements must be met to take advantage of this visa category.
- The overseas company must be related to the U.S. company in a specific manner (parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the foreign employer). The company can be newly incorporated in the United States.
- The transferring company must continue to do business abroad. The original foreign entity which employed the alien need not be in existence, but another foreign business entity must still exist.
- The employee must have worked abroad for the overseas company for a continuous period of one year in the preceding three years. The required period of employment abroad must be completed during the three years before the beneficiary enters the United States and before the L-1 petition is filed.
- The employee to be transferred must have been employed abroad in an “executive” or “managerial” (L-1A), or “specialized knowledge” (L-1B) capacity. Following is a description of the each category:
The L-1A employee primarily manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, component, or key function of the organization. If qualifying as a manager of personnel, he or she must supervise and control the work of other supervisory, managerial, or professional personnel and have the authority to hire and fire them or make effective recommendations re these and other key personnel decisions.
The L-1A employee primarily:
- directs management of the organization or controls a major component or function of the organization;
- establishes its goals and policies;
- exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
- works under only the general direction of higher-level executives, members of the board of directors, or stockholders.
The L-1B “specialized knowledge” employee primarily wields an advanced level of knowledge or expertise regarding the organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interest and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.
- The employee must be qualified for the position by virtue of his prior education and experience.
- The employee must intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of the authorized stay (including extensions), but the employee may also pursue permanent residence at the same time.
The L-1 is a temporary visa with specific limitations on periods of stay in the United States.
- If the employee is qualified as a manager or executive, he or she may remain in the United States for up to seven years.
- If the employee is classified in the specialized knowledge category, he or she may stay up to five years.
- An exception to these limits exists where the employment in the United States is seasonal, intermittent, or for an aggregate of six months or less per year.
A (managerial or executive transferee) is limited to seven consecutive years, the L-1B to five consecutive years in the United States. However, the employee may also pursue permanent residence at the same time.
An L-1’s spouse and child are admitted as L-2, for the same length of stay and subject to the same limits as the principal L-1.
- A spouse of an L-1 employee is eligible for employment in the U.S.
- The child is barred from employment unless otherwise authorized.
Extension of Visa L status
Extensions should be filed during the six-month period prior to expiration of the current stay. Extensions are generally granted in two or three-year increments up to a maximum of seven years (cumulative of all stay in H or L status for any employer).
An extension application filed prior to expiration of the current authorized stay automatically extends work authorization for up to 240 days while the application is pending. There may be restrictions on international travel, however, while the extension application is pending. If interested in filing for permanent residency, you must file at least one year prior to the expiration of your six year term. You should contact your employer’s HR department or our law firm approximately six months prior to the expiration of your current H-1B status to ensure sufficient time remains to process an extension.