The L-1 nonimmigrant category is for intracompany transfers and blanket L petitions. It is available to individuals who have worked for a foreign corporation that has a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate company in the U.S. The individual must have been employed in an executive or managerial position (L-1A), or in a specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B) for the foreign company.
- A Manager is defined as an individual that manages a company or one of its core components, personally supervises and controls the work of other professionals or manages an essential function of the organization, can hire and fire personnel or operates as a senior level, and exercises discretion over day-to-day functions of the business.
- An Executive is defined as an individual that directs the management of the organization or one of its core functions, establishes goals and policies, exercises discretionary decision making, and receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, board of directors or stock holders.
- An individual has specialized knowledge when that person possesses a heightened level of knowledge of the petitioning companys products, services, equipment, techniques, or other interests or has an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the companys processes and procedures.
To qualify for L-1 status, the foreign national must have been employed abroad by the foreign employer on a full-time basis for at least one continuous year during the last three-year period. The individual must be coming to the U.S. to hold a Managerial, Executive, or Specialized Knowledge position.
Typically, both the foreign and U.S. entities must have been operating for at least one full year prior to the time of application. Both entities must be actively doing business, meaning that they both engage in regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services. Both companies should also have an established workforce and sufficient office space to conduct business.
Successful applicants will be approved for a maximum period of three years.
Note: The employer is not required to obtain a labor certification prior to petitioning in this category. Compensation level is not prescribed, but U.S. income must meet the higher of the federal or applicable state minimum wages and must be sufficient to prevent the alien from becoming a public charge.
“New Office” Petitions
The government also permits issuance of an L-1 work permit to individuals who are employed by companies that wish to expand their operations to the U.S. This is referred to as a New Office L-1 petition. In this case, the petitioner must demonstrate that a U.S. entity has been incorporated, that sufficient physical space has been secured to conduct business in the U.S., and that the foreign entity is able to commence doing business in the U.S.
There is no doing business requirement for New Office L-1 petitions. In lieu of this requirement, the government will grant L-1 status to the applicant for a one-year period. During this time, the petitioning entity must commence business in the U.S. If successful, the company can submit subsequent petitions to extend the applicants L-1 status in three-year increments.
For Canadian citizens, an L-1 petition may be filed with U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port-of-entry and a decision is normally issued immediately. The L-1 beneficiary may begin working in the U.S. immediately following an approval.
For all other nationalities, the petition is filed through the mail to United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) which can take three to four months (or longer) for regular processing. For an additional fee of $1,440.00, the applicant may file the application with the Premium Processing Service, which guarantees that action is taken on the case within fifteen (15) calendar days from receipt. Once the case is approved by USCIS, the individual will then apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.