Today, transnational corporation commonly have numerous subsidiaries, affiliates, and branches throughout the world. Subsequently, companies may need to temporarily transfer a high-ranking or uniquely talented employee to an affiliate in another country to handle some specialized business.
The USCIS has created an immigration solution for these specific situations. The L-1 classification allows foreign nationals employed outside of the U.S. to enter the U.S. and work for a qualifying subsidiary, affiliate, or etc. There are two types of L-1 classifications available: (1) L-1A, for individuals employed in a managerial or executive capacity, and (2) L-1B, for individuals with specialized knowledge capacity.
Generally, the USCIS initially grants an individual L-1 status for three years. However, an individual’s L-1 status will initially last only one year if he or she is entering the U.S. to work for a start-up company. Once in L-1 status, an individual can extend their status after the initial period expires. Individuals in L-1A status can extend their status for up to seven years, while individuals in L-1B status can extend their status up to five years. Note that since all employees are hired on an “at-will” basis, the L-1 U.S. employer is not required to retain the employee for the entire seven or five year period. Finally, if the employer/employee relationship endures for the entire L-1 period, the individual must spend one full year outside of the U.S. before her or she is eligible to apply for a new period of L-1 status.
Once granted L-1 status, an individual’s spouse and children are eligible for L-2 derivative status. Individuals in L-2 status are not authorized to work unless they apply and receive an employment authorization. card. However, the USCIS allows individuals to attend a U.S. school without changing his or her immigration status.
An L-1 candidate must provide the USCIS with (1) proof of employment with a qualifying U.S. company; (2) proof that the L-1 employer generates sufficient business to employ the candidate; and (3) evidence that the candidate will be engaged in a “managerial or executive capacity” or “specialized knowledge capacity.” These three requirements are explored in further detail below.
Proof of Employment with a Qualifying Company
The L-1 candidate must be employed with the petitioning company’s affiliate, parent, or subsidiary for a continuous period of one-year within the three-years prior to filing the petition or entry into the U.S. This employment must have been in either a managerial/executive capacity or specialized knowledge capacity.
The candidate then must submit the required supporting documentation about the petitioning employer:
o Evidence that the company abroad and the petitioning company are related. The critical issue is whether either of the companies exercise control over the other company. This is a relatively flexible requirement, as even a 50/50 joint venture qualifies;
o Detailed written description of the petitioning company’s business, including its history, facilities, resources, and organization;
o Description of the company’s employees along including job titles and duties;
o Evidence that the company will continue to do business abroad during the candidate’s U.S. employment; and
o Documents evidencing the company’s corporate organization and long-term financial viability.
Doing Business in the United States
The L-1 candidate must also include evidence that the petitioning company is engaged in sufficient business to employ the candidate, including:
o Detailed description of the company’s U.S business, including history, number of employees, locations, and any marketing materials. This is especially important if the company is a start up business;
o Corporate documents such as financial statements, incorporation documents, and SEC reports;
o Evidence of assets such as corporate bank account statements;
o Copies of lease or purchase options for buildings or spaces;
o Detailed description of the company’s employees, including resumes, job titles, and job offer letters; and
o Name and title of officer who will sign forms.
Managerial or Specialized Knowledge Capacity
After the candidate establishes proof of employment with a qualifying U.S. company, he or she must submit documentation that the candidate qualifies for either an L-1A or L-1B classification.
The candidate qualifies for an L-1A classification if (1) he or she is employed in a “managerial” capacity, meaning that the candidate primarily supervises or controls the company’s day-to-day operations, or (2) he or she is employed in an “executive” capacity, meaning that the candidate makes the company’s overall business and policy decisions.
An L-1B classification may be appropriate if the candidate possesses “specialized knowledge” essential to the company’s business affairs. This is a relatively broad classification as it can include specialized knowledge of a company’s machinery or operations, or if the individual has expert knowledge on a a company’s processes and organization.
Additionally, L-1A and L-1B candidates may also include the following supporting documentation:
o Evidence of higher education, including degrees, diplomas, transcripts;
o Detailed resume evidencing the candidate’s continuous employment with the company for one-year within the three-years preceding the filing of the petition;
o Evidence that the candidate was employed in either a managerial/executive or specialized knowledge capacity abroad, and that the candidate will continue this employment in the U.S.;
o The candidate’s salary/compensation abroad and in the U.S.;
o Corporate organizational charts detailing where the candidate is employed in the corporate hierarchy;
o Copies of passports and any other supporting documentation.
To apply for L-1 status, the candidate must file an I-129 form with the USCIS, along with the supporting documentation listed above. Note that individuals employed outside of the U.S. are advised to attain an L-1 visa before her or she begins employment with a U.S. affiliate. This is because although an individual may be granted L-1 status, that does not necessarily mean an individual has an L-1 visa. Therefore, though the individual may be allowed to stay in the U.S., he or she cannot travel until they get a visa at the appropriate consulate. To avoid any such inconveniences or legal problems, individuals should obtain a visa before beginning employment in the U.S.
The preparation of an L1 visa or any kind of visas requires a good understanding of immigration laws and regulations. There are other important issues not covered in this article regarding L1 visas such as the petition to obtain a work permit for L2 dependents and L1 blankets. One should consult a licensed and experienced immigration lawyer before moving forward with any immigration case(s)
If you have any questions or concerns, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney for further details. Our office has prepared many similar applications, feel free to contact US on (510) 742 5887, should you need any additional information.
The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. No recipients of content from this article, clients or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in the article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in the recipient’s state. Shah Peerally is the managing for the Law Offices of Shah Peerally located in Fremont.