INTRACOMPANY TRANSFEREE VISA (L-1A/L1B)

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The L-1A and L-1B Visa Categories

L-1A and L-1B visas allow companies abroad to temporarily send certain foreign employees to work at their US offices.

Per USCIS, the international company must have a qualifying relationship with the US petitioner. This means the US company can be its affiliate, branch office, or subsidiary.

Additionally, the intra-company transferee must:

  • Have 1 year of continuous employment experience with the qualifying foreign organization
  • Qualify as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker

Managers or Executives Under L-1A

The L-1A nonimmigrant classification allows a US employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign branches or offices to one of its US offices.

This classification also permits a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an executive or manager to the United States for the purpose of establishing one.

To qualify, the manager or executive must have had at least 1 continuous year of employment abroad with the qualifying organization, typically in a managerial or executive capacity. It is important that this position be adequately financially supported.

There is no quota for this visa classification, and the maximum amount of time allowed on this visa is 7 years.

Who is an Executive?

According to regulations and USCIS, executive capacity generally refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude at a very high level. The duties must show that he or she:

  • Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function
  • Establishes goals and policies
  • Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision making
  • Receives only general direction or supervision from higher level executives, board of directors, or stockholders

Who is a Manager?

According to regulations and USCIS, managerial capacity generally refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization.

It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level. This is known as a functional manager.

Specialized Knowledge Workers Under L-1B

Sometimes businesses need to send a valuable worker to the US to work temporarily on a certain project.  These workers hold certain knowledge which benefits the American company.

To qualify as a specialized knowledge worker on the L-1B visa, foreign nationals must have special or advanced knowledge of the company’s:

  • Tools
  • Methodologies
  • Systems
  • Processes of their US operations

There is no quota for this visa category. The maximum amount of time allowed on this visa is 5 years.

Who is a specialized knowledge worker?

The L-1B nonimmigrant visa allows multinational companies to temporarily transfer a worker to the United States. However, not all highly technical workers are considered specialized. The US government scrutinizes this category and will carefully review the application to see if the employee meets the regulatory definition and interpretation.

To determine whether an employee has specialized knowledge, the US government will look to see how this worker’s knowledge compares to others in his or her field. It is therefore important for the employer to highlight the employee’s knowledge of in-house developed tools, work product, training, accomplishments, patented work, significant project exposure, and level of responsibility, etc.   

In addition, the employee must have at least 1 continuous year of employment with the qualifying organization abroad—typically in a specialized knowledge capacity. The foreign national must have acquired the specialized knowledge abroad, that is required for their role, prior to the continuous 1-year of employment with the qualifying organization.

Finally, the employer should also explain to the U.S. government the value of this worker’s knowledge to its US operations.  It can do so by detailing the job duties and describing the beneficial role of this worker within its US operations and project deliverables.

Documenting Specialized Knowledge for L-1B

The US government closely analyzes each case for L-1B workers. Organizations may want to address the following questions in their filing:

  1. How does your employee’s knowledge of your foreign operating conditions add significant value to US operations?
  2. Provide examples of the employee’s significant assignments which have enhanced your company’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or financial position.
  3. Explain how the specialized knowledge can normally be gained only through prior experience with your organization.
  4. Explain why the specialized knowledge cannot be easily transferred or taught to another individual without significant economic cost or inconvenience.
  5. Why is your process or product sophisticated or complex, or of a highly technical nature (although not necessarily unique to the US)?
  6. Describe why the employee’s knowledge is particularly beneficial to the US organization’s competitiveness in the marketplace.

Blanket L-1 Program

For companies that frequently use the L-1 category to shuffle employees between their U.S. and overseas offices, the U.S. government has an established Blanket L program. Once a company is qualified as a Blanket L company, the company may file for the intra-company transferee visa at a consulate abroad.

The overseas employee would take a copy of the Blanket L approval notice and the application to the nearest U.S. Consulate in his/her country and apply for an L-1 visa. Please note, the employee must still meet the above definition of an L-1A or L-1B to qualify under the blanket program.

Qualifying as a Blanket L Employer

  • All qualifying organizations within the international structure of the petitioner must be engaged in commercial trade or services
  • The petitioner must have an office in the United States that has been doing business for at least one year (no new-office situations)
  • The petitioner must have at least three domestic or foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates

Among all of the qualifying organizations within the petitioner’s organization, one of the following must be present:

  1. At least 10 L-1 approvals in the past year for executives, managers, or professionals with specialized knowledge
  2. US sales of at least $25 million
  3. US work force of at least 1,000 employees

Summary

L-1A: To be eligible for a L-1A visa, the overseas employee must have worked in the company abroad for at least one year, typically in an executive or managerial position. That company abroad must have a qualifying corporate relationship with the U.S. company.

L-1B: To be eligible for a L-1B visa, the overseas employee must have “specialized knowledge” of the company’s processes or procedures. The overseas company must have a qualifying corporate relationship with the U.S. company.

Blanket L-1 Program:  Upon approval as a Blanket L-1 company, certain companies that need to transfer workers more regularly may be allowed to file for L-1 petitions at the U.S. consulate abroad rather than in the U.S.

Corporate Organization: For more information on the various business enterprises and new office set up in the U.S. please visit our corporate law section.

Please contact us for any assistance with initial filings or extensions at info@chugh.com. We can also provide recommendations to your authorized representative or human resource department regarding your employee’s travel as a non-immigrant into the U.S.